Five yards from his team losing its shutout, LSU safety Rickey Jefferson hovered in space, bouncing up and down like a sixth-grader waiting for a Christmas present.
He got something much better.
Jefferson leaped into the air and came toppling down with the football.
Interception. Shutout preserved.
“Saw an opportunity,” Jefferson said, “and made it.”
The offensive fireworks in LSU’s 56-0 win over Sam Houston State on Saturday night — many by freshmen — overshadowed a swarming defense that blanked a potent offense, continuing a recent trend.
LSU has pitched a shutout for the past 85 game minutes — nearly six full quarters — and has limited the opposition over that time to an average of 2.9 yards per play.
LSU’s suffocating and turnover-crazed defense began hitting its stride midway through the third quarter of the Tigers’ stunning comeback win over Wisconsin on Aug. 30 in Houston.
The unit has four interceptions during this wild span. That ranks seventh nationally and is nearly halfway to the Tigers’ 2013 total.
“We just want to be the best defensive backs in the country,” said cornerback Dwayne Thomas, who had a pick on Sam Houston’s first series. “We talk about it every day in the DB room with (defensive backs coach Corey) Raymond.”
LSU’s opponents during the past 85 minutes of game time have completed 12 of 38 passes. Jefferson’s interception preserved what might appear to be a meaningless shutout. It’s not.
“Any time your defense does that, it’s a big accomplishment,” cornerback Tre’Davious White said.
White was the first to celebrate with Jefferson, a sophomore and former four-star prospect out of Destrehan whose role seems to have grown from last season.
Jefferson rarely played in 2013 but abruptly surged into a starting spot in the regular-season finale against Arkansas when starter Corey Thompson was lost to injury. He struggled mightily and was yanked from that game; cornerback Jalen Mills moved to safety from that point forward.
He’s rebounding a season later. Jefferson appears to be LSU’s No. 3 safety behind starters Mills and Ronald Martin, and he has been subbed in often. In LSU’s “Mustang” package, Jefferson is on the field as the dime back.
Often in the blowout win Saturday, true freshman Jamal Adams and Jefferson were the safety duo — two young guys poised to make their mark this season. Jefferson’s pick is a good start.
“We were fired up,” he said. “We go all four quarters. To do that for my team, it was unbelievable.”
The big plays weren’t restricted to the secondary.
Linebacker D.J. Welter forced a fumble, and fellow LB Deion Jones fell on the ball at the Sam Houston 1-yard line to set up a touchdown.
Freshman defensive end Sione Teuhema had two sacks while his brother, five-star LSU offensive tackle commit Maea, watched from Tiger Stadium. And junior end Danielle Hunter led the team with seven tackles.
The highlight, though, for the second week came from LSU’s secondary.
Thomas intercepted a flea flicker on Sam Houston’s first drive, and Jefferson had his stunning pick.
On second-and-goal from the 5-yard-line, Sam Houston quarterback Jared Johnson wanted a touchdown pass across the middle of the field. Jefferson, standing at the LSU 2, was there. He leaped more than 2 feet into the air and snatched the ball.
“Coach Raymond … told us what to do when we get in those situations down in the red zone,” Jefferson said. “I just tried to capitalize.”