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Missouri running back Ish Witter (21) is taken down for the stop by LSU safety Jamal Adams (33) and LSU safety Rickey Jefferson (9) during the first half of the LSU Missouri football game Saturday Oct. 1, 2016, in Tiger Stadium.

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG

LSU safety Jamal Adams was nearly at a loss for words.

The pain Adams felt for fellow Tigers safety Rickey Jefferson, who broke his fibula in practice last Wednesday, was visible on his face.

“It’s tough, I ain’t going to lie to you,” Adams said. “It’s tough on us too because that’s our brother. We lost a heartbeat out there.”

Adams and the LSU secondary played without Jefferson for the first time this season during the No. 25 Tigers’ 45-10 win against Southern Miss Saturday night. LSU (4-2) will be without Jefferson for a significant period of time, too, as he required surgery.

Interim coach Ed Orgeron said Jefferson was leg whipped during a “thud” period, meaning it did not occur during a live contact drill.

Jefferson, a Destrehan High product and the brother of former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, started the first five games of the season. He’s recorded 22 tackles and intercepted the fourth pass of his career in the season-opening loss to Wisconsin.

“He’s a person and player that he dies to be out there, and he plays hard,” Adams said. “Just a freak accident in practice took him away. All we can really do is just pray for him.

Jefferson’s absence opened the door for John Battle, who made his first career start against the Golden Eagles (4-3). Battle was part of a unit that held Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens, who came into the game ranked seventh in the country in passing yards, to 161 passing yards and no touchdowns. 

Battle was nipping at Jefferson’s heels for a starting job during preseason camp, Orgeron said, and the coach believed he was more than capable of assuming Jefferson’s role. Battle finished the game with four total tackles.

“Obviously, we've got to watch the film, but he didn’t hurt us in any way,” Orgeron said of Battle’s performance. “We knew that when Rickey went down that John was ready, so I think he did very well.”

“It’s not his first rodeo,” Adams added.

Even though he was up for the task of replacing a veteran leader, Battle echoed Adams sentiments about Jefferson.

“It was devastating, not just for Rickey but for all the (defensive backs) and all the guys on the team,” Battle said. “Because Rickey is more than just a player. He’s captain. He motivates a lot of guys. Just not having him here in the locker room, it devastated everybody. But we all came together as brothers, and we decided that we’re going to play this game for Rickey.”

Meanwhile, Jefferson was active on Twitter during the game, encouraging his teammates and expressing disappointment that he wasn’t out there. That didn’t surprise Adams.

“That’s Rick, man,” Adams said. "He’s so passionate, and he’s for the team. He’s never been selfish.”

Lack of ball control

Orgeron had to restrain defensive line coach Pete Jenkins from chewing out offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger during Saturday’s win against Southern Miss.

Why? LSU was scoring too fast.

“I said, ‘Hold up, Pete, don't worry about it. It's OK,” Orgeron said with a chuckle.

LSU ran only 42 plays last night and possessed the ball for only 22:01. That time of possession is the lowest in a Tigers’ victory since a win against Alabama in 1984. Dating back to 1949, which is as far as the school’s records go back, only three other times has LSU recorded more points than plays in a game.

The Tigers used three plays or less to score five touchdowns, and it’s 10.9 yards per play average is the highest since at least 1949. Prior to Saturday, LSU hadn’t won a game when rushing less than 25 times. The Tigers had 24 rushing attempts for 183 yards against the Golden Eagles.

Despite the offensive efficiency and explosive plays, Orgeron realizes the Tigers will need to hold ball longer as the competition stiffens.

“I think that we just were ineffective running the ball,” Orgeron said. “Give credit to Southern Miss. But also we want explosive plays. We want those bombs, maybe earlier in the game, but we want to be able to throw those long balls.”