The deep pass apparently is becoming a more prominent part of the LSU offense.
The Tigers did not have a completion of longer than 43 yards in any of their first three games. In Week 4, Jarrett Lee and Odell Beckham teamed for a 52-yard touchdown against West Virginia. A week later, they teamed on a 51-yard touchdown against Kentucky. On Saturday, Lee threw a 57-yard completion to Rueben Randle, in addition to the two combining on a 46-yard TD in a 41-11 victory over Florida.
“We knew they were eventually going to stack the box to stop our run,” said Randle, a junior who had a career-high 127 receiving yards. “The coaches did a great job of timing the plays we were going to take deep shots on, and we did a great job of executing them.
“If teams are going to continue to stuff the box, we’ve go to beat them deep, and I think that’s going to be key throughout the rest of the season.”
LSU coach Les Miles said Randle had “a really big afternoon.” “We looked for him to make plays and the opportunity to do so,” Miles said. “He is a big playmaker for us. He’s maturing into one hell of a receiver.”
Repaying a favor
In LSU’s 19-6 victory against Mississippi State in the third game, Lee’s interception near midfield gave the Bulldogs hope of getting back in the game, but the Tigers defense immediately stopped them to extinguish their final hope.
That favor was sort of repaid Saturday. After Morris Claiborne gave up a 65-yard touchdown pass that got UF within two scores (27-11) with more than a quarter to play, Lee immediately led an 81-yard touchdown drive that dashed Florida’s hopes.
“If you want to be a great football team, a championship-style football team, you have to help each other out,” Lee said. “You have to play for each other. So when another side of the ball gets in a bind, you’ve got to pull them out. Our defense has done that a lot for us this year, so we’re just playing really hard in all three phases, and I’m really proud of this football team.”
Nice hang time
Mathieu made one of LSU’s two interceptions against Jacoby Brissett. The other was by safety Brandon Taylor when Brissett, under a heavy rush, tried to launch a long pass down the middle while off-balance. The ball floated, and Taylor patiently waited for it to reach him.
“It looked like a punt,” he said. “It kept going and going.”
Rare breather for Mathieu
LSU played the least amount of nickel defense it has in any game this season. Defensive coordinator John Chavis said Florida’s personnel groups dictated the Tigers play almost exclusively in their base defense, with four defensive backs, rather than the five-back scheme they play regularly.
The extensive use of the base meant fewer snaps for Tharold Simon, whose man-to-man cover ability at cornerback has enabled Tyrann Mathieu to focus on nickelback.
But late in the second quarter, Mathieu got some rare rest as Simon played corner in the base package. Watching from the sideline, even for a few snaps, was rare for Mathieu, who played all 82 snaps in the season opener against Oregon.
“We’ve got three or four cornerbacks that can play anywhere in the nation,” Mathieu said. “It’s really just about us sticking with each other and not getting too ahead of ourselves. It’s a team sport. We want to support whatever (secondary) coach (Ron) Cooper calls or whoever coach Chavis wants in the game at that time.”
Still, Mathieu said, it’s “hard” for someone as competitive as he is to miss any snaps.
“You don’t want too much pressure on yourself,” he said. “I think Tharold Simon, Morris Claibrone, Ron Brooks — all those guys — do a good job keeping the pressure off me, and I think I do a good job of keeping the pressure off those guys.”
Chavis downplays return
LSU’s game at Tennessee on Saturday marks Chavis’ first return to Knoxville since joining the Tigers staff two years ago. Chavis coached with the Volunteers from 1989-2008.
“I’m excited about being an LSU Tiger,” Chavis said. “This thing next week will be about LSU and Tennessee. It’s going to happen on the field, and that’s what it’s going to be. I’m just fortunate enough that I have a position at LSU and I’m going to be a part of the game, and I’m excited about that.”