Lessons learned

On a team that lost 11 starters from 2007, every game is a learning experience. If Sept. 20's lesson was quarterbacking and secondary assignments, then perhaps Saturday's game focused on LSU's linebackers.

Facing its second-straight weekend without senior Darry Beckwith, LSU once again fielded a linebacker corps that featured no returning starters from 2007. With the bright lights of the SEC shining, Kelvin Sheppard, Jacob Cutrera, and Perry Riley showed all the potential of the future, along with the long development that awaits them.

“Lessons learned with victory are more easily taught,” said LSU coach Les Miles.

Miles’ post-game quote can be attributed to many aspects of LSU’s 34-24 victory against Mississippi State, but resonates clearly with the Tigers’ defense. LSU gave up 285 yards and 24 points to the same unit that Auburn held to 116 yards and no offensive scores.

The Bulldogs also totaled 110 yards on the ground, 65 of which came in the first half’s final five minutes, a stat that kept the score at 17-10 entering the half.

“In each game there are adjustments that have to be made,” Miles said. “Late in the first half there were adjustments that had to be made that weren’t made until half. But that’s youth. There are young linebackers out there, and that’s not what we want but we’ll get it fixed.

Redshirt sophomore Kelvin Sheppard, making just his second SEC start, had plenty to say on several missed assignments that saw Bulldog players getting into open field.

“We’ve got to control the line of scrimmage,” Sheppard said. “When teams line up straight, the D-line can do their job and everybody gets locked in. When we started to see some unbalanced looks, it took us awhile to adjust to it.”

Sheppard said the wrinkles the Bulldogs pulled out were unlike any of the tape the Tigers reviewed in the film room.

“We saw a lot of the veer, the spread, the belly read and we were prepared for that,” he said. “But they just gave us one look we weren’t ready for which was that unbalanced line. But just like last week we went back to the chalkboard.”

Sheppard also commented on a situation that LSU fans may have noticed Perry Riley in fairly often. Several times throughout the night Riley found himself mismatched with Bulldog halfbacks, one of those situations leading to Mississippi State’s final score.

“In that defense, with Perry at the sideline, the linebacker is supposed to take the back out and up,” Sheppard said. “It was a situation where Perry would find himself one-on-one in open space, and I believe he did the best job he could in those situations.”

For every negative there is a positive, however. 

Sheppard, Riley, and Jacob Cutrera combined for 20 tackles (two for loss), and seemed to be in on every play made. Riley led all LSU tacklers with nine. Considering this unit had combined for two starts entering 2008 and is currently missing All-SEC candidate Beckwith, the results of the first two games of the conference season are far from discouraging.

“We all came in together, we have a good chemistry together,” Cutrera said. “It wasn’t a great night for the defense, but it wasn’t a bad night. But that’s not us. When Darry comes back, that’ll be a plus because we’ll have one more extra guy. Against Florida I look for us to have a good outing.”

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