When the Tigers gave up 478 total yards to Washington, the defensive line looked invisible. The cornerbacks played off the line and the safeties showed even softer coverage. By night’s end, the new-look defensive unit was not that pretty of a sight.
On Saturday in Death Valley, the LSU defense held Vanderbilt to just 210 total yards. Though the unit certainly did not pitch a perfect game, improvement – from game one to game two - was evident.
“I thought the defense did a heck of a job,” Miles said. “The interior of the line looked stronger and better. The veterans really came to play. It looked like the defensive line I am used to seeing.”
With seven tackles and an 11-yard sack, senior Rahim Alem bounced back from a lackluster showing in Seattle to earn Southeastern Conference Player of the Week honors.
With Pep Levingston sidelined with injury, two young Tiger ends emerged onto a line that needs all the depth it can manufacture.
Redshirt freshmen Chancey Aghayere – who made his first career start - and Lavar Edwards combined for seven tackles and both recorded sacks. Despite the loss of a starter in the second week of the season, defensive line coach Brick Haley’s unit did not miss a beat.
“I think Chancey is going to be a really good player, and Lavar as well,” Miles said. “It was nice to see some of those guys get on the field. And it was nice to see Edwards get a sack and cause a fumble.”
While the tandem impressed, Miles said that the jitters of their first extended live action were evident.
“They are so concerned about assignments and alignment that it dulls their natural instinct,” Miles said. “They need to turn it loose.”
The secondary, which came up with a Brandon Taylor interception on Vanderbilt’s biggest drive of the game, was also strong. When free safety Chad Jones came up with an ankle sprain, the rotation added Karnell Hatcher to the mix.
"The secondary played better," Miles said. "Brandon will be a tremendous player over time. He interprets the position with a great deal of contact. Has great ball skills, and we look forward to him being on the field a lot. And Karnell is a physical player; he should have a really strong career.
"We were also more consistent at linebacker," he added. "[Harry] Coleman played well. The guys that step in there must play a dominant style. 210 yards is a dominant defensive performance."
Offensively, the no-interception effort from Jefferson continued – his fourth career start without a turnover. The sophomore finished 20-of-29 passing for 138 yards. He added 28 yards on the ground.
“Jordan had another good game throwing football,” Miles said. “He manages the game very well; understands there are responsibilities besides just throwing it.”
While Keiland Williams’ fast start continued with a two-touchdown, 73-yard performance, the backfield lost one of its’ veteran runners.
“Murphy may be lost for the season,” Miles said. “He is certainly a talented guy, so I hoped there would be news that allow him to return earlier, but we don’t expect it.
“Keiland ran extremely well with the touches he got,” Miles added. “He was running the way that he is capable of, and I hope that continues.”
With Louisiana-Lafayette, fresh off their 17-15 win over Kansas State, headed to Baton Rouge for Saturday’s 6:05 p.m. kick, Miles said his crew is weary of what lies ahead.
“[Louisiana-Lafayette] is better offensively than the team we just played,” he said. “And they are a very capable defense. We believe they are playing with real confidence coming off the Kansas State victory. That is a big win for that program.”