LSU made the decision last Friday to depart Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and evacuate its football team as Hurricane Ida quickly developed and tracked toward landfall, Tigers' coach Ed Orgeron said Wednesday.
The Tigers have spent this week in Houston and utilized the facilities of the NFL's Houston Texans, including Reliant Stadium, as they prepare for Saturday's opener at UCLA.
“I think it was Friday morning, Friday morning when heard the hurricane was coming,” Orgeron said on the Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference. “As you know, (the hurricane) came up fast.
“We met with administration, and I think everybody was on the same page. Our thoughts were if we stay in Baton Rouge, were our players going to be in harm's way. We didn't want that, No. 1. Then, if we did stay, we were taking a chance if we could practice or couldn't practice.
“We thought about Dallas, first. Because as you know living in Louisiana, they can say a hurricane is coming to Louisiana but it can turn to Houston.”
Orgeron said the Tigers are housed in a Houston-area hotel and are “kind of in our own little protective cocoon. It's been good.”
LSU has 60 players on its current roster who are natives of Louisiana, and Oregon said some team members had had family displaced by the devastating storm, which flooded New Orleans and knocked out power to the entire city as well as more than 1 million people in the state.
“Yes, yes they have,” Orgeron said of his players' abilities to contact their families. “Tam Davis, Eddie Kennison, they do a great job of taking care of our players. We've been on the phones with mamas and daddies and families.
“Our administration has been trying to help with anyone who's needed help. Everybody's OK. Some of their houses are really damaged. Some are displaced in hotels. For the most part, I think everybody's fine.”
As for the matchup with the Bruins inside the Rose Bowl, Orgeron initially said he was “completely” surprised by the speed of the UCLA defense.
“Yes. Completely,” Orgeron said of the Bruins' defense, which suffocated Hawaii in last week's opener. “Not completely, but they're better than they were last year. I thought they had guys playing, attacking, making plays all over the field. I thought their cornerbacks tackled well in space.
“It's going to be a challenge, but we've got speed, too.”