Tigers putting on a brave face <EM>Editorial</EM>

The reaction of head coach Nick Saban to the gathering of reporters after his game with The Citadel was a bit awkward. Coming out of his anteroom to step in front of the cameras and microphones, he surveyed the familiar faces and offered his opening comments.<br><br>"I'm happy. Nobody's happy? I'm happy. We won."

I would have thought after all his years in the coaching business, Saban would have learned to read reporters a little better. He should know only three things make media members happy: a free breakfast, a free lunch and a free dinner.

 

All kidding aside, there's much less mystery behind the dour faces of the media when compared to the transparent facade Saban and his players displayed when discussing their 35-10 win over The Citadel. Based upon their words, the Tigers would have us believe that all is well in the world of LSU football and that there is little cause for concern following a somewhat lackluster showing against the Division I-AA Bulldogs.

 

"We won and a win is a win," said senior linebacker and team captain Bradie James. "For all the years I have been playing this game, winning is all that matters, anyway it comes. You can always be happy with a win."

 

I am willing to agree with James to an extent. Yes, the Tigers should be happy with a win. But it was pretty evident in the blank expressions and canned comments of LSU players that they weren't completely satisfied with the style of their victory over The Citadel.

 

Perhaps that is the most encouraging thing to come out of the game. Because if the Tigers weren't at least a little upset about their performance, you'd have to wonder what exactly it will take to motivate this team.

 

The biggest challenge for LSU entering last weekend's game was preparing for a Citadel offense that promised to be different from the one run in 2001. After losing their option quarterback from last year to academics, the Bulldogs revamped their offense to suit Auburn transfer Jeff Klein.

 

Knowing Klein's strength is as a passer, the Tigers prepared for what they thought would be a departure from the option. But instead of seeing the drop-back passing and draw plays they expected, LSU had to defend against a number of rollout and bootleg passes. That the LSU defense was able to react, adjust and counter The Citadel attack is a credit to the Tigers' athleticism and the coaching staff's recognition.

 

However, the LSU defense appeared to lose its fire in the third quarter. Citadel coach Ellis Johnson even stated he thought his team won the conditioning battle against the Tigers. This is cause for concern with the SEC schedule looming.

 

An illegal block on Domanick Davis's punt return negated a touchdown for the second straight week, overshadowing the mostly solid play of LSU's special teams.

 

Of greatest concern for LSU is the offense, which moved the ball capably against The Citadel but stopped short of posting a blowout because of three turnovers. Relying primarily on the run, the Tigers struggled with pass plays for meaningful yardage. 

 

"We need to keep on improving and be ready for Miami of Ohio next week," said wide receiver Michael Clayton. "We need to start making some big plays and stay intense the whole game."

 

Miami of Ohio presents a considerably more formidable opponent for LSU this weekend, and the RedHawks probably won't be as forgiving of any Tiger miscues. The upset-minded visitors from the Mid-American Conference have the big-play capability LSU has yet to display.

In order to avoid a costly loss to Miami, Saban and his team need to affix their game faces and leave them in place through early January. 

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