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LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry III (79) in the second half of the Tigers' 65-14 win over the Demons, Saturday, September 14, 2019, on LSU's campus in Baton Rouge, La. The win is the 800th victory in the history of the LSU football program.

Eleven tackles for loss. Five sacks. Eight quarterback pressures.

LSU starting center Lloyd Cushenberry has the statistics memorized.

Those numbers are from LSU's first loss last season — the mid-day game in Gainesville, Florida, when an aggressive Florida defensive front overwhelmed LSU's offensive line in a 27-19 Gators win.

Cushenberry remembers how LSU was leading 7-0 and drove to the Florida 28 before a sack fumble flipped the moment of the game like a card table in a hurricane, how Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow was forced to make quick decisions and threw his first two interceptions of the season on the two final drives.

"It's been stuck in my head for a while," Cushenberry said.

The numbers rose up again after LSU's 42-6 win against Utah State last weekend, once No. 7 Florida (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) beat Auburn to force an undefeated showdown in Tiger Stadium on Saturday — a game that LSU coach Ed Orgeron said will again come down to who wins in the trenches.

Eleven tackles for loss. Five sacks. Eight quarterback pressures.

Cushenberry is LSU's quiet leader, the first offensive lineman to wear the team's honorary No. 18 jersey, the guy who spoke candidly for his position group during spring football and said the games LSU lost last season "were on us."

So Cushenberry walked to the athletic academic center, typed those memorized statistics onto a word document, and stuck the printed copies to the lockers of all his fellow linemen.

The copies were still hanging on the lockers Monday evening.

"Just a little extra motivation so we can avoid that this year," Cushenberry said.

It's hard to argue there is a more important position battle in Saturday's game than LSU's offensive line vs. Florida's defensive front.

And Cushenberry could print out plenty more pages of statistics to prove it.


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Florida's 26 sacks are tied for third in the nation, and its 50 tackles for loss are tied for fourth.

Gators outside linebacker Jonathan Greenard ranks second in the SEC in tackles for loss (6½) and sacks (4), and the defense has seven players who have recorded at least two sacks.

Orgeron watched the mayhem that was Florida's 24-20 win over Miami in the season-opener, when the Gators recorded three sacks and forced three fumbles — on the final drive of the game.

"Todd Grantham is one of the best defensive coordinators in football," Orgeron said Monday. "He is an outstanding defensive line coach. He knows how to blitz, knows how to attack. I think he's done a tremendous job everywhere he's been."

Since Orgeron's days at Miami in the early 1990s, he's become one of college football's most respected experts on defensive line coaching.

He recognizes what Florida does well. They confuse offensive lines with tactful and quick stunts on the line. They can get pressure using a four-man rush. They can send an assortment of creative blitzes.

But most of all, Orgeron said, LSU will have to be prepared for Florida's speed on the defensive line.

Florida's 6-foot-4, 246-pound defensive end, Jabari Zuniga, is among the physical freaks that gave LSU trouble last season.

And just like how LSU turned its "Warp Speed" up-tempo offensive package against its defense to prepare for Utah State's high-powered offense, Orgeron said the Tigers are going to simulate Florida's attacking defense in practice this week.

"We're going to put our fastest guys on the rush team and rush our guys all week," Orgeron said.

Who's going to replicate Florida?

Orgeron said it won't be star pass rusher K'Lavon Chaisson every day — the 6-foot-4, 250-pound outside linebacker just returned to play against Utah State from an ankle injury that kept him out for two games.

LSU will use defensive end Justin Thomas, who started against Vanderbilt, former five-star and true freshman safety Marcel Brooks, plus starting linebacker Michael Divinity, if, Orgeron said, Divinity shows he's healthy in his recovery from the injury he suffered against Vandy.

Cushenberry is confident this year's LSU offensive line can handle the Florida attack.

The line was mired in a pile of injuries in 2018, and former starting guard Ed Ingram was still suspended after being arrested for alleged sexual assault.

Ingram has since been reinstated — the charges were dismissed the day before the Vanderbilt game — and LSU's offensive line is bolstered with experienced depth even with its injuries.

Reserve lineman Badara Traore, who started against Georgia Southern, is out for the Florida game, Orgeron said, and he was seen wearing a boot on the sideline against Utah State.

Starting left tackle Saahdiq Charles will play, Orgeron said, and he's missed three games with what Orgeron called "coach's decisions."

And LSU has more depth with reserve linemen Chasen Hines, Donavaughn Campbell, Dare Rosenthal and Cameron Wire — players who have combined for 241 snaps this season.

"We have pretty much everyone back," Cushenberry said. "It was no excuse, but we had a young group in a hostile environment last year. This year, we have a lot more confidence, a high-potent offense, and it's going to be a battle."

Oh, right. On that high-potent offense ...

LSU toned down from "Warp Speed" against Utah State in order to significantly reduce the number of plays the high-scoring Aggies ran.

But the Tigers' breakneck pace — which averages 2 minutes, 5 seconds per touchdown drive — is a useful tool that LSU didn't have in last year's loss to Florida.

In LSU's first top 10 win of the season, a 45-38 win at then-No. 9 Texas, the Tigers scored four touchdowns in under three minutes by keeping the Longhorns defense off kilter.

LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady theorized in the summer that a spread offense that uses five-man protections — meaning only the offensive linemen are blocking — will give up fewer sacks.

LSU has given up 13 sacks this season, half the amount the Tigers gave up in its first five games last season.

"They can't get their calls in," Cushenberry said. "They can't set up. The more tempo we can do, it's going to be beneficial to us."

Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.