Three weeks into its season, the only things slowing down LSU and star running back Leonard Fournette are little yellow flags.
The No. 9 Tigers are last in the Southeastern Conference and tied for 121st in the country at 86 penalty yards per game. Despite playing one less game than the rest of the league’s members, LSU (3-0) has committed more infractions than every other SEC squad besides Arkansas.
The penalty bug reared its head in the form of 14 flags for 120 yards during the Tigers’ 34-24 win at Syracuse on Saturday. LSU coach Les Miles estimated penalties cost his team 14 points and kept all three of the Orange’s touchdown drives alive.
“Some of it was technique work. Some of it was an environment so loud you could not hear,” Miles said Monday during his weekly press luncheon. “I think it stands to reason we can pare down these things pretty comfortably with some technique work, some awareness and some help of the team.”
Of all the Tigers’ penalties, none stung quite as much as the illegal formation infraction that erased an 87-yard touchdown by Fournette, who finished the game just 7 yards shy of setting the program’s single-game rushing record.
A replay showed LSU having just six men on the line of scrimmage. Teams must have seven on the line. Receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre were off the line, but Miles said both players checked with the line judge before the snap.
“I’m going to ask again to get it from the league,” the coach said. “My guys turned and communicated with the officials — both guys, OK? So I’m just going to have guess that they said that they were OK.”
Referees flagged linebacker Deion Jones for a late hit that extended a Syracuse drive and resulted in an eventual touchdown. Miles said he didn’t see the foul on replay, and he indicated that he would send the play to the league office.
Officials also whistled LSU for five false starts, one of which occurred on first-and-goal from the 9-yard line and ultimately forced the Tigers to settle for a field goal. Junior center Ethan Pocic and redshirt freshman guard Will Clapp said the noise in the Carrier Dome played a factor.
The Tigers faced similar crowd noise during their season-opening, 21-19 win at Mississippi State, during which they committed nine penalties and erased four plays of 15 yards or more — two of those touchdowns.
“It was constantly loud, which was the hard thing about it,” Pocic said. “The Carrier Dome was loud all the time. That was probably the biggest challenge. But it’s something we’ve got to learn from.”
Senior right tackle Vadal Alexander had a different take.
“The volume is less of a factor. I think it’s more about us not being focused and locked in,” he said. “We have techniques to handle all that stuff that we didn’t use correctly.”
Clapp said the team will break down every penalty with Miles and the position coaches, and Pocic said LSU is aiming for a zero-penalty game.
“It’s our No. 1 priority going into this week,” Alexander said. “It can cost us down the road.”
Miles on Gales
Miles began his news conference Monday by mentioning Southern receiver Devon Gales, who suffered several neck fractures against Georgia on Saturday. Gales, who attended Central High School, had successful surgery at Athens Regional Medical Center on Sunday, and he remains hospitalized there.
“He’s in our prayers,” Miles said. “It certainly hits home when it’s one of the local high school football players.”