LSU’s 45-13 victory against Kent State on Saturday night was indicative of the Tigers’ businesslike pre-conference run.
In the three games leading into the Southeastern Conference opener this Saturday against Auburn, LSU has not trailed. It took a 3-0 lead on TCU on the first possession of the season and never let the Horned Frogs catch up in the most competitive of the three games, a 37-27 victory.
Against Kent State, the Tigers — who moved up to No. 6 in the Associated Press poll Sunday — did just as they had a week earlier against UAB in taking a 21-0 lead after one quarter and coasting.
“It’s another step to where we want to be ultimately,” quarterback Zach Mettenberger said.
The victory Saturday came after a week in which LSU had to grapple with a Sports Illustrated series examining Tigers coach Les Miles’ past.
For four days leading up to the game, SI reported on alleged wrongdoing in a variety of facets of the Oklahoma State football program, including the four seasons (2001-04) Miles was in charge. Miles, who denied any wrongdoing in a variety of forums during the week, said Saturday night that he, his staff and his players remained focused on the task at hand.
The victory against the Golden Flashes also marked the de facto end of the other major non-football story of this season: the Jeremy Hill saga.
Miles’ most public disciplining of Hill in the wake of the sophomore running back’s second guilty plea to a misdemeanor — which wound up being a benching for the season opener — was a topic of much debate. When Hill returned and got six carries the following week, then started against Kent State, he was back where he had been before his April arrest: in the backfield as LSU’s starting running back.
The Hill story is now strictly a football one.
“I think he showed that he is doing pretty well,” Mettenberger said. “He hit the ground running, and I’m excited to see what he will do in the future.”
So it’s business as usual as the Tigers prepare to begin their SEC business.
“We’ve got a lot of stuff to work on,” defensive tackle Ego Ferguson said. “But I feel like we are improving each and every game, getting ready for SEC play.”
In addition to getting Hill back on track — he had 117 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries — LSU wanted to work on its running game against the Golden Flashes. The Tigers had their most rushing yards (307) on 37 carries and had two 100-yard rushers; Terrence Magee complemented Hill with 108 yards and a touchdown on nine rushes.
“I think it helps our confidence and also our coaches’ confidence, because they know we can go out there and execute well,” guard Trai Turner said. “We knew all along we could, but going out there and doing it is big.
“We’ve been a predominantly running team for a long time. We expect to come out running the ball every time we take the field.”