The next level: Tigers defense keeps on moving
For at least the third time this season, LSU’s starting defense practiced this week against two separate offensive scout teams.
When the first scout team finished a play, the second scout team stepped to the line, almost immediately ready to snap the ball while defenders frantically attempted to return to their positions.
One of those defenders was tackle Greg Gilmore.
“You’ve got to run from that hash to the other hash, get the calls and make your checks,” said Gilmore, nearly out of breath just describing it. “That’s good for us. We prepare well.”
LSU’s game against Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) on Saturday night will be the sixth straight for the Tigers (4-2, 2-1) against an up-tempo, no-huddle spread offense. They have played some of the most fast-paced offenses in the nation: Auburn is ninth, Southern Miss 14th and Missouri 36th nationally in snaps per second, according to rankings by SBNation.com.
Ole Miss is 95th, but the Rebels have the potential to fire up the hurry-up at any moment. Interim coach Ed Orgeron knows it because his good friend and former co-worker, Hugh Freeze, mans the offense.
“He runs the plays very fast — one of the fastest that we've seen,” Orgeron said.
Since Orgeron took over, the Tigers have used that unique practice tactic. Has it worked? LSU’s defense has allowed five touchdowns in the past five games, and they’ve held three of those five teams to less than 300 yards.
The Tigers normally use a healthy defensive line rotation, but they were limited in last week's 45-10 win over Southern Miss. Gilmore played the vast majority of snaps because Orgeron held out Travonte Valentine as punishment for a poor week of practice. Before the game, Gilmore didn’t know of Valentine’s suspension, which went unannounced.
Despite the fewer breaks, Gilmore said he “was good” during the game. The double offensive huddles helped, and so did LSU’s fast-paced Monday walkthrough practices. Under Orgeron, the Tigers only practice for about 30 to 40 minutes on Monday, but the walkthroughs are focused on speed. Each play is snapped from the 40-yard line, and each player must sprint to the back of the end zone and back on every play.
“Last year, they were pretty fast,” Gilmore said of Ole Miss. “It was hard to catch up, but we’re going to prepare better than we did last year. I think we’ll have a better plan going into the game, as far as that aspect.”
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Matchups to watch
LSU offensive tackles vs. Ole Miss defensive end Marquis Haynes
A preseason All-SEC selection, the 6-2, 222-pounder already has four sacks this season and is fourth on the team with 26 tackles. LSU is expected to rearrange its offensive line again, shifting Ethan Pocic back to center and having K.J. Malone and Maea Teuhema on the outside. They’ll see a lot of Haynes, a projected second- or third-round NFL draft pick.
LSU's defensive line vs. Ole Miss' offensive line
Defensive end Arden Key and the Tigers hope to push the pocket on Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly, who’s lethal on his feet and often makes game-changing throws when scrambling out of the pocket. LSU is ranked 17th by averaging 3 sacks per game. The Tigers have 18 sacks through their six games. Five players have at least one sack.
Normally, Andy Dodd is the one on the sideline watching plays unfold.
LSU: Keep an eye on No. 7, Leonard Fournette
Fournette makes his return against a Rebels defense that has allowed 212 rushing yards per game (104th nationally). In the three games in which he has played, Fournette has run for 138, 147 and 101 yards. LSU is 24th nationally, averaging 228 rushing yards per game.
Ole Miss: Keep an eye on No. 10, Chad Kelly
The senior puts up more than 300 passing yards per game and has thrown 14 touchdowns against five interceptions. He’s capable of making big plays any way, often going risky with deep passes down the field.
Scott Rabalais' Four Downs
1. Dynamic duo
During the Les Miles era, LSU fans became conditioned to hearing offensive promises that didn’t come true. This is one from Ed Orgeron they should hope becomes reality: Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice in the same backfield. The threat of their talents would give any defense headaches, which LSU should use to its advantage.
2. Kelly the hero
Where would the Rebels be without Chad Kelly? The Ole Miss QB leads the SEC in passing and total yards per game — this for a team that ranks 12th in rushing and is vulnerable on defense (14th in yards allowed, 12th in points allowed, 12th in rushing defense). Not allowing him to beat LSU single-handedly is the Tigers’ No. 1 task.
3. Watching the clock
Against Southern Miss, LSU scored more points (45) than it ran plays (42) for just the fourth time since 1949. The Tigers won’t want to disavow quick-strike scores against the Rebels, but it’s imperative they play ball control to keep it away from Kelly and Co. while tiring the Ole Miss defense. That means running the ball with you know who.
4. Past is prologue
Orgeron said he wouldn’t play up to his LSU team the fact that he used to coach Ole Miss or that his tenure there wasn’t a happy one. That said, there’s no doubting the fact that Orgeron wants this win in the worst way. What’s a good college football rivalry without a little revenge factor, anyway?
Numbers worth knowing
Touchdowns allowed by LSU, fewest in the FBS
LSU games since 2002 starting at 8 p.m. or later
Derrius Guice’s average ypg vs. Missouri, USM
Chad Kelly total offense per game, which leads the SEC
Five memorable games
There isn't another LSU rivalry filled with more memorable games than the Tigers' series with Ole Miss. Finding five memorable games isn't the problem; the problem is trimming the list to just five.
Oct. 31, 1959: LSU 7, Ole Miss 3
No. 1 LSU versus No. 3 Ole Miss stands as the game of the 20th century for the Tigers and Rebels. Billy Cannon’s 89-yard punt return is the most legendary moment in LSU football history, but it would be a mere footnote if Cannon and Warren Rabb don’t stop Rebels QB Doug Elmore on the goal line in the closing seconds.
Nov. 1, 1969: Ole Miss 26, LSU 23
Archie Manning passes and scrambles the Rebels to a second straight three-point win over the Tigers, costing LSU a perfect season. The 9-1 Tigers choose to stay home after the Cotton Bowl picks Notre Dame to face No. 1 Texas.
Nov. 4, 1972: LSU 17, Ole Miss 16
“Entering Louisiana,” reads a sign put up on the Louisiana-Mississippi state line after this game. “Set your clocks back four seconds.” Bert Jones gets off two passes in the final four seconds, the second to Brad Davis for a 10-yard touchdown as time expires. Rusty Jackson’s PAT leaves the Rebels singing the “One Second Blues,” an actual song.
Nov. 22, 2003: LSU 17, Ole Miss 14
With national title hopes at stake, Matt Mauck throws a pick six on LSU’s first play. Eventually, the Tigers rally for a three-point lead. With 1:50 left, Ole Miss faces fourth-and-10 at its 42. Defensive tackle Chad Lavalais shoves left guard Doug Buckles backward into Eli Manning, ending the Rebels' last threat.
Nov. 17, 2012: LSU 41, Ole Miss 35
The Tigers trail the Rebels 35-28 in the fourth quarter before Odell Beckham Jr. does his Cannon impression, running south to north on an 89-yard punt return to tie the score with 9:10 left. Jeremy Hill smashes over from the 1 for the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds left.
Steve Ensminger enjoys his leather recliner.
LSU's Week 8 bowl projections
Edward Aschoff and Brian Bennett, ESPN.com
Music City vs. Penn State
Colin Becht, SI.com
Texas vs. TCU
Bill Bender, The Sporting News
Belk vs. Pittsburgh
Music City vs. Northwestern
Jason Kirk, SBNation.com
Citrus vs. Nebraska
Brett McMurphy, ESPN.com
TaxSlayer vs. Pittsburgh
Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com
Brant Parsons, Orlando Sentinel
Music City vs. Penn State
Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com
Belk vs. North Carolina
Alex Shirkey, SECCountry.com
Citrus vs. North Carolina
Dec. 28, Houston
Dec. 29, Charlotte, North Carolina
Music City Bowl
Dec. 30, Nashville, Tennessee
Dec. 31, Orlando, Florida
Dec. 31, Jacksonville, Florida