Just what the defense needs

For better or for worse, LSU will step outside the Southeastern Conference race this weekend following its second loss of the season.

Following their second loss in conference play, the Tigers will seek to repair a defense which currently ranks ninth in the SEC and 35th nationally when Tulane makes the drive up I-10 on Saturday.

“You don’t have to worry about the SEC, but we’ve just got to get back in the win column,” said senior linebacker Darry Beckwith. “We’ve got to continue to move forward. You’ve got to get up for it because you don’t want to get beat. That’d be the worst feeling ever.”

The Tigers’ trip out of conference should be just what this defense needs regardless of the fact that the Green Wave visit Tiger Stadium with the 36th-ranked offense in the nation. Those numbers and the Green Wave’s hopes have taken a serious hit with a recent injury to tailback Andre Anderson.

Anderson has been continuing a recent trend of dominant Tulane tailbacks including Mewelde Moore and Matt Forte.

Anderson attended Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Ga., the alma mater of linebackers Perry Riley and Kelvin Sheppard. He had 852 yards rushing and seven touchdowns entering Saturday’s game against Rice, but unfortunately separated his shoulder just four carries into the game.

“Our job is to dominate the offensive line and the back comes second,” said senior defensive end Kirston Pittman. “We saw some film on the second string running back today and he does a pretty good job of hitting the holes also. As of right now we have a pretty good game plan and we’re going to have to go out there and really get after them.”

Anderson or no, the Green Wave’s rushing attack averages four yards per carry and should provide a decent challenge for a defense allowing 110 yards per game. As has been the case all season long, LSU players feel it’s simply a discipline matter preventing the group from making (or preventing) the big plays.

“Sometimes you get into the game and everyone is trying to make the play,” Pittman said. “If you take your head out of the gap against a great back like [Knowshon] Moreno was, or if you move your body out of the gap even for a second he’ll cut right back where you were. It’s something we’ve done great in the past, and we’ve done pretty good in our previous games. We just faced a really good back.”

Turnover differential is one of the biggest statistics behind a team’s success, and no one needs to be told the Tigers’ differential is atrocious. Perhaps a night against the Green Wave could get this young secondary on track as the Tigers are 105th in the country in passes intercepted with a paltry four, and 114th in total turnovers forced with seven.

“It’s not so much a learning curve … but some of the guys just haven’t been through this,” Beckwith said. “I went through it last year – we gave up 50 to Arkansas and let Kentucky put up a bunch too. That’s college football. I remind [the younger players] about last year and just tell them to think positive thoughts. If you sit around and mope you’re setting yourself up for disaster.”

Regardless of the Tigers’ issues entering this game, they will do little to distract the Tiger Nation from the Alabama Crimson Tide looming on the schedule. What many fans may not realize is the Green Wave played the Tide tough in the second week of the season, falling 20-6 in Tuscaloosa despite holding Alabama to 172 yards of total offense.

“They’ll come in ready to play. They held Alabama and they played us tough last year,” Beckwith said. “One thing I can say about them is they’re probably one of the best play-action teams we’ll play all year.”

With just 60 minutes standing between his defense and perhaps the biggest game of the year, Beckwith insists things can still improve for a unit that may be trying to do too much.

“In big games guys always want to make the big plays,” he said. “And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s perfectly normal. They’ve just got to realize that if you take care of your responsibilities the big plays will come to you.”

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