The entire Tiger defense illustrates a fiery attitude, but defensive end Melvin Oliver seemed as if his presence was more prevalent than anyone else.
"It was just our day today," Oliver said of the defensive line. "The front line wanted to come out and get pressure."
Oliver, a 6-foot-3, 277 pound senior, had six tackles and two sacks. He was an unstoppable force as he pummeled through Mississippi State's offensive line play after play. Him and his fellow defensive linemen pressured State quarterback Omarr Conner enough to throw the entire MSU offense out of rhythm.
"They were a pretty good offensive line," Oliver said of State's front five. "But the quarterback was a scrambler so we had to stay disciplined in our rush lanes."
State finished the game with 173 passing yards and an interception. As a team, the Bulldogs only completed 42 (11 of 26) percent of their passes. Scrambling quarterback Omarr Conner finished with a net rushing gain of -10 yards.
LSU, who came into the game ranked 30th nationally in rushing defense, held MSU running back Jerious Norwood to nine yards on seven carries. As a team, State had an embarrassing 56 total rushing yards.
"I think our defensive front is one of the best in the country at stopping the run," Oliver said. "We're going to continue to play the run good, week after week."
But what makes the Tigers so good in stopping the run. What's their secret? What do they do differently to the throw the opponent's offense, especially rushing offense, off track?
"It's all about using your hands and body leverage. I think we have two of the best tackles in the nation in Claude Wroten and Kyle Williams. It's going to be hard to run up the middle on them," Oliver said, smiling.
Williams and Wroten are both preseason All-America selections at defensive tackle, while Oliver is in his second year as a starter for the Tigers. The trio has combined for 34 sacks and 52.5 tackles for losses over the past 3-plus years. Williams and Oliver have tallied 13 career sacks, while Wroten has had eight.
After an early busted secondary assignment that gave State its only score of the game, the LSU defense stood tall giving up no points and very little yardage to State the rest of the way, even holding them to -9 yards in the third quarter.
"We had a tough loss last week, but we're going to bounce back," Oliver said. "We're gong to keep fighting; we're not going to give up."
The misery that befell the Tigers after the 30-27 overtime loss to Tennessee was over powering. The defense, which allowed UT to score 30 points in the second half last Monday, heard it the worse. Whether it was sitting in classes, walking on campus or watching TV this week, Oliver heard the whispers. He saw the stares.
"We just try to block it out. As players, you here it from the students, you here it from the fans, you here it from the media," he said. "We just tried to block it out and play this game like it was our last game."
They certainly did that. The Tigers defense will doubtfully be hearing anymore of those whispers, and they won't get those disgruntled stares. They proved just how good they were.
With the five sacks during Saturday's game LSU kept its streak of games with at least one sack intact. LSU's sack steak stretches bach to the Miami (Ohio) game in 2002 when the Tigers sacked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger three times.
Since then, LSU has had at least one sack in every game, which included all 14 games in 2003. In 12 games in 2004, the Tigers recorded 37 sacks, which tied with Georgia for the most in the SEC. Through three games this season, the Tigers have 10 sacks.
Oliver, like Russell, credits this week's practice as a major factor in the defensive line's success.
"Practice all week, there was not much talking. There was more focus. Guys took things more seriously. So I know that helped in this game," he said.
Oliver's presence felt by Conner
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