Playing with passion

Senior defensive end Kirston Pittman is about as happy as one could expect to be following a heartbreaking overtime loss.

Lost in the depression of a six-point setback to No. 1 Alabama and the uproar over a four-interception performance from redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee was an impressive performance from a defense that made all the right plays to pull off the upset.

Pittman and his cohorts held the vaunted Crimson Tide running game to 138 yards, nearly 60 yards below its average. In addition, the LSU defense did not allow Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson the time and comfort he has been used to all season long.

The Tigers did not amass much in the way of sacks or quarterback hurries, but Wilson spent a good portion of his night scrambling and tossed an interception into the arms of freshman cornerback Patrick Peterson.

"Coach [Earl] Lane told us we had to get in his head and get him rattled early on," Pittman said. "There were a few plays we didn't get to him, but we were able to get some pressure and get him to scramble out of the pocket and get him out of rhythm and get him out of his throwing pattern. That was primarily the goal for the game. We didn't get too many hits on him or sacks, but we did a good job of rattling him and letting him know we were there."

Many will attribute the defense's success to the fact that this unit finally squared off with a more traditional offense in the rock-bounding Crimson Tide. If this is the case, there is no sense in dwelling on the past too long. Five of LSU's nine opponents this season have run some semblance of the spread offense, with all but Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State averaging more than 200 passing yards per game.

The spread may have had something to do with it, but senior defensive tackle Marlon Favorite says there may have been a little extra motivation for some of the players last week.

"The seniors on the team and the guys who were recruited by coach [Nick] Saban, me being one of them, the game was emotional because it was your old ball coach you were playing against," Favorite said. "You had to play with passion and enthusiasm, and all of that came into play and it showed.

"I think as a defensive unit we clicked in all phases," added Favorite. "You talk about the triangle from the secondary all the way to the line, guys were making plays. Unfortunately we lost, but I'm proud of the effort of the team and as a unit."

Pittman agrees with Favorite and he along with countless LSU fans saw one of the strongest performances of the season from the LSU secondary. Wilson picked on LSU's inexperienced corners all evening long, coming away without much success except for when he went to Julio Jones. It was also the secondary which came away with two of the Tigers' three turnovers.

"Those guys watched a lot of film and they heard a lot about Julio Jones and how John Parker Wilson does a good job of distributing the ball to all of his receivers and to his backs out of the backfield," Pittman said. "Those guys were really focused all last week. They did a good job of covering all week and that really carried over into the game."

Now the Tigers must prepare again for a wide-open attack when Troy comes to town.

"It's back to square one," Pittman said. "It's a little different than the past two weeks … but we know what we're up against. We practiced for [the spread] all through camp for the first three weeks of the season."

Despite losing offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, the Trojans continue to put up impressive numbers in their own version of the spread. Troy is currently ranked 24th in the nation in total offense, averaging 431 yards per game. With that impressive total, 265 of those yards come through the air, which is good enough for a No. 19 national ranking in passing offense.

Troy also sits at No. 36 in rushing offense, giving the Trojans a bit more balance than run-oriented spread attacks such as West Virginia and pass-oriented spreads like Texas Tech.

But Pittman said the Tigers' experiences with the likes of Florida have provided valuable lessons for things like wide offensive line gaps, short routes and misdirection, which are customary of spread offenses.

"They have a lot of receivers on the field, and the way they run the belly reads and the counters … everyone has to pay close attention to detail," he said. "One small mistake can hurt you big."


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