Tigers look to learn from Florida loss

LSU coach Nick Saban was a bit more optimistic about the chances of quarterback Rohan Davey being available for Saturday's game at Kentucky, but Saban didn't have Davey or his backup, Matt Mauck, available for Monday's practice. Both players are healing from injuries suffered in the Tigers' 44-15 loss to Florida, a game Saban says his team can learn from.

Davey was diagnosed with a bruised patellar tendon and did not work out with the team in Monday's light pad practice. An MRI did not reveal any serious damage to the kneecap or any of Davey's ligaments, Saban reported, and there is a chance he may be able to play against Kentucky. Davey, who was not wearing a brace during practice, was able to take part in calisthenics with teammates and even went down on the injured knee to stretch his hip flexor muscle.

Mauck, who took over for Davey after he injured his knee in the second quarter against Florida, wore a protective boot on the foot he injured near the end of game. He told reporters he planned to participate in Tuesday's practice and looks forward to the possibility of starting against Kentucky.

The outlook was not as bright for running back Devery Henderson, who Saban said would probably be out for the Kentucky game. Henderson wore a protective brace on the ankle he injured against Florida and was not dressed out for Monday's practice.

Offensive guard Dwayne Pierce has a larger ankle brace on the leg he hurt early against the Gators. He is considered questionable for Saturday, as is defensive tackle Muskingum Barnes, who missed the game with an illness.

Players on the mend who wore red no-contact jerseys on Monday were running back LaBrandon Toefield, tight end Robert Royal, safety Lionel Thomas, tight end Eric Edwards, defensive tackle Byron Dawson, cornerback Norman LeJeune and wide receiver Corey Webster. All are considered probable for the Kentucky game.

"It's going to be a challenge for us to go on the road and play," said Saban regarding his next opponent, Kentucky. "I really don't care who we're playing. They have good players and a good, young athletic quarterback who can make plays.

"I think that if we don't get our mind right about what we're doing and how we do it, …we're going to have a problem."

Reflecting back on the loss to Florida, Saban said his team can learn how to become a dominant program from the Gators . As for his team's shortcomings against Florida, he said the Tigers may not have come out of the gate with a strong enough bite. 

"I don't think we started the game plan as aggressive as we needed to," he said. "I think when you're playing a team like that, the best chance you have is to be aggressive in how you try to play. I thought we were a little passive, maybe tentative, early. After they scored 21 points, we seemed almost to play better in the game."

But rather than reflect too long on their back-to-back losses against Southeastern Conference opponents, Saban said the Tigers need to maintain focus on the goals that are still within in their reach. The objective at hand is this weekend's game in Lexington, and another away game at Mississippi State follows. Saban said his team has yet to prove they can win on the road, and the next two weeks will be important steps for the Tigers to take toward becoming a dominant program.

"We kind of put ourselves in the position where we kind of have our backs against the wall, so to speak, in terms of what kind of team we want to have," Saban explained. "I think a lot of football players need to make a decision…about how committed they want to be to bounce back from two disappointing losses.

"(Kentucky and Mississippi State) are two good football teams, but we have a little higher standard for what we expect to accomplish. Hopefully, that will be the attitude we carry out there."

When asked to consider how LSU fans are dealing with the realization that the Tigers are not as advanced as Florida, Saban explained the mindset of the top-ranked Gators and compared it to the attitude instilled in him during his days at Monongah High School in West Virginia.

Wearing black trousers and a red shirt – his high school colors – Saban recalled the unsanctioned games of dodge ball that took place in the gymnasium without the supervision of coaches.

"When you were a freshman, the seniors beat the dog out of you. I mean beat the dog out of you," he recounted. "The coach used to throw the volleyballs out in this little swimming pool kind of a gym and close the door, and he knew you were getting your nose bloodied.

"I used to sit when I was freshman and say, ‘Why does this guy do this? How can he let this happen? Somebody's gonna sue him some day.' We used to get killed with them balls.

The dodge ball ritual, Saban said, was how the winning tradition was passed along at Monongah, a program that was an established winner when Saban arrived on campus and went on to 33 straight victories when he was on the team.

"When we became the old guys, we expected to win," said Saban. "We knew how to dominate. We killed the young guys so when they came behind us, they knew they'd better never lose a game."

Acknowledging his own lack of patience alongside that of Tiger fans, Saban pointed out the mindset of a winning tradition cannot be engrained overnight. The process is a gradual one, he said, and is more of a challenge with players who do not set their standards high enough.

"Some people expect to win. Some people expect to be relieved. ‘If I can just get the electric bill paid, I'm relieved,'" Saban said, explaining the mentality of the relieved. "‘I'm going to sit and watch TV, and I'm ok.'

"It's hard to change. Those people don't become the president of IBM next week. You've got to build it. It's an expectation. It's a culture. It's a part of everything that you do, and it becomes a standard."

LSU faces Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington with kickoff set for 6 p.m. (CDT). The game will be televised on a pay-per-view basis via TigerVision. 

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