GAMEDAY: Face to face with Death ValleyBy Terrin Waack | 11/03/2016 11:41am
CW / Jonathan Norris
Photo illustration CW / Kylie Cowden
Tiger Stadium is an enigma. It’s unlike any other place Alabama has played in, and it’s always one of the most intense atmospheres the Crimson Tide has to face every other year when it travels to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson has been to Death Valley, but even he can’t describe it to those who haven’t. There are no words.
“It’s something you have to experience to understand it,” Tomlinson said.
One of the redshirt senior’s favorite memories actually unfolded in Tiger Stadium just two years ago.
Alabama was trailing with seven seconds left on the clock, but Adam Griffith nailed a 27-yard field to tie it up. During the first drive of overtime, former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims connected a 6-yard pass to former wide receiver DeAndrew White in the end zone. LSU had to answer.
After four back-to-back incomplete passes, the Crimson Tide won, 20-13. Tigers fans, who had been loud throughout the entire game, went silent.
“It’s intense because it’s one of those games you don’t know which [way] it’s going to go because we’re equal and giving out all,” Tomlinson said. “We ended up coming out on top that year, and it was a crazy feeling for us.”
While this Saturday will mark Tomlinson’s last trip to Baton Rouge, wide receiver Calvin Ridley has never been. The sophomore is excited to experience Tiger Stadium for the first time.
As if playing LSU doesn’t present enough challenges on its own, taking on the Tigers on their own stomping grounds adds another level of difficulty.
“It’s always loud,” tight end O.J. Howard said. “The fans are always into the game, no matter what’s going on. They’re always into it, and they’re kind of rowdy.”
Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen called them relentless, but he’s looking forward to it. In fact, he loves being in that type of situation. It’s hostile, but it’s great for the defense.
In order to prepare for that type of environment, especially for those who aren’t used to it, the Crimson Tide practices indoors where it’s already louder overall and blares crowd noise through the speakers. This way, the team knows what it needs to do in order to communicate assignments and calls efficiently.
“It’s going to be important that we stay poised and know why we’re there,” linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said. “We can’t let the game get too big for us. You don’t win the game on the first play or with emotion. You win the game with everybody doing their assignment.”
There has been chatter from Louisiana. LSU players have been talking trash about dominating this game and Alabama for more than a week now, but the Crimson Tide claims to be ignoring it and focusing on its own preparation. Both teams just had their bye week and are champing at the bit to get back out under stadium lights.
In addition to the challenges Tiger Stadium itself presents, Saturday’s game is another top 25 matchup. Alabama is undefeated and has comfortably sat at No. 1 since the beginning of the season. LSU, on the other hand, is ranked 13th right now with an overall 5-2 record. Those two losses came under former coach Les Miles, though. He was fired four games into the season and replaced by Ed Orgeron. Since the coaching change, the Tigers have not lost a game.
“We’ll find out who we are, what we’re made of and how we can compete in a very difficult circumstance,” coach Nick Saban said.