LSU defense scuffles, then improves at Mississippi State

LSU’s defense recovers in second half, finds stride

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Beaten for a 59-yard touchdown in the second quarter, LSU freshman cornerback Tre’Davious White atone later.

He snagged a sailed throw from quarterback Dak Prescott and dashed 40 yards to the State 5-yard line after his first career interception in 59-26 victory Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium and the majority of the 57,113 fans packed away their cowbells and streamed to into the balmy night.

Even when a beleaguered LSU defense got strafed, allowing State to roll up 468 yards of offense, it righted itself enough to cede a mere field goal in the second half.

“You saw some defensive stops and some defensive plays,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “This team had an open date to prepare and really had a very nice game plan with two quarterbacks. Some of our young guys stepped forward today.”

Yes, the defense lashed itself together with bungee cords, duct tape, rope, super glue, spackle and whatever else they could find lying around the road leading to Starkville.

So, any need to worry by now almost halfway through the season?

“It’ll happen,” Johnson said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’re just going to go out there and practice hard every day.”

For now, LSU can hold up a second half where it outscored State 31-3 and allowed 214 yards after the break.

All week, Miles said he would not dramatically shuffle personnel. Saturday, however, change abounded.

Senior strong safety Craig Loston, hampered by a groin injury, stayed home and Corey Thompson replaced him. White and Rashard Robinson, who missed the entirety of fall camp waiting to be declared eligible, were working in solo coverage.

“Those are some young guys,” Johnson said. “They have the talent to do what they want to do. We’re going to get them there.”

Up front, workhorse tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson finally saw freshman Christian LaCouture and sophomore Quentin Thomas spell them, while freshman Tashawn Bower saw action at defensive end.

“I got a feeling that we’ll play some other guys,” Miles said. “You’ll some other young guys step forward with a chance to play.”

At the second level, linebackers and safeties couldn’t wrangle Lewis and Wilson, who had nine catches for 191 yards.

Perhaps this is life in the SEC, which over the season’s opening months resembles, gulp, the Big 12 Conference in terms of offenses getting the better of defenses, instead of what had been the norm of burly, stifling defenses that had ruled the SEC always and certainly in its run of national titles.

And the Tigers have shown a frightening habit of struggling to adapt, but it doesn’t seem to bother the youngsters sprinkled around the two-deep.

“No,” Thompson said. “Never really worried about it.

“You’ve got to play 60 minutes of football.”

As for Miles, any worry is well disguised. For now, at the very least.

“If there’s something that kind of rings clear to me, playing this sport is hard,” Miles said. “You’re going to have to go in the ring and fight like heck.”