For LSU, nothing like being home on Saturday night

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU public address announcer Dan Borne knows just what to say to stir up 92,000 or so rabid Tiger fans.

Shortly before each nighttime kickoff, in his smooth, resonant voice, he proclaims, "It's Saturday night in Death Valley."

The mystique surrounding Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium is undeniable. If its effect on the actual outcomes of games is more perceived than real, one could argue that data supports the hypothesis that perception and reality aren't all that far apart.

LSU has not lost a Saturday night game in Tiger Stadium in about seven years, a streak spanning 32 contests, including a memorable clash with Florida in 2007.

"I remember how loud it was. The bus ride there, (LSU fans) were shaking our bus," Florida cornerback Joe Haden said of LSU's 28-24 win that night. "It was crazy. It was the toughest place I've played at since I've been here."

Revered Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant called Tiger Stadium "the worst place in the world for a visiting team," and compared it to being inside a drum.

LSU players say they'd prefer to play every home game at night if they could, but national TV contracts don't always allow that. Last season, LSU lost home games to Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, all during the day.

With No. 1 Florida returning to Baton Rouge this weekend for a matchup of undefeated teams, everyone associated with fourth-ranked LSU was hoping for a night kickoff -- and they got it.

"I love it," said LSU center T-Bob Hebert, son of former NFL quarterback Bobby Hebert. "In a game like this, you want to be at your most comfortable."

LSU's only night loss at home since 2002 came during a weeknight in a game against Tennessee that had been postponed by Hurricane Rita, which hit Louisiana's coast with devastating effect. The business day tailgating scene was diminished, and it was a little harder to be single-minded about football only days after entire coastal communities had been wiped out.

Four years later, the healing, though not complete, is well under way. A new reality has taken hold, spawning new hope. And hey, the Tigers are 5-0.

LSU players say it doesn't take a college education to figure out why night games get just a little extra crazy in Tiger Stadium.

The Tiger faithful arrive early to set up their elaborate tailgating spreads -- things like shrimp etouffee, jambalaya, and in the case of this week, deep-fried alligator. The more time there is before kickoff, the more time to talk football, eat -- and drink.

"LSU is good people. They love to eat, they love to drink, they love to have fun," Hebert said. "It's kind of like almost the calm before the storm, and the anticipation just grows and grows and grows all day until it finally explodes that night under the lights."

Physics also play a role. Sound waves bend toward cooler air, which at night usually means toward the ground.

LSU players talk of the noise getting so loud during night games that they feel vibrations in their bodies, much like spectators at a stock car race do when the field roars by.

When LSU scored a winning touchdown against Auburn in a 1988 home game, seismographic instruments at LSU's geology department registered vibrations at that same moment. That Saturday night contest went down in history as "the earthquake game."

Recalling LSU's 2007 victory over the Gators, senior left tackle Ciron Black said there were "a few plays when we scored, the stadium erupted and I could feel my body shaking."

The only question for some Tigers players is how much of that trembling sensation comes from the sound waves and how much stems from the adrenaline rush such an environment can produce.

"It can put you into that extra gear, that extra mode that you don't necessarily know that you have on just a regular physical basis," Hebert said. "It's a good feeling."

Then there's the obvious practical disruption noise can cause a visiting offense.

Or as running back Charles Scott puts it, "You ever done something deaf before?"

Opposing teams are forced to use hand signals or yell signals from one player to another along the offensive line.

Hebert compared it to the child's game "telephone," in which a message is passed down a chain of people, one at a time, often changing a bit before it reaches the last person.

"Stuff can get messed up when one person's relaying the message to the other," he said. "It can be a real disadvantage."

One story goes that even the nickname Death Valley stemmed from how noisy the place could get. According to lore, LSU fans initially called it "Deaf Valley," distinguishing it from Clemson's Memorial Stadium, which already had the Death Valley nickname. So many people mistook "deaf" for "death" that the latter took hold over time.

If the game is close, perhaps deafening roars from the crowd will help the Tigers keep their Saturday night home winning streak alive. Incidentally, LSU has knocked off a No. 1 team at home once before. That team was Florida, in 1997, on a Saturday night in Death Valley.


AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., contributed to this report.