While the LSU defense turned in another masterful performance Saturday in a 49-3 triumph against Northwestern State, there was one notable absence.
Senior Ryan Baker served a one-game suspension for an unidentified violation of team rules.
The starting weakside linebacker, Baker had started 13 consecutive games after missing the 2010 season opener with a broken jaw.
Tigers coach Les Miles was vague when he talked about Baker’s absence, but did say “That is done.”
Asked later if Baker’s penalty was just the one game, Miles said “he penalty was for this game.”
As a result, defensive coordinator John Chavis went with a number of looks at linebacker. There were the starting three of Stefoin Francois, Kevin Minter and Lamin Barrow – who got the nod in place of Baker.
Before the end of the first quarter, sophomore Luke Muncie was in the rotation. Later in the half, sophomore Tahj Jones joined in. By the fourth quarter, the rotation had shifted to Jones, Muncie and redshirt freshman D.J. Welter.
“We get fresh bodies into the game, and we played a lot (of linebackers),” Miles said.
After the game, Miles singled out Jones as the most impressive player outside the normal rotation.
Barrow, Muncie and Minter each recorded three tackles to lead the linebacker corps.
Positive from a lot of negative
It was a banner night for the LSU defense, which held Northwestern State to -4 yards on 27 carries. It was the first time LSU held an opponent to negative rushing yards since Oct. 30, 1982 when the Tigers held Ole Miss to -50 rushing yards on 31 attempts.
“I thought the defense played like they were supposed to,” Miles said. “No matter who came into the game, they played the same way.”
The Demons’ 95 yards of total offense was the lowest total since Sept. 15, 2007 when Middle Tennessee only had 90.
Of the 56 offensive snaps the Demons took Saturday, 24 went for 0-2 yards (including 12 incomplete passes and an interception) and nine resulted in tackles for loss for a total of -28 yards.
Twelve LSU defenders were in on a tackle for a loss, with Tyrann Mathieu making the biggest impact – 1.5 tackles for a total loss of 12 yards.
Northwestern did not have a rushing play for longer than 6 yards or a player with more than 8 net rushing yards.
Northwestern State’s most productive play of the game was a fourth-down pass out of punt formation when Don Canyon zipped a short throw to tight end Justin Aldredge who dodged and weaved upfield 25 yards.
“If there’s a faster, more physical football team in the country, I’d like to see it,” Northwestern State head coach Bradley Dale Peveto said.
Sam Montgomery and Tyrann Mathieu combined for the Tigers’ first sack of the season late in the first half – a 3-yard loss on third-and-6.
“We’ve harped on the run and dominated two teams that way,” Montgomery said. “Now it’s time for us to start pinning back our ears to the pass rush going.
“I’m starting to get real thirsty for a sack.”
With a road trip to Mississippi State coming up two days quicker than usual, LSU’s players said the celebration time for Saturday’s thorough victory would have to be adjusted.
“We usually have a 24-hour rule and now it’s more like a 12-hour rule,” safety Eric Reid said. “We have to put this one behind us and move onto Mississippi State.”
Asked about how the truncated week affected his team’s preparation plans and whether Sunday would be treated more like a Monday, Miles playfully started rattling off how the week would go, saying “We’re skipping right past Monday and making (Sunday) a Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Moving the chains
-- Cornerback Morris Claiborne led the Tigers in tackles with six tackles, while Reid and Montgomery each added five stops.
--- After two games, Mathieu leads LSU in tackles (14) and is tied with Barkevious Mingo for the most tackles for a loss (2).
-- Welter and defensive end Jordan Allen each saw their first action of the season. Welter assisted on a pair of tackles and Allen made one solo tackle.
“We love being in Tiger Stadium. You need to understand something. That place is special. When you walk onto that field, if you don’t bring some intensity with you, the place calls it out of you. I think our team enjoyed that venue. We’re only going to be in this place six times this year and that was one.”
LSU coach Les Miles