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September 9, 2012
Defense rises to test
LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis refers to it as sudden change.
At any point in a game Chavis has tried to school his unit in the art of being able to hold its ground despite extenuating circumstances such as a fumble or interception deep on their end of the field.
Such was the case six seconds into Saturday's game when LSU kickoff returned Odell Beckham Jr. fumbled the opening kickoff following a 20-yard return, giving Washington's well-advertised offense an early opportunity to strike quickly and seize momentum.
LSU's defense limited Washington to four yards on three plays, including back-to-back incomplete passes, and held the Huskies to an opening field goal - a swing of momentum - that went a long way in the No. 3 Tigers 41-3 runaway victory Saturday evening at Tiger Stadium.
"You're going to have mistakes like a fumble or an interception," LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. "As a defense we pride ourselves on stopping them and having the offense's back. You have to help support them and keep them up and making them kick three points was a big momentum boost for the offense."
LSU (2-0) responded with two touchdown runs from Alfred Blue and J.C. Copeland to take a 14-3 first-quarter lead and the Tigers went on score on seven of their last eight offensive possessions to reach the 41-point mark for the second consecutive week.
With LSU's offense upholding their end of the bargain, opening leads of 20-3 at halftime and 34-3 after three quarters, the defense rose to the challenge of stifling a Washington offense that brought in plenty of high-powered potential but was rendered ineffective.
A week after North Texas scored 14 points on a pair of touchdown passes and recording 219 yards, LSU allowed 183 total yards on 60 plays - slowing the Huskies (1-1) to an average of three yards per play.
"This is a much better offense than the North Texas offense not to take anything away from North Texas," LSU football coach Les Miles said. "Some adjustments were made, the defense plays with some intensity and the pass rush was very evident, our tackling was crisp. It's what we needed to have happen."
Washington managed 24 rushing yards on 26 carries - an average of 1.1 yards per attempt - and the Huskies were essentially reduced to a one-dimensional team the Tigers were able to keep versatile quarterback Keith Price well within their crosshairs.
Price, who passed for more than 3,000 yards and 33 touchdowns last season, completed 17 of 36 passes for 157 yards and had five carries for minus-24 yards. He was sacked four times for 28 yards in losses, was picked off once and the Tigers also recorded 10 quarterback hurries.
Linebacker Kevin Minter paced LSU with nine tackles while true freshman Jalen Mills had seven stops and his first career interception. Sam Montgomery returned from oblivion a week ago with four tackles and a team-high three QB hurries.
"We knew Price was a challenge because he"s a dual threat quarterback and could run the ball just as well as he could throw it," Logan said. "Our main thing this game was keeping him contained and not letting him get any open windows, don't let him step up in the pocket without anybody being present in there. We did a pretty good job of keeping him contained and not letting get any big runs or big passes off and that was our main focus which was to get pressure."
LSU's defense forced three consecutive three-and-outs and set the tone early, yielding 18 yards on 17 plays in the first quarter. By halftime the Huskies had 70 yards on 32 plays with their longest drive going for nine plays, 29 yards and lasting just over four minutes.
"It was a challenge for us in the secondary," LSU safety Eric Reid said. "We knew they were a passing team. You have to give credit to our front seven. They did an amazing job with the pass rush. It seemed like every time he dropped back he had to get out of the pocket."
That all began with LSU's early stand after Beckham's fumble. The Tigers held one of Price's favorite target - Kasen Williams to a 4-yard catch on first down - and forced Price into consecutive incompletions to bring on Travis Coon for a 34-yard field goal after the drive stalled at the Tigers' 16-yard line.
"Last year we only gave up nine points (sudden change situations) and that's something we work on all time and it's something our guys, when we take the field in those situations in tight quarters, we have to play really good football and they did that tonight," Chavis said. "That helped set the tone for the rest of the ball game."
Washington, which was 4-of-16 on third down conversions, didn't reach 100 yards of offense until midway through the third quarter and with LSU further distancing itself with a 437-yard output the Huskies were helpless to keep up.
Washington reached LSU's 40 late in the third quarter but a scrambling Price threw an interception to Mills on fourth-and-three. The Huskies later went for it on fourth down from LSU's 35 but on the first play of the fourth quarter Price overthrew Williams down the sideline and extended their streak to seven quarters without an offensive touchdown.
"I think we're improving," Reid said. "I don"t think we're quite to where we were last year, but last year we improved as the season went on and that's something we're looking to do this year. Just keep getting better every week."