Defense shows it’s not weak spot

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson, left, and LSU defensive end Danielle Hunter bring down TCU running back B.J. Catalon during the Tigers' 37-27 win Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson, left, and LSU defensive end Danielle Hunter bring down TCU running back B.J. Catalon during the Tigers' 37-27 win Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

ARLINGTON, Texas — When the LSU defensive line took the field against TCU on Saturday night, there was no sign of Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan or Josh Downs. Nor was Lavar Edwards or Chancey Aghayere anywhere to be found.

Kevin Minter wasn’t in the middle of the linebackers, and Eric Reid and Tharold Simon weren’t on the back end.

But even though the names at the top of the depth chart were mostly different, the numbers on the stats sheet were pretty familiar.

The Tigers defense had eight new starters, but the unit still yielded just 259 yards in a 37-27 victory in the Cowboys Classic.

“We wanted to come out here and set a tone, because a lot of people told us that because we lost eight people to the (NFL) draft we wouldn’t be the same,” tackle Ego Ferguson said. “They thought defense was our weak point.

“(Saturday night), we didn’t give the best show, but we showed a lot. The only thing we can do now is go up. We’ve got to go to practice and fix our mistakes and come back stronger next game.”

Ferguson, who redshirted as a freshman three years ago, made his first start Saturday after playing in 13 games as a reserve each of the past two seasons.

“It was about time I started to make some plays and got in a starting role,” Ferguson said. “It was a blessing. My father always told me patience is a virtue, and I didn’t really understand what he meant, because any young kid wants to play right away. But I’ve learned what he meant, and it truly meant a lot. It made me more hungry.”

The Tigers had a precarious six-point lead midway through the fourth quarter as the Horned Frogs played a first down at the LSU 26. Ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter combined to sack Casey Paschall and Hunter caused a fumble.

“It was a huge play, and that’s something Danielle’s capable of every time he comes in there,” end Jordan Allen said. “It’s something all of our guys are capable of every time they step on the field. To know that definitely makes you feel a lot more comfortable with the defense.”

Though TCU recovered the fumble, the 13-yard loss gave LSU the upper hand. The Frogs couldn’t get another first down after tackles on second and third down by cornerback Jalen Mills, who tied for the team lead with five tackles and made an interception.

TCU settled for a field goal, and moments later, the Tigers put the game away with a touchdown pass from Zach Mettenberger to Jarvis Landry.

Some special, but not all

The LSU special teams were involved in a lot of big plays Saturday — some good, some bad.

On the good side:

Odell Beckham Jr.’s career-best 75-yard kickoff return set up the clinching score midway through the fourth quarter.

Colby Delahoussaye was perfect in his debut, making all three of his field goals and all four of his extra points, though he wasn’t terribly challenged with field goals of 23, 28 and 23 yards.

James Wright caused and recovered a fumble on a punt return, setting up Delahoussaye’s second field goal.

Jamie Keehn’s first two punts were very good: a 48-yarder from his end zone that was fair caught, and a pooch kicked that bounded 43 yards before going out of bounds at the 9.

On the bad side:

The kickoff team gave up a 100-yard touchdown return to B.J. Catalon.

Keehn’s third and final punt was a 28-yard shank that helped set up a field goal for the Frogs by giving them the ball at the LSU 48.

Tigers adjust blocking

LSU ran the ball more effectively in the second half than it did in the first half. The Tigers had 24 attempts in each half. But in the first half, they netted 89 rushing yards for a 3.7 average; and in the second half, they netted 108 for a 4.5 average.

Though the Tigers’ physical offensive line might have worn down the Frogs, and the passing game loosened up the defense, center Elliott Porter said an adjustment also contributed to the improvement.

“They had their different stunts,” Porter said of the Frogs. “Everybody had to get adjusted to what they were doing. They had some things they changed that we didn’t see. We had to adjust to them, and that’s what we did.”

Blue fumble ends streak

Alfred Blue’s fumble at the Tigers 6 at the start of the fourth quarter set up a TCU touchdown and was the first fumble by an LSU running back in 331 carries.

No running back had lost a fumble since Michael Ford did so in the third quarter against Towson in the fifth game of last season.

Plenty of debuts

Fifteen Tigers made their first career appearances, many of which were anticipated. Some that were less certain to occur were those of offensive linemen Hoko Fanaika (special teams line), Jonah Austin (goal-line tight end) and Evan Washington (tackle). Freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings played one snap and gained 2 yards and a first down on a sneak.

Lagniappe

  • LSU improved its FBS-record streak of nonconference, regular-season wins to 42, which includes Miles’ 32-0 record. The Tigers’ last loss to a nonconference opponent in a regular-season game was in 2002 at Virginia Tech. ... Miles is 9-0 in season openers at LSU, and the Tigers have won 11 consecutive openers.
  • The Labor Day holiday is causing a couple of scheduling changes. The college football polls, which usually are released Sunday, won’t be released until Tuesday because of college games being played Sunday and Monday to fill voids created by the lack of NFL games. Also, Miles’ weekly luncheon and the initial player interview availabilities to start the game week will be held Tuesday instead of Monday because of the holiday.