Holding an opponent scoreless in college football is difficult enough. Doing so without two starting linebackers makes it improbable.
But that hasn’t stopped LSU from keeping the opposition off the scoreboard in two straight games for the first time since 1985.
On a day the Tigers were without junior linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lamar Louis, defensive coordinator John Chavis turned to his underclassmen to make a statement. In stepped sophomore Duke Riley, who had only two tackles heading into Saturday’s 31-0 victory against Louisiana-Monroe in Tiger Stadium.
“Duke plays with a lot of energy, and he’s a very bright student of the game,” coach Les Miles said. “He’s a guy who loves to know what’s being called and why it’s being called.”
Riley was up to the challenge. The John Curtis product led the team in tackles with eight, finishing with one solo takedown and seven assisted.
LSU (3-0) allowed 93 total yards to the Warhawks, and Riley was a major reason why.
“Duke was ready,” junior safety Jalen Mills said. “With what we have, (Chavis) might sub in the whole linebacking group with the (first-teamers). He’ll even do that with the defensive backs or the D-line, so those guys can kind of get the feel. If something like that happens where Duke gets in, then you kind of know how guys move in certain situations.”
Coming full circle
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron hasn’t forgotten about the fullback.
Last season, J.C. Copeland got chances to find the end zone, scoring three times on just 13 carries. He finished the season with 25 net yards. Even Kenny Hilliard received the occasional handoff after lining up at fullback — at 6-foot and 232 pounds, his frame makes him a wrecking ball.
This year, Cameron is turning to Darrel Williams, the freshman out of John Ehret. Lining up at fullback in the I-formation, Williams scored twice in Saturday’s win.
Hilliard said LSU fans should expect to see the formation again.
“It’s just a little package that we have, and it’s something that’s usually a quick dive,” he said. “It’s something that we’re going to use throughout the year.”
Saying that LSU got off to a slow start offensively against ULM is an understatement.
The Tigers failed to record a first down on their first two possessions after three drops by the receiving corps and a stout early performance by the Warhawks run defense.
LSU finished the first quarter with only five first downs and 79 yards.
“It was pregame jitters,” sophomore receiver Travin Dural said. “The offensive line wasn’t communicating with each other, and the quarterbacks weren’t communicating with the running backs. We just weren’t on the same page.”
Getting in the backfield
The LSU defensive line repeatedly found itself in the Warhawks backfield, recording one sack and four quarterback hurries on ULM’s 48 offensive plays.
Senior defensive end Jermauria Rasco had the sack, one of LSU’s five tackles for loss. The defensive line’s effort made the secondary’s job easier, senior linebacker D.J. Welter said.
“The front seven makes it easy for us because we can go man-to-man and lower the box,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to play a different defense to keep the offense off-guard so they never know what defense we are running.”
In the polls
LSU moved up one spot to No. 8 in the Associated Press and Amway coaches polls released Sunday. The Tigers have moved up five spots in the poll since beginning the season at No. 13 in both polls.
LSU hosts Mississippi State on Saturday in both teams’ Southeastern Conference opener. The Bulldogs (3-0) are just out of the Top 25; they’re 27th in the coaches poll and 28th in the AP poll.
Saturday’s announced attendance of 101,194 was the sixth-largest crowd the Tigers have played in front of and set a Tiger Stadium record for the second straight week. The actual attendance was not provided, but less than 85,000 were estimated to have attended. … Saturday’s win was LSU’s 400th in Tiger Stadium. ... LSU extended its winning streak against in-state opponents to 29 games and pushed its record against Louisiana teams to 134-25-8.
Ross Dellenger contributed to this report.