Atoning for a woeful performance at Georgia looms as the dominant theme not only for LSU’s secondary, but the defense as a whole.
To a man, the position group said shoring up frayed communication in receiving and echoing coverages relayed from the sideline is the remedy after allowing 298 yards passing, while three of the four touchdowns it ceded to Georgia came on busted or poor coverages.
On Wednesday, LSU coach Les Miles unequivocally said practices ahead of a trip by the 10th-ranked Tigers (4-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) to Mississippi State (2-2, 1-1) for a 6 p.m. kickoff Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium resolved the issues.
“Absolutely,” Miles said.“Those kinds of things are gone over and gone over and gone over. We’re optimistic that those things won’t repeat.”
Even after the Bulldogs’ Aaron Murray worked over LSU’s cover men, the Tigers still ranked fourth in the SEC in allowing 198.6 yards per game passing and third in pass efficiency defense with opponents mustering a 114.7 rating.
Last week, Tre’Davious White sat for a stretch of time after allowing Chris Conley plenty of room to run a post route down the left hash for a 25-yard touchdown pass, while Jalen Collins gave up a couple back-shoulder throws and Jalen Mills watched Reggie Davis pick up 24 yards and Justin Scott-Wesley haul in the go-ahead touchdown on two coverage busts.
Still, Miles said there’s no thought to tweaking personnel.
“No,” Miles said. “We’ll play the guys we got.”
Craig Loston, the Tigers’ fifth-year strong safety, suffered a slight groin pull wrangling Georgia’s Todd Gurley to the turf last week, a tackle on a 23-yard gain in the second quarter where the running back came away with an injured left ankle.
Loston returned in the second half, and Miles said he should be available Saturday.
“He’s done some work this week,” Miles said. “I suspect he’ll be ready to play.”
Russell starting for State
Dan Mullen showed his cards Wednesday in revealing senior Tyler Russell will start at quarterback for Mississippi State.
The fifth-year Bulldogs coach did it without much fanfare on the weekly SEC coaches teleconference: “That’s the plan.”
Russell missed the past three games after sustaining a concussion in a season-opening loss to then-No. 13 Oklahoma State, paving the way for sophomore dual-threat Dak Prescott to take the reins. Prescott, a 6-2, 230-pound native of Haughton, has done so ably, averaging 177.5 yards per game passing with three touchdowns and a lone interception.
Miles said the move, and the possibility of Mississippi State splitting reps at the position, is a something built into LSU’s preparations.
“Both of those guys have gotten enough reps where their productive for their team,” Miles said. “They use one guy in a set of circumstances and situations, and those use another, who frankly, is another good egg.”
‘We’ll take those yards’
If the struggles of the secondary are this week’s chief concern defensively, LSU’s anemic run game has dogged the offense.
The Tigers cracked the 100-yard barrier (117), but only averaged 3.25 yards per carry as Georgia dominated the line of scrimmage, only allowing a long gain of 16 by Jeremy Hill in the second half.
Asked if there was a concern about getting the ground game churning again, Miles said LSU is content to take its yards and move the ball in the air with quarterback Zach Mettenberger’s arm. Entering the week, LSU’s 281.8 yards per game passing is fourth in the SEC, while it’s 187.8 pass efficiency rating is second behind Georgia.
“If a defense decides you’re not going to run the football and give up 370 yards passing, I think that’s what they’ll do,” Miles said. “We’ll take the 370 yards of passing. We will still rush the football efficiently. But if they want to play everybody up in the box, we’ll take those yards.”
Advocate on the road
If you’re headed to Starkville, there are locations along the route where you can pick up a copy of The Advocate on Saturday morning.
The locations are the Hilton Garden Inn, 363 E. Main St., in Tupelo; Pearl River Resort, 13541 Mississippi 6, in Philadelphia; Holiday Inn, 100 N. Frontage Road, in Meridan; and the Staybridge Suites, 801 Ridgewood Road, in Ridgeland.