Tigers set tone in Tuesday practice

LSU head coach Nick Saban said the second-ranked Florida Gators, who visit Tiger Stadium for a 2:30 p.m. game Saturday on CBS, are as good as any team he's had to prepare for. But several players, including flanker Josh Reed, say the Tigers' spirits won't sag just because of the tall odds against them this weekend.

"It's still positive because we know what we're capable of," Reed said. "But there's a difference between knowing and doing it. We have to go out there and do what we know."

What everyone seems to know is that the Tigers will need near-perfect play from it offensive line — both to bolster its running game and to give quarterback Rohan Davey time to find Reed and his other receivers.

"I think that if we are going to continue to get better, the thing that we are going to need to do is to improve the fundamental execution in two areas," Saban said Monday. "We will need to play better on the offensive line an we will need to have some better pass defense. That is obvious to you, it is obvious to me, it is obvious to Kristen (Saban's daughter), Nicholas (his son) and Terry (his wife)."

Three of the main players in LSU's pass defense, however, have been forced to spend some time in the infirmary as well as the film room. Aside from sophomore tailback LaBrandon Toefield, the only three players dressed in red no-contact jerseys — senior cornerback Robert Davis, senior safety Lionel Thomas and junior cornerback Norman LeJeune — were all members of the Tigers' secondary.

But to a man, the defensive backs still say they can compete with a Florida offense that has averaged more than 50 points through four games.

"As I watch them, I don't think they throw too much to the receiver. I think they throw to spots, and that makes a real good team," Thomas said Monday. "You can tell they did a lot of summer 7-on-7.

"They're tough; they're good. But as a college football player, these are the kind of teams you want to play. And I think the LSU Tigers can play with the Florida Gators."

LeJeune, who sustained his injury in Monday afternoon's practice, agreed that the Tigers' upcoming opponent will be perhaps their toughest all year — but added that Florida's top-5 status won't keep him and his teammates from throwing in the towel before the opening bell rings.

"We're going to prepare the best we can," LeJeune said Monday. "We'll do the best we can to get 'em. We're playing in Tiger Stadium, so that's kind of a bigger push for us."

Even Gators' coach Steve Spurrier, speaking to local media at his weekly press conference Tuesday, conceded that Tiger Stadium won't be an easy place to invade and conquer.

"It is going to be loud. Their fans get into it," Spurrier said. "We got what we deserved that night (in 1997), to tell you the truth. With the interceptions, one went for a touchdown and one went to about the (6-yard line), and they scored on the next play. It was tough during that stretch."

Reed also knows that Florida's secondary is as good as any in the Southeastern Conference. Left cornerback Lito Sheppard advanced into the spotlight last season with his dazzling play on the perimeter, as well as some nifty moves on punt returns. Right cornerback Bennie Alexander brings the savvy and experience of a senior that helps to offset his stumpy 5-foot-9 frame.

"They've been there for the last eight years," Reed joked. "I don't know. Of course, they're going to have the experience, so it's going to be a good matchup this week."

Davey, the man who will try to carve up the Gators' defense, was seen favoring his right leg Monday and did not dress for the workout. He was, however, back in practice Tuesday afternoon – though he still had a slight limp.

REASON TO BELIEVE: When asked Monday about the toughest opponents he's faced as a head coach at LSU and Michigan State, Saban rattled off a half-dozen teams from certain years during his Big Ten tenure. One of them was the No. 1-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, whom his Spartans faced in Columbus that year.

Despite being a 24-point underdog in "The Horseshoe," MSU, with a 4-4 record going into the game, pulled off a 28-24 upset with the help of a second-half comeback. OSU quarterback Joe Germaine engineered a last-ditch drive in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, creeping into the Spartans' territory, but the MSU defense blitzed on four straight downs and eventually turned away Germaine's comeback bid.


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