Two games into his rookie season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, starting middle linebacker Kwon Alexander still oozes Purple and Gold.
Even moments after playing a key role in the Buccaneers’ 26-19 upset of the heavily favored New Orleans Saints before a stunned sellout crowd of 73,006 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Alexander could hardly contain himself when talking about his alma matter.
Once the Buccaneers’ plane landed Saturday afternoon in New Orleans, Alexander rushed to pick up the LSU-Auburn national telecast on his I-phone, then watched the Tigers finish off the War Eagles 45-21 from the comfort of his downtown hotel room.
“Last year was ugly,’’ Alexander said of Auburn’s 41-7 victory over LSU a year ago at Jordan-Hare Stadium. “But we killed their dreams yesterday. They weren’t going to leave Death Valley with a win.
“Leonard (Fournette) is bad. He’s an animal. You see what happens when people talk about him, try to mess with him. I think they can win the national championship. It excites me how they’re doing. I love LSU. I’m so thankful for the opportunity they gave me.’’
Alexander, 21, is cashing in on his time at LSU, quickly going from a promising fourth-round draft pick to a full-time starter in coach Lovie Smith’s 4-3 defense. And the job wasn’t handed to Alexander, either. In training camp, he beat out former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter, the heir apparent to anchor the middle of Tampa Bay’s defense after signing a four-year, $20 million free-agent deal in March.
On Sunday, Alexander shared the team lead in tackles with eight, plus a pass breakup against Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who was turned every which way but loose by a hungry Buccaneers’ defense. Brees completed 24 of 38 pases for 255 yards, with one touchdown and one interception for a pedestrian 80.5 passer rating.
Brees also was sacked four times, hit three other times and fumbled twice.
In Week 1, visiting Tennessee put a 42-14 whuppin’ on the Bucs, and Titans’ rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 13 of 16 passes for 209 yards and four touchdowns and posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
“I knew that we were a better football team than that,’’ Smith said. “After you lose one like that, there is a lot on that next game and for us to see exactly who we are.’’
Alexander and other Bucs credited a defensive players only meeting as one reason for the sudden turnaround. But Smith provided a more tangible reason from his perspective.
“We didn’t win a game based on a meeting,’’ Smith said. “We won based on what they did on the field today and what they did on the practice field this week.
“Kwon didn’t play his best game last week. But I really like him. There aren’t a whole lot of rookie ‘mike’ linebackers that are starting in the league. He is going to help us win a lot of football games. He took a big step this week. There are steps to go but he is getting better.’’
Alexander acknowledged as much, saying “this win is great, it’s a big step, but we got to put it behind us and do it again next week.’’
When asked next week’s opponent, Alexander quickly replied: “Syracuse. There. Oh, you mean us. I don’t know.’’
LSU faces Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.
Tampa Bay visits the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium the next day.