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LSU brings young team to Tallahassee

LSU at Florida St.: 12:30 p.m. on WTBS-c. Back when Florida State's fledgling football program struggled to attract fans and money, a decision was made to schedule several marquee, revenue-making road games.

This was before Bobby Bowden came to town and when the new FSU coach looked at the schedules he'd have to play in the future, he figured he probably wouldn't be at the school very long. There was Nebraska and Notre Dame and Ohio State and Pitt _ all on the road.

But one of the most galling contracts Bowden saw was the one with Louisiana State. Beginning in 1979, the Seminoles would play in Baton Rouge, La., against the Tigers for five straight years _ with no games in Tallahassee.

Remarkably, FSU won four of the five. And when the Seminoles drew up another contract with LSU several years ago, it was much more equitable. It began last year in Baton Rouge with a 31-21 FSU victory. Now this year, for the first time, LSU is coming to Doak Campbell Stadium. The series continues next year in Baton Rouge before ending in Tallahasee in 1992.

"It's a great environment, very similar to playing in Tiger Stadium," said LSU coach Mike Archer, whose team is 4-2 after a 30-20 victory last week over Kentucky. "Our kids are looking forward to going down there in that kind of setting. I can remember their program when I was at Miami (as a player) going 1-10, 1-10. It's come a long way. Now it's one of the elite programs in the country."

That is where Archer wants to be, although he's struggled with the expectations of the LSU fans. Last year, LSU opened the season as a Top 10 team. The Tigers quickly dropped out of the poll and finished with a disappointing 4-7 record.

This year, they were 2-0 before a shocking 24-21 loss to lowly Vanderbilt on the road. LSU, a younger team than Florida State, struggled with its first road game, but then won the following week against Texas A&M at home.

Then in the next game on the road, at Florida, LSU suffered its worst SEC loss in 15 years, 38-8. In that game, two fumbles and a blocked punt led to three Florida touchdowns.

"This time last year, we were 1-5," Archer said. "We've won a game that people thought we should have lost (Texas A&M) and we've lost a game that we should have won (Vanderbilt). I think we've gotten better. We've just got to continue to improve.

"When players have good teams and good coaches, they can win on the road. I don't think we were intimidated at all when we went down to Florida Field. And I think our players will look forward to playing in Tallahassee."

The Tigers have only two seniors who start on offense and they start four redshirt freshmen, including quarterback Chad Loup. On defense, LSU has no senior starters and three redshirt freshmen. This will be their third road trip of the year.

"We're going to need to get better," Archer said. "It's an intimidating place. For about two-thirds of our team, this will be their third road trip ever."