Getting back on track

The LSU defense is looking to bounce back against South Carolina on Saturday after giving up 51 points and surrendering 475 yards of total offense to the Florida Gators last Saturday.

The 51 points was the most allowed by the Tigers under Les Miles and the most LSU has given up since Florida hung 56 on the Tigers back in 1996 under the guidance of Steve Spurrier, who will be roaming the sidelines again on Saturday.


Some point to having co-defensive coordinators as the problem for the Tigers.


However, if you go back to last season when LSU had one man running the defense in Bo Pelini, one glance at some stats is all it takes to see that the problems do not rest solely on the shoulders of Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto.


Going back to the last time LSU played South Carolina back on Sept. 22 of last year, the LSU defense hasn’t posted the type of numbers that one of the top defenses in the country would put up.


There are several factors that must be taken into account such as injuries, the level of competition, overtime, and so on, but the bottom line is that LSU needs to get back to playing its style of football on the defensive side of the ball.


Dating back to when the Tigers and Gamecocks last met, LSU has won 13 of 16 contests and posted a 9-3 record against BCS schools.  The other four wins have come against Tulane, North Texas, Louisiana Tech, and Appalachian State.


In the 12 games against BCS schools, LSU’s defense has given up 354.6 yards of total offense a game and has yielded 30.1 points an outing. Of course, one must factor in the two overtime games against Kentucky and Arkansas, which accounted for two of the losses over that stretch, but the score after regulation in each game was tied at 27 and 28, respectively.


The numbers are much different against the four Non-BCS schools as the Tigers are allowing only 230.3 yards a game and 8.75 points.


Looking at this year’s stats, they aren’t far off from where LSU finished last season in the two categories fans look at the most. LSU gave up 288.8 yards a game last season compared to 303.6 thus far in 2008 and under Pelini his troops yielded 19.9 points a game as opposed to the 22.4 LSU is giving up now.


The two areas where the numbers are quite different, however, are in sacks and turnovers.


Last season, the Tigers forced 36 turnovers and registered 37.5 sacks, which ranked tops in the league in turnovers by a large margin, and second in sacks.


This season, LSU has taken the ball away from the opposition only four times, and the defense has nine sacks in five games.


Anytime a defense loses six starters there will be some growing pains, but coaches and players both agree that the bottom line is guys need to start making plays.


Guys have to look in the mirror and find out what they’re not doing right and what’s at stake,” said senior defensive end Tyson Jackson. “If the guys can’t get those types of things accomplished then someone else will have to step into that position and make their move on the field.”


Replacing guys like Glenn Dorsey, Ali Highsmith, Luke Sanders, Craig Steltz, Jonathan Zenon, and Chevis Jackson, certainly is no easy task, especially when the guys who are filling their shoes had a combined three starts heading into this season.


The secondary, in particular, was hit hard by graduation, and there have been more than a few busted assignments by that group that has given up several big plays on the year.


“It’s got to get fixed, and you and I agree, it’s too regular,” said Miles. “I promise you we are coaching and directing and doing what we can. Our guys, certainly, want to fix it too. That’s certainly an issue for us.”


The defensive backfield as a whole has five games under their belt so the mental mistakes the players have made need to be corrected or they may see some changes in personnel that they are not pleased with.


“I think since that challenge has been made, guys are going to step up their game even more,” said Jackson. “The effort was already there but the effort’s going to be even higher. I don’t think there will be too many assignment busts because guys are going to be moving all over the field, trying to make those plays.”


LSU has faced more spread attacks this season than in previous years so that must be factored into the low number of sacks because quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball very quickly.


But to register only four turnovers in five games, including only one forced fumble, is something that the coaches and players are looking to change.


Miles has acknowledged that the coaches have to improve on getting plays in more quickly so that the defense has time to set up, and with personnel matchups.


Both the coaches and players are quick to point out that there are guys who need to perform better if LSU looks to make a return trip to Atlanta on the first weekend of December.


If the Tigers don’t make the necessary improvements then they may still find themselves in Atlanta, but for the Peach Bowl rather than the SEC title game.

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