LSU improved its kickoff coverage in its 35-28 win against Florida last Saturday. The same, however, can’t be said for its punt coverage unit.
The Tigers allowed a third-quarter, 72-yard punt return touchdown that evened the score at 28 apiece and temporarily sucked the life out of Tiger Stadium. Miles said after the game he was displeased with the “direction” of punts, which is senior punter Jamie Keehn’s responsibility.
“You hit a ball out in the middle of the field and it’s a much more difficult position to cover,” Miles said Monday. “...We want a big kick, and we want it into the boundary, and sometimes that huge leg is not easily controlled. But we’ll take that under advisement and get that fixed.”
Keehn’s average per punt is down five yards from last year to 39.6, and LSU is last in the Southeastern Conference with a net average of only 32.3 yards per punt. Miles gave a hint as to why the senior’s numbers have plummeted this year. He said Keehn dealt with “some physical limitations...at one point in time,” though he believes the punter is past them now.
“He’s comfortably working through some technique issues. I think we’ll be fine there,” Miles said. “He’s a guy that’s a team guy. We ask him to kick into the boundary, and he wants to kick into the boundary. It’s who he is, and he’ll get it done.”
Special teams may play a big role once again this Saturday when No. 5 LSU (6-0) hosts Western Kentucky (6-1). Kylen Towner, the Hilltoppers’ punt returner, averages 9.8 yards per punt return and more than 30 yards per kick return.
Racking up sacks
While the LSU defense is already getting close to posting as many sacks as it did all last season, defensive end Lewis Neal said the Tigers didn’t use last year’s meager 13-game total of 19 for motivation.
“I didn’t even know that stat, that’s crazy to know,” said Neal, who has a team-leading seven of LSU’s 17 sacks in just six games. “The focus (this season) was improving our game and letting the results follow. This is what we say in the locker room: ‘We work so hard, why not show it? … Why go out there and waste it?’ We just had to put in the hard work and then show it out on the field.”
Neal said he’s aiming for the Tigers to total 30-plus sacks this season.
LSU and Western Kentucky have met just once, with the Tigers rolling past the Hilltoppers 42-9 in 2011 en route to the SEC championship and an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game.
The Tigers are 62-15-5 all-time against current members of Conference USA like Western Kentucky, most of those games against Rice (LSU leads the series 37-13-5) and Louisiana Tech (LSU leads 18-1). WKU is 3-6 against the SEC since joining the FBS in 2009, including a 14-12 win at Vanderbilt to open the season.
Facing the big boys
Western Kentucky is 1-3 against ranked opponents since joining the FBS, with all three setbacks coming against top-10 opposition -- one of them being a 42-9 loss to then-No. 1 LSU on Nov. 12, 2011 in Tiger Stadium.
The only win for the Hilltoppers against a ranked team was at No. 19 Marshall last season.