LSU coach Les Miles: Tigers have 'the potential to play in championships,' but there's one big 'if' _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU tackle Jerald Hawkins celebrates after LSU beat Florida 30-27 on Saturday in Gainesville, Fla.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In the week leading up to Saturday night’s game at Florida, LSU senior center Elliott Porter wasn’t afraid to admit that the offensive line was still working to reach the expectations that coaches and fans had placed on it before the season.

He also promised that he and his linemates would get better immediately, starting in Gainesville. Improvement in the trenches was a necessity for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron: LSU’s line came into Saturday’s game ranked 11th in the Southeastern Conference in tackles for loss allowed and sacks allowed.

Though Saturday’s 30-27 win over the Gators wasn’t as solid as Porter would have hoped for — Florida finished with four sacks and seven tackles for loss — the line opened holes for the Tigers’ ground game.

“The O-line protected and blocked for us well,” freshman running back Leonard Fournette said. “We just followed them. There’s better things to come.”

The Tigers finished with 195 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, a dramatic improvement over the 138 rushing yards the backfield gained in last week’s 41-7 loss at Auburn.

Porter said Saturday’s performance was exactly what the offensive line needed as the Tigers move into the heart of conference play. It was a much-needed confidence boost.

“It was a very important thing for us,” he said. “We wanted to get better, and we want to keep on getting better. That’s what we did, and that’s the attitude we want to have.”

Even with the pressure applied by the Florida defense, Porter said there were more than enough positives to take from the victory.

“We learned what (the line) can be,” he said. “We learned how good we can execute. I feel like we’re going to keep executing and keep on getting better. That’s the positive we can take from this.”

Flustering Driskel

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis likely drilled one concept into the heads of his defensive linemen this week: Get to Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel and force turnovers.

Before Saturday’s contest, Driskel’s six interceptions were tied with the conference lead, so it was crucial that the Tigers find their way into the backfield.

LSU ended up with five tackles for loss Saturday. Driskel’s night ended with two interceptions and a lost fumble.

“We wanted to make him feel a little bit uncomfortable,” sophomore defensive tackle Christian LaCouture said. “We really wanted to capitalize on things that the coaches knew we could capitalize on. ...

“We’re improving every week. We only allowed about 300 total yards, and every week we want to get that down a little bit. Coming into The Swamp in a hostile environment and (playing a) great team over there and getting the win, it was crucial for us.”

The connection continues

There’s something about Anthony Jennings and Travin Dural that clicks.

The sophomore quarterback and receiver connected again Saturday for 41 yards on third-and-25 with 3:40 left. They hooked up again two plays later — a one-handed snag by Dural in the end zone for an 11-yard score.

“He’s a great receiver,” Jennings said. “I can put it up there, and he can go up there and make a great catch. I have the utmost confidence in him.”

Family inspiration

LSU sophomore safety Rickey Jefferson was there when his football family needed him most.

After a hit by junior linebacker Kwon Alexander on Florida receiver Latroy Pittman knocked a Driskel pass into the air, Jefferson was in perfect position as he snagged the interception and brought the ball back to the Florida 36-yard line. Three plays later, LSU sophomore Colby Delahoussaye drilled a game-winning 50-yard field goal.

Jefferson said he had to put on a show for those in attendance.

“I had my family here, and I had an uncle pass not too long ago in April, and I said I was dedicating the season to him,” he said. “My grandma passed in January, so it was good to have my family in here.”

Jefferson also had to deliver a special gift.

“My cousin’s birthday was today,” he said, “so I told him I was going to make it happen.”


LSU remained unranked in The Associated Press Top 25 and the coaches poll. They’re second among other teams receiving votes in both polls. The Tigers fell from the rankings for the first time in more than 80 weeks after the loss to Auburn. … Pittman, who was carted off the field after Alexander’s hit in the fourth quarter, was released from the hospital Saturday night after “everything checked out,” Florida said. … With Saturday’s win, LSU improved to 25-1 in games following a loss under coach Les Miles.