After three preseason camps with the LSU football team, New Jersey native Tashawn Bower isn’t quite used to it.
“It’s taken a little while, but I don’t think I am,” Bower, LSU’s junior defensive end said of the brutal Louisiana heat and humidity in August. “It’s still hot on a bunch of days. Back in Jersey, we get some 90-degree days … we just don’t get the humidity.”
Bower deals with it the best he can, which is what he and his teammates will have to do when No. 13 LSU goes against 18th-ranked Auburn at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
The forecast Saturday calls for a high of 93 and enough humidity to possibly push the heat index into the triple digits under sunny skies, which means maximum hydration is a must throughout this week.
Still, Bower and the Tigers aren’t sweating it even though they’re thin along the defensive line. It showed in Saturday night’s game at Mississippi State when it was an unusually cool 64 at kickoff.
LSU used only eight defensive linemen in its rotation with one getting just a few of the 80 plays Mississippi State got off.
Defensive tackles Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux were in for 70 snaps each (including penalties), while Bower, Lewis Neal and Arden Key divided most of the snaps at end.
It was a heavy workload considering the Tigers had to exert a lot of energy in lining up against dual-threat quarterback Dak Prescott, who was sacked three times for minus-28 yards and held to 9 yards on seven rushing plays.
By the fourth quarter, the depth issues showed when Precott mounted a last-ditch effort that produced two touchdowns before a missed field goal on the game’s final play allowed LSU to take a 21-19 victory.
“We might have felt a little winded on the drive before they tried the field goal, but we felt like we had a really good game,” LaCouture said. “Of course, Dak is one of the best players — not just one of the best quarterbacks — in the Southeastern Conference. So he’s going to make plays here and there.
“We felt like we had a great game plan for him, and you just have to push through all that stuff,” he said of the fatigue factor. “For the first real game, I thought we were in great condition. So you have to push through it, just like we have to push through it against Auburn.”
Neal, who recorded one of the three sacks the defensive line had, downplayed the fatigue factor and said the effort was still there at the end of the game.
“We’re never tired,” he said. “We just have to execute a little better and that’s it because the effort was there. Dak is a great quarterback, so you expect him to make plays.
“But we’re not worried about that or the heat (this week) because we went through all that during preseason camp. Trust me, the way we practice, fatigue isn’t even in the mix.”
Bower said the defensive line did use lots of energy making sure Prescott didn’t get loose on runs that would have exposed the back end to big pass plays — especially late in the game.
As a result, Godchaux admitted he was “gassed.”
“I’m going to be honest, I was gassed,” he said. “We were prepared for it, but Christian and I played 70 snaps. You’re going to get tired in a game like that, everybody does. So you have to push yourself.
“That last drive, we pushed ourselves and we were able to overcome it.”
LSU coach Les Miles said proper hydration this week will be a key.
“Hydrating at the cellular level is the new buzz word, right?” he said. “You don’t want to just get it in your stomach, you want to make sure it can get it to the different sections. That means start early (in the week) and drink plenty.”
LSU may get a break Saturday considering Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder, is more of a pocket passer and has run the ball just nine times in two games.
“That helps a lot because it takes a lot off our shoulders,” Godchaux said. “He’s still capable of running the ball; he just doesn’t do it a lot. So hopefully, we can just pass-rush more.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.