STARKVILLE, Miss. - LSU’s depth and experience on the offensive line paid dividends during the Tigers’ 19-6 victory against Mississippi State on Thursday night.
Starting left tackle Chris Faulk limped to the sideline after injuring an ankle on the Tigers’ fifth play from scrimmage and did not return. Greg Shaw, who is normally the backup right tackle, replaced Faulk for the rest of the game. Later, Josh Williford, who has been slowed by a foot injury, replaced right guard Will Blackwell after a series in which Blackwell had two penalties. Left guard T-Bob Hebert missed a series after a minor ankle injury as well, but returned.
“With the guys we have on this offensive line,” Hebert said, “it’s a luxury with the depth and versatility. That’s hard to come by. I think the coaches probably enjoy it even more than we do, because they have a little bit of an insurance policy.”
Coach Les Miles announced earlier in the week that Josh Dworaczyk, who was competing with Hebert for the starting left guard position, will not play this season because of a knee injury. LSU will apply to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility which would allow Dworaczyk to return next season. But even in his absence, the line is still deep.
“With the kind of depth that we have, we don’t have to worry about who we put in,” line coach Greg Studrawa said. “They just get up and go. They make my job a lot easier.”
Hello, old friend
When junior guard Tobias Smith left in the first half Thursday with a knee injury, Mississippi State moved senior center Quentin Saulsberry to guard and inserted redshirt freshman Dillon Day at center.
Day played at West Monroe with LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo, offensive guard Will Blackwell, freshman wide receiver Paul Turner and reserve defensive end Jordan Allen.
No matter, Mingo said it was business as usual.
“We knew they had an inexperienced player in the game, so we tried to take advantage of it as much as we could,” Mingo said. “I guess it worked.”
Day, 6-foot-4, 285 pounds, could take on a starting role soon enough.
State spokesman Joe Galbraith told The Associated Press on Friday that Smith is out for the season with a partially torn ACL in the injured left knee.
Like old times
Ball-control offense. Steady passing game. Relentless defense.
Hebert said LSU’s recipe for success in recent games has reminded him of the New Orleans Saints teams his father, Bobby, quarterbacked decades ago.
“It’s very Jim Mora-like,” Hebert said, referring to the former Saints coach.
Like those New Orleans teams, LSU did just enough on offense Thursday night, combining one Jarrett Lee touchdown pass with four Drew Alleman field goals as the defense held State to 193 yards. LSU used a similar formula in its first two wins.
“Grind-’em-out, dirty, tough wins - nothing flashy,” Hebert said. “We just came in and played good defense and ran the ball.”
Which way to go?
Of the 201 plays opponents have run against LSU through three games, 33 have resulted in negative yardage. State went the wrong direction on 16 of its 59 offensive snaps Thursday night.
LSU’s leaders in tackles for loss are Bennie Logan and Michael Brockers with 3.5 each, followed by Mingo and Tyrann Mathieu with three apiece.
LSU had four sacks Thursday after managing just one in the first two games.
“We’ve got so much talent from the ones to the twos,” junior cornerback Morris Claiborne said. “We’ve just got to keep focused on that and keep working hard with each other.”
Do not enter
The LSU defense has not allowed an opposing player to reach the end zone in the past eight quarters. LSU held State to just two field goals after limiting Northwestern State to one in a 49-3 thrashing a week earlier.
The last touchdown LSU gave up was to Oregon in the fourth quarter of its season-opening 40-27 victory Sept. 3.
LSU kept the ball away from State’s high-scoring offense for much of the game, enjoying an edge in time of possession of 37 minutes, 50 seconds to 22:10 for the Bulldogs. In the third quarter, the Tigers had the ball for all but 3:01 and for the second half they had it for all but 8:09.
The Tigers’ short week leading up to the Mississippi State game Thursday enables them to take some time off before getting into a game-week routine for their next game - Sept. 24 at West Virginia. LSU looked at film of its latest victory Friday and will be off Saturday and Sunday before returning to a normal routine Monday.
“We’ve got this game to get out of our system,” Miles said. “We’ve got to improve. And we have an extra day or two to prepare. We look forward to it.”
The Tigers hope to find out over the weekend what time their game against the Mountaineers will kick off. The game will be televised on ABC/ESPN.
Advocate sportswriters Les East, Scott Hotard and Scott Rabalais contributed
to this report.