COLUMN: Opener fills in some blanks

By throttling Oregon 40-27, LSU showed how little the distractions of the last two weeks mattered and removed any doubt about being a national contender in 2011.

ARLINGTON, Texas – Now we know.


After all the perceived distractions laid in front of the LSU football team, all the hurdles that popped up like the gophers on that kid’s arcade game, we know something about these 2011 Tigers.


We know they don’t have any problems focusing on the task at hand. And we know that the offseason, no matter how controversial it became in August, was more about hard work and taking care of business than anything else.


By the time 7:12 p.m. rolled around Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium, any notion of distraction or LSU being flat was erased.


Like any other game, Les Miles stood in front of his team as it came out of the locker room to take the field, hands extended like a traffic cop. Only this time, not even Miles could harness the unbridled energy.


This time the Tigers surged past him onto the field – uncaged and eager to get on the field to start taking Oregon apart feather by feather.


Miles was so fired up himself – smiling ear-to-ear – that after his rambunctious team poured past him, the coach headed toward the wrong sideline before he caught himself and headed toward friendlier confines.


Saturday night’s impressive performance was eight months in the making. As soon as the Tigers throttled Texas A&M on Jan. 7 in this same building, and after Miles turned Michigan away at the door a few days later, the wheels clicked into motion.


Yeah, there was some recruiting to tend to and an offensive coordinator to find. And credit Miles for doing both those pretty damn well, too.


But with Oregon sitting there on the schedule like a neon green and gunmetal gray (ugliest uniforms I’ve ever seen, period) sore thumb, Miles and his coaches chipped away at the game plan day-by-day.


Defensive coordinator John Chavis tweaked some philosophical building blocks to combat what the Ducks wanted to do. Chavis made sure he found ways to get Tyrann Mathieu on the field and that’s a formula that equates to success.


The offensive coaches spent most of that offseason building around Jordan Jefferson, but when fate came high-and-tight with a curve ball two weeks before kickoff, there was some effective scrambling to get Jarrett Lee ready.


No, the game plan wasn’t full of bells and whistles, nor will what LSU did against Oregon be nearly enough in every game this season.


It got the job done, though, balanced with that stingy defense and special-teams big plays. We know that formula has worked for Miles and the Tigers an awful lot before.


Will it work this season? Probably not alone, but if anything else, we know Miles and his coaches will adjust on the fly.


That showed this week and blended with an offseason of focus and determination, the result was a dominant season opener against, perhaps, the best team the Tigers will face this fall.


You want to know the coolest thing about Saturday’s victory?


As impressive as it was, Miles made it clear he expects more from his team moving forward.


“We don’t feel like we’ve hung the moon in any way,” Miles said.


Nor is Miles about to trumpet his team’s first step in the rankings.


LSU is likely to creep up to No. 3 behind Oklahoma and Alabama when the Associated Press poll comes out Tuesday morning. The Tigers might even get a few first-place votes considering that they beat the highest ranked team of anybody in the country on the opening weekend, while the Sooners manhandled Tulsa and the Crimson Tide began by whipping Kent State.


Make no mistake, though. Miles isn’t interesting in what number is listed in front of his team.


“I appreciate the fact that we’re close enough to end up No. 1,” he said. “If we continue to play and play the way we’re capable of playing, we’ll earn our way.”


And now we know for sure that LSU belongs in that conversation.


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