Coach's Corner: Forget UTEP, here come the Tigers

The Cats have begun the season in fine fashion, but they get little time to enjoy the 42-7 win over UTEP. LSU comes to town Saturday and the Tigers are several steps up from a Miner team that was never in the game. LSU is coming off a blowout win of their own and know how to win. John Mackovic addressed the media on Monday to talk about their SEC opponent and how the team fared this past Saturday.

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John Mackovic started the press conference speaking about the LSU Tigers:
John Mackovic: "They have experience on the offensive line, and they are mashers. They like to get right up on you and just wear you down. For a long time, LSU was generally known as a team that was undersized and very quick but never very big. Over the last 10 or 15 years, they have broken that mold and gone with big, big linemen. They are going to run some of their key core plays at you and demand that you stop them before they go away from those plays.

"They are a good team, and it is always fun when you play people from another conference. I think that match ups like Arizona and LSU are good match ups, and they are fun to play. Players want to play good teams, and you always want to find out how you will do against them. They have a team that has been built to do well, and they have done very well."

Question: How do the LSU receivers compare to Pac-10 receivers?
Mackovic: "These guys will be as good as any group in the Pac-10. They (UA's cornerbacks) are going to have a lot of work to do. If we're off too far, they are going to throw a lot of underneath things. They let them run if you get right up on them, and they will go deep. I suspect that they will try to go deep through the coverage."

Did you run your offense against UTEP as you normally would, or did you hold some things back?
Mackovic: "We set out to call every play on our play card, but we did not necessarily do that because when we had a big lead at halftime, we didn't try to throw deep in the second half. We wanted to get some guys in the game and let them play. We also had a lot of plays that we didn't use. We might be able to carry some of those over to LSU this week, but some of them won't fit this defense that we are about to face. We will go back to the drawing board and put some things together for this week. LSU's defense is quite a bit different from Texas-El Paso in that they are a true 4-3 defense, and their coverages match those of a 4-3 defense. We will see a lot more single coverage this week and one-on-one coverage on the outside. They like to press, get out and bump and run. They will get up in the face of the receivers."

Question: How do you feel about the defensive performance versus UTEP?
Mackovic: "We looked over the game tapes with the team yesterday, and some of what I said after the game was true. Defensively, we missed a number of tackles. The numbers aren't staggering, but open-field tackling in today's game is so important. That will be something we stress this week. We were able to hold them to 71 yards rushing. That will be much tougher this week against LSU because they come with a stronger attack, and they come with bigger linemen who are stronger and more physical to match up against. We were able to dominate a little bit at a couple positions, but I don't think we'll be able to do that this week.

"In spite of the fact that we put up some good numbers, we still made a lot of mistakes. There are a lot of things to do because the players are still learning. But, we only gave up one play over 20 yards, and that was good. That was very important for us because if you want to have a good defense, you have to be able to contain the ball and not give up big plays. That will be a lot harder for us this week."

On the Wildcat offense:
Mackovic: "Our offense picked up the blitz fairly well, and we made some plays against that. We also made some runs against the blitz. They tried to get us in a long yardage situation, but it never really occurred. We were pretty much on par most of the time. The quarterbacks helped immensely by being able to step up and get out of the pocket and go and do some things. They got going down the field, and we didn't give up any sacks, which definitely worked to our advantage."

On the kicking game:
Mackovic: "As for the kicking game, for some reason all of his (Bobby Gill) kicks went right of center. He went out last night and worked on his steps. He will work on that and get back into his groove. He kicked some last night, and he looked fine. It also appears as if we will be punting by the bullpen again at least for the time being. That's fine as long as we get the job done."

With your running backs dinged up, what do you plan to do?
Mackovic: "We will cross-train Gilbert Harris this week, especially if Clarence Farmer and Chris Henry aren't ready to go at the end of the week or if they can do a limited amount. Beau Carr also will get reps this week. We have Sean (Jones), Pedro (Limon) and Mike (Bell). We really can be three-deep in a two-backfield set. We have always cross-trained some people, so we will continue to do that as we go."

You have to be happy with the running game?
Mackovic: "The four touchdown runs we had the other night are half of our total from last year. We've already gone to the halfway mark after just one game, so that's good. To be a good team, you have to be able to run the ball down in close. You can't pass it in all the time; you have to be able to run the ball in. We did that against UTEP, and we will continue to do that.

"The tight ends are really responsible for the blocking, and the line just went out there and did it. All five guys are taking some real pride in what they're doing. They enjoyed the game, and when they enjoy it like that, they can make some big holes for our running backs. LSU has bigger guys to plug the holes this week. We are playing a defensive front that is just about as big as our offensive front.

A lot of newcomers played their first game on Saturday night.
Mackovic: "Syndric Steptoe played, and he returned punts. He went in the game, and it seemed like it was just another day at the ballpark for him. I was really pleased with the way he did things. Chris Henry did a nice job. Clifton Stanford forced a fumble and did a nice job. John McKinney did a nice job for us on defense. The thing with John is that he is fast, he can run, and he can tackle people, but he is still learning. We had a lot of first-time people in the game, which is something we wanted for the first game."

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