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Texas A&M will try to make itself at home in Death Valley on Saturday

Texas A&M will try to make itself at home in Death Valley on Saturday

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LSU’s Tiger Stadium doesn’t seem an ideal place for Texas A&M to end the regular season. Opposing teams at Tiger Stadium, also known as Death Valley, are just 23-126 since 2000, including 16-96 in night games. Four of those losses are by the Aggies (8-3, 4-3), who haven’t won in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, since joining the Southeastern Conference in 2012.

“It’s a heck of an atmosphere. It really is,” A&M head football coach Jimbo Fisher said. “It’s a great place to play when you’re home and a tough one to play when you’re on the road.”

Any venue away from Kyle Field has been tough this season for the 14th-ranked Aggies, who are 1-1 in neutral-site games and 1-1 in true road games. A&M will try to change the pattern at 6 p.m. Saturday at LSU (5-6, 2-5).

Fisher said Tiger Stadium is tough for two reasons: the atmosphere and the talent LSU puts on the field. He has firsthand experience from both sidelines. He served as LSU’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2000-06. The Tigers went 43-6 at home in Fisher’s seven seasons. Five times LSU ended up in the top 10, and it won the 2003 national title.

“[It was] a dynamic atmosphere,” Fisher said. “It was fun to feel that environment and atmosphere ... and they love their Tigers.”

Two years ago in Fisher’s first trip to Baton Rouge as A&M’s head coach, the top-ranked Tigers rolled to a 50-7 victory in front of 102,218 fans. LSU bolted to a 31-0 lead by scoring on its first five possessions.

“It’s just really loud in there. That’s all,” A&M junior wide receiver Jalen Preston said. “We’ve been to hostile environments before. We should be able to capitalize on everything we practiced on.”

A&M has handled itself well only once this season away from Kyle Field, scoring on its first three possessions en route to a 35-14 victory at Missouri on Oct. 16. Everything else has been a grind.

A&M rallied for a 10-7 victory over Colorado on Sept. 11 at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, overcoming losing starting quarterback Haynes King early in that game. Two weeks later, Arkansas jumped to a 17-0 lead and beat A&M 20-10 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Two weeks ago, A&M didn’t score in the first half for the first time this season as Ole Miss took a 15-0 lead then held on for a 29-19 victory. A&M was a slight favorite against Ole Miss, but the Rebels dominated the first half.

“That’s what this game is all about. You live and learn,” A&M sophomore cornerback Jaylon Jones said. “We saw the mistakes [against Ole Miss]. We fixed them, and that game is behind us.”

Fisher said road games can be tough but mostly because of the opponent.

“I think sometimes maturity [plays into it], how you handle things, and also who you go play on the road,” Fisher said. “That matters, too. You better forget who’s the road team. You better figure out who you are playing on the road. It makes a difference.”

LSU (5-6, 2-5) has struggled both at home and on the road since beating Clemson to win the 2019 national title, going 10-11 over that stretch. LSU is coming off a 27-14 victory over Louisiana-Monroe that snapped a three-game losing streak. A&M is a 6.5-point favorite for Saturday’s SEC matchup.

In addition to trying to become bowl-eligible, LSU will honor its 18 seniors on Saturday. It also will be the last game for head coach Ed Orgeron, who reached an agreement with the school last month to part ways.

“They’ll be emotionally ready to play,” Fisher said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

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