LSU’s defense ranks last in the Southeastern Conference with a percentage of 94.1, having allowed scores on 16 of 17 such possessions. But what exactly does that mean?
The Tigers are No. 2 in the SEC in scoring defense (10.9 points per game), so those red-zone scores aren’t hurting them a whole lot, partly because seven of the scores are field goals. In fact, the 17 possessions inside the 20 and the nine touchdowns allowed on those possessions are both the second-fewest in the SEC.
LSU’s defensive success deep in its own territory was illustrated much better by the Tigers’ performance in the 9-6 overtime victory at Alabama on Saturday. The Crimson Tide had a first down at or inside the LSU 30 on seven different possessions, running 19 plays. Those plays netted minus-6 yards. Bama lost 15 yards on nine rushes and completed 2 of 10 passes for 9 yards with an interception. The Tide also lost 10 yards on two penalties.
Those seven scoring opportunities yielded just six points as Bama missed field goals of 44, 50, and 52 yards and saw a 49-yarder blocked.
“I feel like we did a good job of just halting their drives, not giving them momentum,” defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. “On third downs, third-and-3s, they usually get them, and we stopped them. That momentum going into the kick really gave us a feeling that we can stop you guys. We felt like they weren’t going to score.”
The Tide never scored a touchdown.
“The opponent would get close to the goal line, and suddenly there would be a negative play that would make the difference,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I felt that defense played with great character.”
LSU fans won’t be the only ones celebrating homecoming this weekend.
Western Kentucky defensive coordinator Lance Guidry, in his first year with the Sun Belt Conference school, is a graduate of McNeese State with deep roots in Louisiana coaching.
Guidry, originally from Welsh, began his coaching career as an assistant at Leesville High from 1995-96. He was the head coach at Carencro from 2006-07 between two stints as a McNeese assistant.
Before joining the WKU staff, Guidry served two seasons under former LSU assistant Mike Haywood as the defensive backs coach at Miami (Ohio), where he helped the RedHawks complete a turnaround from 1-11 in 2009 to 10-4 last season.
As the interim head coach of Miami for a 35-21 victory over Middle Tennessee in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, Guidry received national acclaim for his passionate pregame locker room speech.
Guidry’s son, Janzen Jackson, was a five-star recruit who picked Tennessee over LSU in 2009. Jackson is now at McNeese.
One other WKU assistant also has Louisiana ties.
Defensive backs coach Alonzo Hampton, from Warren, Ark., played defensive back for Louisiana-Monroe from 1993-96. Hampton is in his first season with the Hilltoppers after serving as the defensive coordinator at Arkansas-Pine Bluff the previous two seasons.
Randle looks to rebound
Wide receiver Rueben Randle is hoping to be more involved in the passing game this week. In last week’s game, Alabama held him to two catches for 19 yards.
Randle said he was covered by multiple defenders on most pass plays.
“The coaches had to do a great job of keeping me in the game, because I was getting down on myself,” Randle said. “I wasn’t really helping the offense out. They told me that as long as I kept two or three guys on me, they’re got to worry about other guys.”
Randle had an opportunity to score a touchdown, but Jordan Jefferson’s pass from the 4 skipped off Randle’s fingertips right before halftime.
“That was my one chance, and I let it go,” Randle said.
The last two times Randle has had relatively quiet games this season, he has come back with big games. He caught a season-low one pass in the opener against Oregon - though it was a big one: a 10-yard touchdown - and came back against Northwestern State a week later and caught five passes for a career-high 121 yards.
After matching his season-low with one catch against Kentucky (for 37 yards), Randle came back the next week against Florida and surpassed his career-high again with 127 yards on four catches, including a touchdown.
Ford’s speed a good option
If Jefferson continues to play more as he did last week, it could mean more opportunities for running back Michael Ford, as it did last week.
When LSU went to the option game with Jefferson, Ford was generally the pitch-man.
Spencer Ware had a team-high 16 carries, but netted just 29 yards. Ford gained a team-high 72 yards on 11 carries. It was just the second time this season Ford has led the team in rushing. The other time was against Northwestern State when he gained 72 yards and scored two touchdowns on 13 carries as Ware carried the ball just six times for 20 yards and two touchdowns.
“Most of my carries were definitely option pitches,” Ford said. “The option probably caught them off guard, but we went into the game thinking we can get to the outside and win. That’s what we tried to do going into the game. They have some big guys and we thought we could use our speed to get to the outside of them.”
Jefferson was also effective keeping on the option as he gained 43 yards on 11 carries, though 18 came on a fourth-quarter scramble.
“We’re an option running team,” Ford said. “(Coach) Les Miles likes running the option, and we have the speed to do it.
“We’re getting more confident in it.. Jordan and I spend a lot of time on it.”
LSU will try to extend its winning streak to 11 games Saturday, its longest since winning 13 in a row from the 2006 season and into the ‘07 season.
A win would give LSU its first 10-0 start since 1958 and just the third 10-0 mark in school history (1908 being the other).
LSU is riding the nation’s longest nonconference regular-season winning streak at 36 games dating back to 2002. LSU is also riding a 15-game winning streak in Tiger Stadium and has won 17 straight games at night.
The Tigers will also play as the No. 1 team in The Associated Press poll for a sixth straight game, their longest such streak since 1959. LSU is 19-3 in games as the nation’s No. 1-ranked team.
The last time
Until Saturday, the last time LSU won a game without scoring a touchdown was a 9-3 win over Tulane in 1973. The last time LSU was in a game without a touchdown scored by either side was a 3-0 loss to then-No. 1 Alabama in 1979.
Miami (Fla.) Columbus defensive back Deon Bush told Rivals.com Wednesday his three finalists are Miami, Alabama and Auburn. Bush, ranked No. 48 on the Rivals 100, eliminated LSU, Purdue and Florida State. ... LSU has designated this as its Purple game. Fans are encouraged to wear purple, and the Tigers will wear purple jerseys. ... LSU has allowed just 7 total punt return yards this season.
Advocate sportswriters Les East, Scott Hotard and Scott Rabalais contributed
to this report.