- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
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“Death Valley, the place where opponents’ dreams come to die.”
Those were the words of LSU head coach Les Miles after last year’s team defeated then-No. 3 South Carolina inside Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La. There’s nothing quite like it.
“To put Carolina’s plight in perspective, the late Beano Cook once said, ‘Dracula and LSU football are at their best after the sun goes down,’ ” Miles added.
It’s hard to argue. Since Miles took over, LSU is 39-2 in Saturday night home games. There’s just a different energy inside the stadium when they announce that it’s Saturday night in Death Valley. It is haunted and it is loud.
Auburn visits Saturday. It has been almost 25 years since the Tigers defeated Auburn 7-6 in what became known as the Earthquake Game.
Trailing 6-0 in the final minutes on Oct. 8, 1988, LSU drove down the field and Tommy Hodson connected with Eddie Fuller on an 11-yard touchdown pass. It was so loud when the crowd erupted in celebration that, according to legend, it registered as an earthquake on a nearby seismograph.
It is haunted, and it is loud.
The most unique tradition inside Tiger Stadium comes when the LSU defense forces a turnover or gets the ball back on a stop. The band begins to play "Tiger Bandits," and the LSU fans bow in respect to the defense. It’s capped off by a chant of "L-S-U."
The song comes from the “Chinese Bandits,” a term given to LSU’s third-string defense back in 1958 under former coach Paul Dietzel. The unit would come in and wreak havoc on opposing offenses in hopes of moving up the depth chart. To put it simply, they were crazy. LSU went on to win a national championship that year, and the nickname stuck.
“I can tell you there is no finer stadium to play in,” Miles said. “The traditions that they place in that stadium, like when they announce that it’s Saturday night in Death Valley, when the band plays, when that crows stands and cheers for the Tigers, there is no place like it in America.”
The only thing that can compare to the atmosphere at night is the tailgating during the day.
Every SEC school has its own take on tailgating, but nobody does it quite like the Cajuns. The food prepared before a game includes gumbo, jambalaya, alligator stew, crawfish etouffee, stuffed quail and many other native Louisiana dishes.
“Walking among the tailgaters here is like strolling through one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants,” ESPN.com writer Jim Caple wrote in 2007.
The best part about the food is that it’s offered up to just about anybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the opposing team -- the LSU fans are typically generous when it comes to their tailgating.
But the generosity doesn't translate on the field when the sun sets on Death Valley at game time.
7dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough