The theme for No. 1-ranked LSU at practice this week is to be better focused and therefore better prepared than it was last week.
The Tigers were understandably flat in the wake of their 9-6 overtime victory at then-No. 2 Alabama on Nov. 5, and it showed in the 42-9 victory against Western Kentucky on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
LSU was favored by six touchdowns, but led by just one touchdown (14-7) at halftime before pulling away from the pesky Hilltoppers in the second half.
“I did not think that this was a game that we played with a real emotion or passion,” Tigers coach Les Miles said. “I felt like we did the things we needed to do to ensure victory. We started slow as a team, but again I felt like we did the things we needed to do.”
LSU never trailed in the game, but it saw WKU even the score at 7 and stay within 21-9 midway through the third quarter before Alfred Blue made a couple of back-breaking touchdown runs.
“Coming from Alabama we didn’t get the ball in the end zone,” Blue said, “and this game we put the ball in the end zone a couple of times so I feel like we improved a lot.”
Still, Blue said, the Tigers have room for improvement.
“I think we can improve on blocking and being fundamentally sound,” he said..
Several LSU players said the team needs to be more fundamentally sound against the Rebels (2-8 and 0-6 in the Southeastern Conference) this Saturday in Oxford, Miss.
“We’re just going to go back to the basics like fundamental tackling,” Taylor said, “doing everything at practice with a tempo like we did starting off we all those games before to intensify practice and work on small things like fundamental tackling and communication.”
Taylor cited a reverse play on which all of the Tigers defenders went in the same direction, which cost them when the ball came back the other way for a big gain.
A similar breakdown occurred when the Hilltoppers’ Antonio Andrews got free for a 73-yard kickoff return.
“We were not as sharp on special teams,” Miles said. “Our kickoff coverage was not what we wanted it to be and we made some mistakes. There was not attention to detail there. It was a win and all victories are sweet. We expect to play better as we go to Ole Miss.”
Miles said last week, as he does virtually every week, that the Tigers have to make “a necessary improvement” each and every week to stay on track for where they want to wind up – in the BCS Championship game in New Orleans on Jan. 9.
When asked if that necessary improvement took place against WKU, Miles replied, “I’m not certain.”
“I felt that there were improvements that took place,” he continued, “but what has to happen is that in a couple of places corrections need to be made. Sometimes an opponent exposes a piece that you thought you had fixed and you didn’t. The experience that our football team needs to go with a pointed piece of improvement is needed. I think there was improvement. With that being said, there also needs to be a continued area that is reviewed.”