Title tilt has local feel

Published 12:49 am Sunday, January 6, 2008

Perhaps it’s only fitting that this year’s BCS National Championship game is taking place here, less than 60 miles from Pearl River County.

That’s because the battle for the championship of college football has a definite local flavor.

Picayune’s Mit Cole and former Pearl River Community College standout Demetrius Byrd will be on the field for LSU Monday night in the Louisiana Superdome when the Tigers take on Ohio State for the title.

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Cole, a former standout at Picayune High, is a senior tight end for the Tigers.

It is Cole’s second straight year to play in a postseason game in the Superdome, as he started at tight end for LSU last year when the Tigers thumped Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.

The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Cole splits time at tight end with two other players, but is major part of the LSU special teams as well.

He has caught just two passes this season, but one of those was a touchdown catch against Louisiana Tech.

He has also been a major part of LSU’s success in the ground game this season thanks to his solid blocking.

The Tigers are one of the top rushing teams in the nation, as a stable of five running backs have helped LSU earn 2,846 rushing yards, an average of 218.9 yards per game.

Jacob Hester is the top Tiger runner, gaining over 1,000 yards on the ground this season.

“I kind of like the system we have, not really focused on one guy, because not only does it help us, but it makes other teams really prepare for so many different looks and so many aspects of the game,” Hester said. “If you throw five, six, seven guys out there at different positions, it just makes the defensive coordinator want to pull his hair out. We’re all five going to get carries in this game at one point or another, and if one guy’s kind of feeling it and he’s having a great game, then why not hand it to him as many times as you can? This is a shot of a lifetime. It’s one game. You’ve got to do everything you can to win it.”

In addition to his success on the field, Cole has been the model for a true “student-athlete” as well as he just graduated with honors recently from LSU and was awarded the academic award for the football team this season also.

Byrd, a wide reciever, has become one of the Tigers’ most potent weapons this season after earning juco All-American honors with the Wildcats.

He has hauled in 33 catches for 593 yards and seven touchdowns.

His two biggest games came on late in the seson as he slowly began to become a top target for the Tigers. He had six catches for 144 yards in a win over Alabama and then he had six catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns against Arkansas.