OXFORD, Miss. — Backed up in its own territory is where the LSU defense thrived Saturday night against Ole Miss.
No, the Tigers weren’t perfect. The Rebels made three trips to the red zone and walked away with one touchdown and a pair of field goals.
But when it counted most, LSU stood strong enough to walk out of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with a 40-24 win.
“It was hard," defensive end Christian LaCouture said. "They were driving on us there for a little bit and we held our ground. Coach (Ed Orgeron) always says, ‘Give us an inch and we’ll fight for the world.’
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"They weren’t in yet, we wanted to stop them and we held them to those field goals. Those were huge for us in the end."
When the Tigers wrapped up practice Thursday, Orgeron said the final drills they worked on were red-zone and goal-line situations.
Presumably, that was mostly for the offense's benefit. LSU entered 19 of 25 in the red zone this season with 16 touchdowns.
Another year, another dominant rushing performance — stop us if you've heard this one before.
But the defense clearly picked up a few tricks from the extra work.
Before Saturday, the Tigers had allowed a touchdown on 50 percent of opponents’ trips to the red zone.
But Ole Miss' lone red-zone touchdown came in the final two minutes, when the Tigers had the game well in hand.
The other trips resulted in field goals.
"We kind of bent but not break tonight to hold them to those field goals in the beginning," Orgeron said. "We knew they were going to come out on fire tonight... We had to match their intensity, and we did."
All three of the Rebels’ field goals (the third was outside the red zone) came as the result key third-down stops by LSU.
The first field goal was preceded by a third-and-5 that Grant Delpit stopped a yard short.
The Rebels only needed 1 yard on their next deep third down, but wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge couldn’t hold onto the a pass from backup quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, who had replaced a briefly injured Shea Patterson.
The final big stop of the night was early in the third quarter, when linebackers Devin White and Tyler Taylor stopped Ole Miss running back Jordan Wilkins 4 yards short of the first-down marker.
The responsibility of keeping Ole Miss out of the end zone was made slightly easier because the Rebels rarely came close for most of the night.
LSU's defensive backs stepped up when the Tigers needed them the most, preventing a big play or stopping the drive altogether.
Only one of LSU’s three interceptions came with the play starting inside LSU territory, but all of the turnovers were made on the Tigers’ half of the field.
Delpit picked off Patterson on a deep jump ball near the end of the first half, John Battle snared a tipped ball in the second half and Kevin Toliver reeled in an interception in the fourth quarter.
Delpit and Toliver also had two of LSU’s four pass breakups.
"We knew we were coming into their house," said cornerback Andraez Williams. "We had to make big plays when it was time to make the plays. Obviously we did, and we came out victorious."