Still running strong
LSU’s two senior quarterbacks might dominate the headlines lately, but give the runing game the spotlight it deserves.
Past the midway point of the 2011 season, consistency on the ground is contributing a bunch in the Tigers’ 7-0 start.
The constant has been sophomore Spencer Ware, who serves as the bruiser of the bunch, a mobile stack of bricks who imposes his will on defenses from the first quarter until deep into the fourth.
“Spencer Ware continues to be a very physical force running the football,” LSU coach Les Miles said.
“It really has been an important piece at the back end of games. Any time you take the defense off the field and keep them rested, and then offensively you can keep the ball and continue to grind out some tough yardage, you will eat the clock. And if they are productive drives that end in scores, that is really what you want.”
The Tigers rank fourth in the SEC in rushing, averaging 191.1 yards per game. Ware’s six touchdowns are tied for conference’s fourth most by a running back.
Another LSU lineman recognized by the SEC
Ware has helped spark the running game, but the overall success of the offense can be credited in large part to a veteran offensive line – which has mixed up its rotation thanks to injuries to starters at every position, but has still not fallen off in production as a unit.
“Chris Faulk has had a great fall to this date and certainly played very, very well in this last game,” Miles said.
“We are thankful. We appreciate those people who are noticing. It’s kind of nice for some of the big guys when you have success and move the football on the ground and in the air. It is kind of a quiet position.”
Meanwhile, Miles said senior center P.J. Lonergan would practice Monday and could be available for Saturday’s game against SEC West rival Auburn.
“There’s no feel to rest anybody for any other game than to play and win the very next contest, which is Auburn in our stadium,” Miles said.
Leading with Lee
What about both at once?
Judging from Miles’ tone, a double-dose is going to be the strategy going forward.
“I like the diversity of our quarterback play and I think it should continue,” Miles said.
Lee rode through the first four games solo, carrying the Tigers to three road wins over Top 25 teams in the process.
But Jefferson’s reinstatement prior to the Kentucky game meant that the Tigers had another weapon at their disposal – and the staff quickly worked Jefferson back into the offensive mix, in large part because of what he brings with his legs.
But don’t write Jefferson off as just a run-first quarterback - at least not yet.
“The great news is that he brings a mobility as a runner, but he also has the experience of having been our starter for games and has the ability to throw the football,” Miles said. “He has virtually the entire playbook in hand when he goes onto the field.”
There remains a few questions to be asked.
What if the Tigers are tied up, or trail, late in a ball game?
Which quarterback does LSU send out to the field?
“It would really depend on how the game has gone and what is called for,” Miles said. “We will lead with Lee, and we will make decisions thereafter.
Firm hand shakes…
The chatter from the NFL over the weekend came from San Francisco’s win over Detroit, when head coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz turned the postgame hand shake into amateur hour – getting face-to-face after Schwartz chased Harbaugh down for an explanation behind Harbaugh’s handshake, which was a little too firm for Schwartz’s taste.
Maybe he hasn’t gone John Chaney on anyone after a game, but Miles has had his fair share of run-ins – mainly from his days before Baton Rouge.
The week prior to the game, Miles didn’t shy away from the local media.
“They're the best team in college football … we're told,” Miles said of the Sooners. “Next Saturday, two teams are going to play. One is maybe the best team in college football and the other one is a darn good football team. We're going to figure out which one is which.”
When Stoops and OU bested Miles’ Cowboys by a score of 52-9, the postgame handshake wasn’t very heartfelt.
“I’ve had some unusual postgame handshakes, not necessarily verbal exchanges that were not understandable,” he said. “I do understand it. It’s an emotional time. It’s one where these games that we play are a little bit more than that.
“I do understand what is a very real drama when two people cross the field at the end of the game.”
If there was one thing that Miles wanted to stress about LSU wearing Nike Pro Combat uniforms against Auburn, it was that the uniforms crafted were done so with tradition in mind.
In a year where Maryland’s helmet design nearly forced college football to return to leather, Miles made sure that the final copy had his approval.
“I do kind of write off on design,” he said. “I do not want to take the field in a uniform that doesn’t represent the great institution that I work for and that our team enjoys representing.
“I have a difficult time with a great historic uniform that has been changed such that you cannot recall the uniform or the team that it represents. I think that’s a step too far for me. I like to see LSU dressed like LSU is supposed to dress, and other traditional collegiate football powers in a similar format.”
No. 1 in the BCS
LSU is ranked No. 1 in the initial BCS poll, which was released Sunday evening.
Why is it buried at the bottom of the notebook?
Consider it a take on the mood of the team, which moved to 7-0 with a win over Tennessee.
“I think our team is honored with the compliment,” Miles said. “It’s respect for the body of work that this team has accomplished.
“But I don’t think that anybody in our building has reached the position that they want to be in. I feel like we’re holding a spot in some ways. I hope at some point and time we’ll get the opportunity to claim it late in the year.”