As far as LSU center P.J. Lonergan is concerned, he’s not going to mess with what’s gotten him to this point healthy so far.
Kind of his football way of knocking on wood.
Lonergan is the only Tigers offensive lineman who has gotten through the first five weeks without an injury that has cost him any playing time.
Why mess with good karma?
“I just keep playing, keep my feet moving, just try to rest my body when I can,” Lonergan said. “I don’t know what’s working or why, but it’s working.”
Staying healthy has been one challenge. Lonergan has also had to deal with the latest ripple of quarterback controversy with Jordan Jefferson returning to the team.
For most of Lonergan’s career, Jefferson has been the LSU quarterback, so there was a comfort level established. There hasn’t been a hiccup yet with Lee at the controls, though.
"There are slight differences, but having worked with both of them since got they here, I've gotten used to both of them," Lonergan said. "Some slight differences but nothing you can't adjust to."
Adjustment has also been a useful skill with a series of changes along the line.
“Different guys do different things,” Lonergan said. “No two guys block the same. They have ways they like to do things. You can better yourself by knowing what they do best.”
Eager, but not overeager
LSU’s defense will likely face a Florida offense guided by a true freshman this week, which seems like a sure-fire recipe for success.
But the Tigers have made a conscious effort to not be overconfident about the idea of facing a rookie quarterback.
Jeff Driskel is likely to get the start for the Gators. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Oviedo, Fla., native was rated as Scout.com’s No. 1 quarterback from the Class of 2011.
He took over in the second half against Alabama last week when starter John Brantley suffered an ankle injury and the Florida offense sputtered, gaining only 46 yards after Driskel stepped in.
“At first, I admit I was licking my chops a little bit,” LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers said.
“When you get in there, you automatically think he’s a freshman and he’s gonna be rattled. But we have to keep in mind that he was the No. 1 QB in the nation, so he obviously knows what he’s doing. We can’t worry about trying to rattle him. We just have to play good solid football.”
Shepard ready to shine?
The first two weeks of Russell Shepard’s junior season have resulted in a mixed bag of results.
Suspended the first three games for violating NCAA protocol, Shepard has snared three passes for 51 yards, all with borderline spectacular grabs. He’s also missed at least as many throws that appeared to be catchable.
“He’s very close,” said Rueben Randle, one of LSU’s leading receivers with 19 grabs for 319 yards and three TDs. “He’s just a tad bit off of making those plays. Once he gets comfortable, he’s really going to be a big threat for us.”
Randle hasn’t had many drops, but his one glaring miss was costly when a Jarrett Lee pass clanged off his hands in the end zone at West Virginia.
“You have to try to get past the misses,” Randle said. “It’s something you don’t want to focus on as a receiver because then you have more drops.”
Crunchin’ the numbers
--- Florida’s ranks in the SEC: Scoring offense, 6th (34.2 points per game), rushing offense, 2nd (210.2 yards per game), passing offense 5th (203.6 ypg), total offense, tied for 4th (413.8 ypg), scoring defense, 3rd (14.8 ppg), rushing defense, 3rd (90.4 ypg), passing defense, 5th (168.2 ypg), total defense, tied for 2nd (258.6 ypg)
--- Other notable numbers for the Gators: They have only four interceptions (10th in the SEC) and are 10th in the league in turnover margin (-0.4), have allowed five sacks (second fewest in the SEC) and opponents are converting third downs at just a 27.7% rate (2nd in the SEC).
--- Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis leads the SEC with 12 made field goals (13 attempts). No other kicker has made more than eight.
--- The Gators’ running back duo of Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps was stifled by Alabama last week and limited to 8 yards on 14 combined carries. Rainey leads Florida with 415 rushing yards and Demps has 324 and a team-high four rushing TDs. Those two are also the Gators’ top receivers – Rainey with 14 catches for 246 yards and a pair of scores, Demps with 10-72.
--- LSU’s ranks in the SEC: Scoring offense, 3rd (38 ppg), rushing offense, 7th (172.6 ypg), passing offense, 8th (177 ypg), total offense, 9th (349.6 ypg), scoring defense, 2nd (12.8 ppg), rushing defense, 2nd (60.4 ypg), passing defense, 9th (201.8 ypg), total defense, 4th (262.2 ypg)
--- The Tigers are second in the SEC in sacks with 12 and first in sacks allowed (3). LSU also tops the league in turnover margin +1.8 per game and is second in time of possession (33.16 per game).
--- Morris Claiborne’s 99-yard kickoff return allowed him to jump to the top of the SEC with a 31.5-yard average.
Moving the chains
--- LSU has won its first five games of a season by double digits for only fourth time in program history. Two of the previous three occasions came in the 1958 and 2007 national championship seasons.
--- The Tigers’ last loss at home was against Florida, 13-3 on Oct. 10, 2009, when the Gators were ranked No. 1 and LSU was No. 4. The Tigers have won 13 in a row at Tiger Stadium since then.
--- This is the seventh meeting in a row between LSU and Florida when both teams are ranked. The last time one wasn’t was 2003 when the unranked Gators stunned the No. 6-ranked Tigers 19-7 at Tiger Stadium.
--- LSU’s last four wins against the Gators (three under Miles) have all been by four points or less.
--- In 20 quarters of football this season, the Tigers have scored a touchdown in 16 and their defense has kept opponents from doing so in 15.
--- Two of the teams Florida has beaten this season remain winless (Florida Atlantic, UAB). Not including Alabama, the combined record of the Gators’ foes is 5-12.
Click here to read the transcript from our Thursday night chat