The next level
Arden Key knows now.
He knows opponents will watch the replay of Wisconsin’s win over LSU, see that Badgers tight end Troy Fumagalli caught seven passes for 100 yards and devise a tight end-centric passing plan of their own.
Key, LSU’s outside linebacker normally in charge of covering that man, will be more prepared.
“I know teams are going to come after me, get me to drop, because I haven’t dropped (a lot),” Key said.
Fumagalli caught his longest of the seven receptions, a 27-yarder, against Key's coverage. Key’s move from defensive end to outside linebacker in new coordinator Dave Aranda’s scheme came with that new duty: covering receivers, tight ends and running backs.
Fumagalli and the Badgers exploited that Saturday, but they exposed more than just Key. At least five of the other six receptions by Fumagalli came against another player. Twice he caught passes against cornerback Donte Jackson, who was late in coverage because of what appeared to be miscommunication with another defensive back.
Fumagalli caught two screen passes, turning each into big gains. He caught a pass against freshman outside linebacker Michael Divinity and another against safety Rickey Jefferson, exploiting underneath out routes toward the sideline.
Fumagalli was quite the thorn in the Tigers’ side — a possible weakness exposed. He caught passes of 20 and 11 yards on the Badgers’ 48-yard march to the eventual winning field goal.
LSU targeted its tight end once, a 19-yard completion to DeSean Smith on the Tigers' final drive.
“We like the tight end throwing game,” coach Les Miles said Wednesday. “That's something we need to get more of. We have it in our offense. We didn't get to it Saturday, but that is absolutely a piece of the offense that we must use.”
Key has learned his lesson: Don’t play so close to the line of scrimmage. It’s just a natural instinct for the ex-defensive end to dart into the backfield.
“He just got on me quick. By the time I saw him, it was too late,” Key said. “It was ... the only thing is, how much depth you’ve got to get in the game, how big the field and how wide the field is.”
Matchups to watch
Jacksonville State QB Eli Jenkins vs. LSU’s secondary
LSU’s highly touted secondary could be tested against this dual-threat product. The preseason FCS All-American and four-year starter put up career highs for completions (26) and attempts (43) in an overtime loss at Auburn last season. He was one of just three QBs in Division I to pass for 2,700 yards and rush for 1,000 yards last year.
LSU’s O-line vs. Jacksonville State’s D-line
This will be different than last week. The Gamecocks play a more conventional four-man front, and they likely won’t be as quick or athletic as the Wisconsin front seven that LSU’s line struggled against so much. This is the time for the Tigers’ O-line to begin to take shape, an opportunity for them to right the wrongs of the season opener.
LSU: Keep an eye on No. 6, QB Brandon Harris
Harris’ 131-yard, two-interception outing in the season opener pushed the junior into the spotlight, his name and face on national broadcasts. The critics he hoped to hush this season already are chirping loudly. How will he respond, and will LSU play his backup, Danny Etling?
Jacksonville State: Keep an eye on No. 6, RB Roc Thomas
Rivals.com’s No. 2 running back prospect, behind LSU's Leonard Fournette, in the 2014 class transferred from Auburn to Jacksonville State over the offseason. Thomas carried eight times for 37 yards in the Tigers’ 45-21 win over Auburn last season in Tiger Stadium.
1. HOW’S FOURNETTE?
Les Miles dodged the question Wednesday when asked whether Leonard Fournette had practiced. Miles said his star tailback will play Saturday but wasn’t exactly convincing. LSU should have enough offensive weapons if No. 7 has to rest his injured ankle, but when he went out against Wisconsin, the Tigers’ last hope to win shattered like glass.
2. HOW’S HARRIS?
When last we saw Brandon Harris, his head was in his hands after throwing the interception that doomed LSU against Wisconsin. Miles said he made the throws in practice this week, but the practice field isn’t Harris’ problem. When he returns to live action, will Harris come out looking determined to atone, or emotionally scarred?
3. TEUHEMA TO BLOCK
Against Wisconsin, Maea Teuhema’s injury made LSU juggle its starting offensive linemen. Against Jacksonville State, LSU is juggling again because of Josh Boutte’s suspension. Teuhema returns to start in Boutte’s spot at right guard but is listed as a backup at both tackle spots. The Tigers need to build chemistry here, but it may prove to be elusive.
4 NOT-SO-SPECIAL TEAMS
Josh Growden averaged 32.4 yards per punt. Cameron Gamble kicked off out of bounds. Tre’Davious White nearly let a bounding punt glance off his leg. And Derrius Guice made an ill-fated return from 5 yards deep in the end zone to the 17. Special teams didn’t cost LSU against Wisconsin, but they didn’t help. Improvement needs to be immediate.
Five memorable games: LSU home openers
LSU opens its 93rd season in Tiger Stadium with its first game against Jacksonville State or any current member of the Ohio Valley Conference. Here’s a look at five memorable home openers:
Oct. 3, 1931: LSU 35, Spring Hill 0
To avoid day-game conflicts with Tulane and Loyola, LSU spends $7,500 to light up its facility, launching one of LSU’s greatest athletic traditions: Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. Art Foley scores two touchdowns in the Tigers’ romp.
Sept. 17, 1966: LSU 26, South Carolina 12
In a nonconference game he helps schedule while LSU’s coach, Paul Dietzel returns to Tiger Stadium in his first game after leaving Army, which he left LSU for in 1962. The win is a huge one for Charles McClendon, Dietzel’s former assistant.
Sept. 7, 1996: LSU 35, Houston 34
The Tigers trail 34-14 in the third quarter before mounting a furious rally. Kevin Faulk, who rushes for a then-school record 246 yards and two touchdowns, returns a punt 78 yards for a score, followed by TD runs from Kendall Cleveland and Rondell Mealey.
Sept. 8, 2007: LSU 48, Virginia Tech 7
In one of their best games ever against a ranked opponent, the No. 2 Tigers dismantle the No. 9 Hokies on ESPN. Behind two rushing TDs from Keiland Williams, LSU outgains Virginia Tech 598-149. The win helps propel LSU to the BCS title.
Sept. 5, 2015: LSU vs. McNeese State, canceled
The contest is halted with 10:08 left in the first quarter because of lightning in the area. The game is called at 10:36 p.m., the first LSU game to be canceled since World War I wipes out the 1918 season.
BY THE NUMBERS
LSU in SEC red-zone percentage (1-for-1)
FBS transfers on Jacksonville State's roster
LSU's record after a loss under Les Miles
LSU's record in Tiger Stadium since 1924
The most fans ever to attend a JSU game (at Auburn, 2015)