Brooks helps defense set the tone early

Quick start by LSU's defense helps bury Ole Miss on Saturday night in Oxford.

OXFORD, Miss. – Things got ugly in a hurry on Saturday night in Oxford.

To pinpoint the beginning of this week's downward spiral, just pop in the game tape and press play on the opening snap.

Ole Miss quarterback Zach Stoudt tossed an incompletion to freshman receiver Nick Brassell, and then senior running back Brandon Bolden dropped a pass.

On 3rd-and-10, Stoudt finally found a pair of hands that could hold onto the ball. Unfortunately for him and the Rebels, that player was Ron Brooks, a senior cornerback for No. 1 LSU – which looked near perfect from start to finish in a 52-3 win over the Rebels in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

"Last week it was kind of a sluggish start," said senior safety Derrick Bryant, who stepped in for sophomore safety Eric Reid after he was injured in the first quarter. "Ron Brooks had the big-time play on the first series, and that was a big swing in momentum, and we never stopped rolling from there."

It was the beginning of a big night Brooks, who snagged the overthrown pass and sprinted 46 yards for a touchdown – a quick punch in the gut that deflated the Rebels.

Just 28 seconds in, the Tigers were up 7-0.

"I dropped back into coverage and watched the quarterback's eyes," Brooks said. "I saw (Stoudt) looking at the running back, but he overthrew him and I went and got the ball."

Sophomore linebacker Kevin Minter said of the pick-six: "All we have to do is get in the way of somebody and (the defensive backs) have a real good chance of taking it back."

Expected on a night when LSU's vaunted defense took on an Ole Miss offensive attack running on fumes (and without its starting quarterback and change-of-pace running back), the hits kept coming.

On the following possession, the Tigers allowed the Rebels to go 36 yards on seven plays before forcing a punt – one of four punts by Ole Miss on the night.

After Jordan Jefferson drove LSU 86 yards on nine plays for the offense's first touchdown, the defense stepped back to the field and delivered a turnover – once again – after three snaps.

This time, Stoudt completed a pass to Brassell on second down, but the freshman receiver was pulled back by LSU senior safety Brandon Taylor for a 5-yard loss.

Freshman Ronald Martin saw action in the secondary
The following play, Brooks chased down Stoudt, forced a fumble and recovered the loose ball at the Ole Miss 26-yard line.

The Tigers quickly turned the short field into seven points, taking a 21-0 lead with 46 seconds left in the first quarter.

Get the flow of things yet?

"The defense played extremely sharp to start," LSU coach Les Miles said. "Early in the game the defensive score was an indication of how the game was going to go. The defense started with a great intensity. We started in a need to make our point, to get an edge."

After both sides swapped punts, the LSU defense flexed its muscles again.

With Ole Miss backup quarterback Barry Brunetti under center, the Rebels were forced to work from their own goal line after the Tigers' Mike Brockers recorded a 12-yard sack on first down.

Brunetti botched the jet sweep out of the end zone, which ended up in the hands of Minter for the first touchdown of his career.

"I give all the credit to the (defensive line)," Minter said. "They got back there and shot gaps. I just happened to be next to the ball and fell on it."

When it was said and done, the LSU defense had done enough to hold Ole Miss to three points – which the Rebels grabbed just before halftime. Outside of the field goal, there were 47 yards passing and 148 yards rushing – 74 of which came on scrambles by Brunetti.

And the Tigers did it without big games from the usual suspects.

The defensive backs were a case in point.

Bryant led LSU with eight tackles, and freshman Ronald Martin stepped in for the first time and recorded three stops and a pass breakup.

"It just shows you how talented we are and how much depth we have," Bryant said. "We just try to carry the tradition on and be the best secondary in the country."

Taylor said of Martin's performance: "He actually had more tackles than me, so he did a good job. He has been getting the calls quick and he knows the playbook. He's been in the right spots."

Of course, the biggest impact came from Brooks – the player who got the ball rolling with his pick-six on the first series of the game.

Though names like Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne dominate the headlines week in and week out, it's guys like Brooks who help make the Tigers one of the deepest and most efficient defensive units in the country.

"He's a very key guy to this team," Miles said. "In the stretch, he will be counted on."

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