Defense doesn't miss a beat

Without three starters, the LSU defense looked the part against Auburn.

Asked about the depth of the LSU defense following a 45-10 win over Auburn, sophomore safety Eric Reid settled on one of the oldest football sayings around.

“If you are on second team, you are one play away from being on the field,” he said. “That’s our mentality.”

That rang especially true on Saturday when LSU worked without starting defensive end Kendrick Adams and cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon.

Faced against No. 19 Auburn and offensive guru Gus Malzahn, LSU never once appeared fazed by the absence of three starters.

In fact, the defense didn’t look different at all.

For beginners, there was Michael Dyer – or lack thereof. The sophomore running back went scoreless on 12 carries for 62 yards (29 on a fourth-quarter carry when the game was well in hand), a stat line the LSU defense circled as its most important result of the night.

“Our mindset was to keep the run game down and keep (Dyer)from making plays,” sophomore defensive tackle Mike Brockers said. “With a young quarterback, you don’t expect him to throw the ball around a lot. You expect a lot of running.

“We came out and tried to be the most dominant team on the field.”

For the eighth time in eight games, LSU was just that.

Auburn didn’t score a touchdown until 2:22 was left in the game. LSU not only shut down Dyer, the home Tigers also suffocated the Auburn passing attack.

After a few weeks of hit-or-miss play from the defensive line, LSU made one of its biggest statements of the season with 10 tackles for losses and a season-high six sacks.

“One of the things we talked about was that we had to play faster this week,” LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis said. “We went back and took some shots from some earlier games, and I think they could see the difference.

“That is the kind of production we have to get from that position.”

The biggest spark up front came from sophomore Barkevious Mingo, who stepped in at defensive end for Adams (minor MCL sprain) and delivered with speed – totaling four tackles and two sacks, which netted a loss of 21 yards.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder might be a little light in the britches, but Mingo makes up for it with an unmatched swiftness.

“I just can’t believe teams will slide their protection away from Mingo’s side,” Brockers said. “He is coming, and he is coming at full speed.”

Added Chavis: “We had to rest (Mingo) this week in practice, and he showed some fresh legs.”

While the defensive line gave Auburn quarterback – and first-time starter – Clint Moseley fits, senior cornerback Ron Brooks had his own way of breaking the newcomer into a full afternoon of SEC ball.

In his second career start in five seasons with the program, Brooks made the most of no Simon and no Mathieu.

Working from the left cornerback position, Brooks recorded four tackles, a quarterback hurry and forced a fumble, but it was an interception in the third quarter that Brooks returned 28 yards for a touchdown that will be the senior’s lasting memory.

The score was LSU’s third touchdown in 2:24, a quick run of 21 points that put the nation’s No. 1-ranked team up 42-3 and had students in the stands chanting for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

“In the third quarter they showed signs that it wasn’t going their way,” Mingo said. “We knew we had to turn up the pressure and take their will away from them.”

Given past performances and level of intensity in practice, impact plays from backups like Brooks and Mingo didn’t come as a surprise, at least not to Chavis.

“It was an opportunity for them to show what they can do,” Chavis said. “All in all, I think they did a great job taking advantage of that opportunity to play.”

This time last year, LSU was on the losing end of a 24-17 game when Cam Newton and Co. rushed for 440 yards.

While Newton is long gone, and Auburn worked with a fresh face at quarterback and sans Emory Blake, the team’s leading receiver, there is still plenty to smile about if you are LSU.

Saturday night, the scoreboard read 45-10, and the LSU defense – minus three starters – held the Auburn ground attack to just 87 yards.

“We looked at last year’s film and said we aren’t going to make the same mistakes,” Chavis said. “Our guys played hard and got the job done.”

Just getting better

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