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October 7, 2013
LSU allowed just a field goal in the second half of its 59-26 victory against Mississippi State on Saturday night.
The Tigers allowed three touchdowns and a field goal and almost 300 yards of offense in the first two quarters. LSU coach Les Miles is optimistic that the defense is ready to perform at a higher level.
"I was proud of Chief (defensive coordinator John Chavis)," said Miles at his media luncheon Monday. "They ran into things for the first time.
"There were four schemes teams have run for the first time against our defense. There were pass routes we saw for the first time in that game. A team needs to make adjustments. We are making strides and steps on our defense."
With safety Craig Loston not available due to a groin injury, linebacker Lamin Barrow and cornerback Jalen Mills were the only two defensive players who started both last year and this year's games against the Bulldogs. Miles stressed that it is going to take time for this defense to reach a higher level of play.
Report card: LSU - Mississippi State
"All we have to do is play our technique," Miles said. "The players have to be confident and play with poise. They have to tackle well and do the things they are used to doing.
"I saw the defensive line handle two-on-one and one-on-one blocks at the point of attack. We made some strides last week, but we are not at a watermark yet. The defense is coming. We'll get back to the LSU defense very quickly."
There were some personnel changes on defense. Backup tackles Quentin Thomas and Christian LaCouture saw their most playing time of the season behind starters Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson. Thomas made two tackles, while LaCouture registered a sack.
Most of the player shifts took place in the secondary. Corey Thompson, who replaced Loston at strong safety, made six tackles and broke up three passes. In the nickel package, Rashard Robinson started at cornerback with Mills moving inside to cover a slot receiver. Micah Eugene was just the dime back.
"I like Corey Thompson," Miles said. "He handled his position very well. He made the calls and made some tackles. At times, I didn't like the angles he took. But, he will improve. Rashard was ready to play at cornerback. Mills is a physical guy who can tackle. He plays well inside."
180-degree shift for Tigers
One area which is leaving little room for improvement is the Tigers' passing game. Zach Mettenberger leads the Southeastern Conference in pass efficiency with a 190.1 rating. He has passed for 1,738 yards and 15 touchdowns - both of which are on pace to set school records.
"Zach is playing just like we need him to play at home and on the road," Miles said. "He is a leader and he is in charge of communication. When he is going on the field, he gives you an advantage - not just with his arm, but with his mind.
"All the right pieces are coming together with (offense coordinator) Cam Cameron. We have a veteran quarterback who really throws it. We have a veteran receiving corps which can run around and catch balls. Don't underestimate our offense."
The Tigers will take on the SEC's best defense this Saturday in Florida. The Gators are allowing 12 points and 217 yards per game. A year ago, LSU had just eight first downs and 200 yards of offense in a 14-6 defeat. Florida will be facing a far different Tigers offense this time around.
"Zach is in his fifth year," Miles said. "He says 'I've got this (offense).' He is aggressive in his thinking and he is getting the ball out of his hand faster. He is now at the back end of his career. Zach and Cam are a perfect match."
According to Miles, three LSU injured players - wide receiver Jarvis Landry, linebacker Tahj Jones and Loston - could return to action Saturday against Florida. Miles said that Jones is the "farthest away" from playing.