No. 10 Florida gets Tigers attention, if Towson didn’t
OK, the truth can be told now.
LSU really didn’t take Towson as seriously last week as it takes the more prominent and more familiar opponents on its schedule.
The team’s sub-standard play in a lethargic 38-22 victory against that anonymous FCS opponent Saturday suggested as much, and on Monday the Tigers fessed up.
Hey, Towson came to town a week after LSU began Southeastern Conference play with a hard-fought 12-10 victory at Auburn, and a week before Tigers would be making a trip to nationally ranked Florida.
Yeah, LSU spent much of last week trying to convince anyone who asked that it didn’t take anyone lightly, but it turns out it didn’t convince many listeners — or even itself.
“It was very difficult for me to get (the players’) attention directed between the Auburn and the Florida game,” Tigers coach Les Miles said Monday at his weekly news luncheon. “I must not have gotten their attention. Period. I would think that this would be one of those weeks where you won’t have to get their attention, and they’ll want to come to play.”
Miles said the fact that Towson led 9-7 late in the second quarter, gained more first downs than LSU and fought the Tigers for 60 minutes was “a little eye-opening” for the players.
But what figures to open those eyes even wider is the annual game against the Gators in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — better known as The Swamp and one of the loudest stadiums in college football.
“It’s always been a hard-fought game,” junior linebacker Kevin Minter said. “We’re always among the top teams in the country when we play each other. The Swamp is incredible. The last time I played down there (in 2010), it was amped. It was probably one of the loudest venues I’ve ever been in. That game is just totally different from any other game.”
This week’s game is about as far removed from last week’s game as one can get on the attention-getting meter.
So the buzzword around the LSU team Monday was “focus.”
“Last week we had a lack of focus; I guarantee it won’t happen again,” defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. “The focus is the biggest thing I see kind of slipping away. We need to pick it up as a team. We have to stay focused this week.”
The 10th-ranked Gators are the first ranked team that No. 4 LSU has played this season.
“The focus wasn’t there last week and it has to be there this week,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “The whole attitude of the locker room is totally different. It’s easier to focus during practice. Everybody knows this is a big game that can make or break our season. There’s an understanding in the locker room. This week we are going to refocus and get it right.
“It’s Florida week. This is what you come here for. You come here to play these games. I’m sure my teammates are just like me and can’t wait to get down there.”
The Tigers would be well-advised to leave behind the suitcase full of turnovers and penalties they’ve been carrying around. Multiple turnovers and double-figure penalties — “stupid stuff,” Minter said — are almost becoming commonplace.
“We’re not playing smart football right now,” Minter said. “We haven’t been as disciplined as we normally are. This week in practice we’ve got to get back to it.
“In the offseason, we stayed in the film room to look at extra film, and we stayed to work on extra drills. I feel like we’ve gotten away from that. We’ve got to get back to preparing well.”
After winning three consecutive nonconference games at home by a combined score of 145-31, LSU’s SEC opener and first road game of the season came against Auburn, which appears to be one of the weaker teams in the conference this season.
Defensive end Lavar Edwards said the difficulty that the Tigers had with Auburn, trailing well into the third quarter, was a powerful reminder of what awaits them throughout the SEC schedule.
“Any time you play an SEC team, no matter who it is, you know it’s going to be a tough challenge,” Edwards said. “You can’t take any week in the SEC for granted. All the teams have talent and it’s a fight every week.”
That certainly figures to be the case against a 4-0 team coming off a bye week to welcome the Tigers to The Swamp.
“It’s a great place to play,” Miles said. “If you enjoy classic college venues, and if you enjoy the SEC, that’s as good as it gets: quality opponent on the road, loud. I think it’s a great place to play.”
Presumably this opponent in this venue will get the Tigers focused.
“This is pretty serious,” Minter said.
“We haven’t been playing up to our potential. We have to start doing that in order for our season to be what we want it to be. We’ve worked so hard. It would be a shame to let a lack of focus tear up our season with all talent we have.”