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September 16, 2012
Defense feasts on turnovers
Before leaving the interview area Saturday evening LSU football coach Les Miles stopped defensive back Jalen Collins to congratulate him on his play.
"I just want you to know those were some big-time plays," Miles said while shaking Collins' hand. "That was a great job."
Collins was a catalyst for an opportunistic defense that intercepted four passes - returning two for touchdowns - to spur No. 3 LSU to a 63-14 runaway victory Saturday over Idaho.
Collins literally had a hand in two of the interceptions with a pair of break-ups that resulted in pickoffs by sophomore safety Ronald Martin, including one in the first half for a touchdown.
Senior defensive end Lavar Edwards continued his solid play this season with an interception return for a score of his own in the third quarter and freshman cornerback Jalen Mills intercepted a pass for the second straight week.
LSU's four interceptions of Idaho quarterback Dominique Blackman were the most for the defense since the Tigers picked off five passes in a 29-7 win over Mississippi State two years ago.
"The play by Collins really was the play," Miles said. "He is playing the ball in the air and has the receiver in a defendable position. He then gets his hand on the ball and tips it into the air. That is pure textbook. It is that safety that is playing the eyes of the quarterback that can be late to the scene and make that play."
The two interceptions for Martin, who made his first career start in place of Craig Loston, were the first of his career and the White Castle native became the first LSU player with two interceptions in a game since Morris Claiborne accomplished the feat a year ago at Mississippi State.
"We get along very well," Martin said of Collins. "Whatever he wants to do tonight, that's what we're going to do."
LSU's defense found itself in a position of creating early energy within the team and Tiger Stadium crowd.
Idaho took its opening series and drove 29 yards on seven plays for more than three minutes. The Vandals had fourth-and-one at LSU's 44 only to have sophomore defensive tackle Anthony Johnson storm through and drop Ryan Bass for a two-yard loss.
LSU (3-0) needed only four plays to take a 7-0 lead on Zach Mettenberger's pass to Kadron Boone, who spun out of a tackle to complete the 17-yard scoring play.
Collins and Martin twice worked their majic in the first half - both times resulting in points.
Collins deflected Blackman for the first time on a second-and-eight which Martin was able to pluck out of the air at Idaho's 30-yard line.
The Tigers took care of the 30 yards on six plays with running backs Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard getting three carries apiece with Blue scoring from three yards out on first down for a 14-0 lead midway through the opening quarter.
With Idaho climbing back into contention with an interception of Mettenberger and subsequent touchdown to make it 14-7 the tandem of Collins and Martin worked in concert and helped the Tigers stretch out their lead again.
Collins got a piece of another Blackman attempt that went skyward with Martin alertly coming over toward his own sideline to make the interception. He remained in bounds, leaped over a would-be tackler and raced 45 yards untouched to make it 21-7 with just over nine minutes showing in the second quarter.
"The first play they ran a little drag," said Collins, who had three tackles. "I knew the ball was coming because our coaches told us the quarterback stared down his receiver. I just took little peek at him and saw him looking. The second one I was just in good position."
Martin, who recorded five tackles, said he was initially going to deliver a hit on the intended receiver on his second interception but noticed the fluttering ball in mid-air and had a change of plans.
"I thought Jalen was going to intercept it," Martin said. "When he tipped it I just grabbed the ball and I saw daylight. The first one was just awareness. I was on my man and happened to glance over and hurried and ran over."
LSU's third interception of Blackman came after the Tigers were forced to punt on their first possession of the third quarter.
Edwards rushed Blackman on second down from the quarterback's right side, stood his ground and threw his hands into the air where the pass attempt struck him right in the chest and the chase was on.
Edwards, a former tight end at Desire Street Academy, shook off Idaho's first tackler, shed another player from behind en route to his 23-yard score for a 35-14 advantage at the 10:58 mark of the quarter.
"I rushed in and saw him looking that way and started to get my hands up and it came right to me," Edwards said. "I caught it and started running. I saw the quarterback and I wanted to make him miss and get to the end zone."
It was the second career interception for Edwards and the first pick-six for a LSU defensive lineman since Marcus Spears returned one 35 yards against Mississippi State eight years ago - part of a stretch of 42 unanswered points.
"Ronald's touchdown kind of started it off and gave us a lot of momentum," Edwards said. "My touchdown put us over that edge to keep scoring and finish the game off strong."