Saban looking for LSU's identity

LSU head football coach Nick Saban comments on the Tigers' loss at Virginia Tech and previews their game with The Citadel.

LSU head football coach Nick Saban has received advice on football from countless sources, but he is a bit wary when it comes from family members. Knowing this, he decided to give a call to his mother-in-law, Linda Constable, when the Tigers were making there way back to Roanoke, Va., after their 26-8 loss against Virginia Tech.

Constable, who lives in Saban's hometown of Fairmont, W. Va., had been in the hospital recently, and her son-in-law was calling to get a progress report. The coach was bracing himself for some football advice from his wife's mother but instead she offered a healthy hint.

"She says, ‘If you don't start wearing a hat, you're going to get skin cancer.'

 "I said, ‘Linda, if we don't start playing better, I'm going to get shot.'"

To ensure his health, Saban led his Tigers back to practice Tuesday to prepare for their next opponent. LSU meets The Citadel at Tiger Stadium on Saturday in the first meeting between the two schools.

Saban revisited his post-game thoughts about his squad lacking the desired intensity against Virginia Tech. For some of the younger players on the team, he attributed the mental lapses to first-game jitters. His veterans may have been focused too much on the success in the past rather than getting motivated for the Hokies, who have climbed up from 16th in the polls to No. 10.

"I know the headlines in the (Virginia) paper were ‘LS-Who?'" said Saban. "Well my question to the players is: ‘Who is LSU?' I think we kind of have made the mark in this program by playing with a lot of intensity, with a lot of enthusiasm. We play for 60 minutes, executing together as a team and playing together as a team, and that philosophy is not going to change."

Saban noted that his team has not yet attained the disposition of teams that are considered powerhouses in the college football. According to his post-game comments on Sunday, he noticed a lack of intensity in the Tigers as early as the pre-game warm-ups. Referring back to his time on the staff at Ohio State, Saban said he could tell when a Buckeyes' opponent would enter the field whether or not they would win the game.

The mindset prevails over all circumstance a team faces, Saban believes, and could have made the difference when the underdog Tigers played at Virginia Tech.

"No matter who you're playing, where you're playing, no matter what the time is," he said. "The Miamis of the world have that. You can call it hateful. You can call it prideful. You can call it whatever you want. It's a competitive spirit that you have…it doesn't make any difference who you're playing."

In noting some of the weaknesses of the team against the Hokies, Saban said the Tigers didn't run the ball enough. Out of the 19 run calls LSU made, eleven were for gains. The game situation eventually required LSU, playing from behind, to throw more than Saban would have liked, but he admitted to perhaps leaving the run too early in the game.

As for the performance of Matt Mauck, Saban said any criticism leveled toward the Tigers' starting quarterback is unwarranted. The sophomore finished 15 of 35 for 134 yards with one fluke interception and was sacked four times

"I have said many times in the past when you have an inexperienced quarterback, you need players to play well around him," Saban said. "…As a group, we made too many mental errors and had…a lack of execution in terms of dropped balls, receivers' routes, pass protection breakdowns where we got pressured too much, and now it's all the quarterback.

"I don't think that's the case. I think that we need to execute better and play better around the guy for him to be an effective player."

When asked if he considered using No. 2 quarterback Marcus Randall against Virginia Tech, Saban said Randall was only going to be used if needed but added that he will see time against The Citadel regardless of the game situation.

Saban said that all of his receivers who dropped balls against Virginia Tech are capable of catching the ball, and he added that some of LSU's first-time players probably had a lack of focus.

"We probably strategically should have made sure that we were putting the ball in the hands of guys that have made plays before – Reggie Robinson, Michael Clayton, Devery Henderson…Jerel Myers – and kind of wean in the younger guys a little slower," Saban said.

The Tigers primary concentration in Tuesday's practice was correcting the mistakes they made against Virginia Tech. Only two players sat out with injuries. Center Ben Wilkerson has a high right ankle sprain, and tight end Eric Edwards re-aggravated a left foot injury. Both are labeled day-to-day for The Citadel game.

In preparing for The Citadel, Saban said the Tigers were at a slight disadvantage since the Bulldogs may be overhauling their offense. After running an option attack last year, The Citadel is likely working on a pass offense to suit its new quarterback, Auburn transfer Jeff Klein.

It will be the third trip to Tiger Stadium for Klein, who saw mop-up duty for Auburn in 1999 and 2001.

"They haven't played a game and, especially with their offense, we're not sure what they do," said Saban, "because last year they had a talented little option quarterback who did a really good job… Jeff Klein is not really that kind of quarterback, so whether they change their offense or do the same types of things I'm not really certain about."

LSU announced there are just under 8,000 tickets left for The Citadel game and they are being made available at a price of $15 to students, staff and faculty at schools throughout the LSU system.


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