Les Miles says sitting Jeremy Hill early was ‘the right call’

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU running back Jeremy Hill tries to elude an Ole Miss defender during last week's game against Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss. Hill fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, and although he recovered, the coaching staff benched him for much of the first half.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU running back Jeremy Hill tries to elude an Ole Miss defender during last week's game against Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss. Hill fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, and although he recovered, the coaching staff benched him for much of the first half.

LSU running back Jeremy Hill had an uncharacteristic fumble on the first play at Ole Miss last week.

Though Hill quickly retrieved the football on what turned out to be a 7-yard gain, after two more carries, he found himself on the sideline. He didn’t touch the football again until a few minutes into the second quarter.

Coach Les Miles has a nearly zero-tolerance policy for turnovers, and he made no exception even for Hill, who is not believed to have fumbled previously in his two seasons as a Tiger.

“It’s really not a hard, fast fumble rule, if you will,” Miles said, “but that was the first play of the game, and you have to think (that on) the first play of the game, you’d have ball security.

“So it was an indication, if you will, that we needed to get his attention. I think it was exactly the right call (to sit Hill), and we watched film and we understood what was there and what wasn’t, and I think it was best that he played exactly how he played.”

Hill eventually finished with 64 yards on 16 carries and scored his 10th touchdown, tied for the most in the Southeastern Conference.

The ball popped out, Hill said, when he ran into the back of left tackle La’el Collins.

“I wasn’t really focusing and it popped out, but I got it right back,” Hill said. “(The coaches) just asked what happened, and it just kind of fell out of there. It didn’t happen again. I think that was my first fumble, so it happens. It’s part of the game.

“That’s something I always take pride in — just going into every game and taking care of the football, especially in close games and critical situations. We work on ball security every day. I’ll continue to work on it every day and hold the ball high and tight, and hopefully it won’t happen again.”

The Tigers had a season-high three turnovers, and they haven’t yet played a turnover-free game.

Surprising interceptions

All three turnovers were Zach Mettenberger interceptions, which was surprising given that he had thrown only two interceptions in the previous seven games combined and he had never thrown three in a game at LSU.

“I didn’t take what the defense gave me,” Mettenberger said Tuesday night. “I got a little ahead of myself and obviously paid for it.”

Mettenberger said he’d never had a three-interception game anywhere.

“I think it surprised everyone,” wide receiver Jarvis Landry said, “but I think one of the things he showed later in that game was how he can manage the game and take care of the football and got us back into a tie game.”

Thompson could play more

Another surprise came when safety Corey Thompson, who had made his first career starts the past two games, played just one series against Ole Miss.

Ronald Martin and Craig Loston started after alternating weeks on the sideline with an injury while Thompson replaced them. Though both starters were healthy, it seemed Thompson had played well enough as a fill-in to warrant significant playing time in a reserve role.

“We would have liked to have gotten Corey Thompson in the game, to be honest with you,” Miles said. “I think he played a series, and it may well have been we needed to get him in the game more, so you know. I think he’ll play more next week (against Furman).”

Hold the ice

Tigers place-kicker Colby Delahoussaye said he doesn’t worry about being “iced” if an opponent calls timeout to give him more time to think about an especially important kick, as Miles did to Ole Miss kicker Andrew Ritter before Ritter made a game-winning 41-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.

“To me, it really doesn’t matter, because whenever I’m on the field getting ready to go kick, it’s almost like I’m not even thinking,” Delahoussaye said. “I’m blessed with that. I just go out there and hit the ball.”

Delahoussaye said the main thing to consider during an extended wait is to not “break a habit.”

He said he understood Miles’ last-second thinking that icing wasn’t necessary because Ritter had just had a 29-yarder blocked on the Rebels’ previous possession.

“After a block, you’re thinking, ‘I have to hurry up. Should I leave early?’ ” Delahoussaye said. “I promise you, it was in his head.”

Opponents might want to try something to disrupt Delahoussaye, who remains perfect on his redshirt freshman season, having made all nine of his field-goal attempts and all 41 extra points.

Getting spoiled with freshmen?

Miles said a few freshmen might start to see more playing time this week, and he’s already giving first-year cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Rashard Robinson significant playing time.

But, he added, even among the most talented newcomers, some are better prepared to handle playing time right away than others.

“Sometimes we get spoiled in the fact that some of our players come in here as freshmen and play like seniors, and we expect them to play that way,” Miles said. “I am spoiled by guys like (former safety) Eric Reid, and I expect that the approach is the same with all these young players, and it’s not. Each guy is individual, and each guy takes time.”