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October 14, 2013

Tigers are staying alive




A loss at Georgia three weekends ago ended LSU's margin of error.

The Tigers could not afford another defeat if they were going to stay in the national championship race. Moreover, another setback would prevent LSU from controlling its destiny in the Southeastern Conference Western Division.

Three challenging league opponents faced the Tigers following that 44-41 loss to Georgia in Athens. LSU has rebounded to take care of the first two conference teams - Mississippi State and Florida. The offense carried the team against the Bulldogs, while the defense sparked the victory against the Gators.

"The personality of our team has come out (since the loss to Georgia)," said LSU coach Les Miles at his weekly media luncheon Monday afternoon. "The players understand what we need to do. We have veterans who understand and lead.

"The underclassmen have been watching the veterans and they are playing good roles. That's why those young guys came here. This team is ambitious looking into the future. But, this week it's all about Ole Miss."

Report Card: Each LSU unit gets a letter grade for the Florida game.

The Tigers will be meeting a desperate Ole Miss squad, which has three games in a row - against Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M. The Rebels have dropped the last two games by a total of seven points. Ole Miss has a favorable schedule down the stretch with every game in the state of Mississippi.

The Rebels suffered a number of injuries against the Aggies. Half of Ole Miss' defensive starters were listed as questionable by coach Hugh Freeze on Monday. Miles expects to the Rebels to still be a challenge this Saturday night in Oxford.

"We're preparing for their best effort," Miles said. "We see on film that they're very talented and capable. It's their training staff that has to certify that they're ready to play. I'm sure when given the green light, they'll be capable."

LSU's defense will be coming off its best performance of the season. The Tigers limited Florida to two field goals and 240 yards of offense. According to Miles, defensive coordinator John Chavis had an atypical reaction in the locker room following the game.

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"Chief's (Chavis) post-game was kind of fun," Miles said. "He seldom is too excited. He has great want for the Tigers, but generally he is reserved in that post-game. In the post-game locker room Saturday, Chief was quite enthusiastic.

"Chief had a magnificent plan. It did the things we needed to do to win. Any time you line up against a big, powerful offensive line with running backs who can run and a mobile quarterback, you have to control the line of scrimmage. Our guys did as strong a job as they could have done."

Meanwhile, the Gators defense kept Zach Mettenberger's passing in check. Mettenberger completed just nine of 17 passes for 152 yards and no touchdowns - all season-lows. The Tigers relied upon their running game - led by Jeremy Hill, who finished with 121 yards on the ground.

"The offense did exactly what it needed to do," Miles said. "It controlled the game, moved the football, was smart with the ball and finished the game. In the back end of the game, with the opponent trying to get the ball back, I felt the right strategy was employed. We just kept the ball - like it's supposed to go.

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"Zach played a pretty good game. It might not have been his best game, certainly not statistically. But, he managed the situations and allowed us to play well enough for us to win. In that kind of game, that was well enough."

Miles had a positive injury report on defense end Jordan Allen, who suffered a lower leg injury in the second half.

"Jordan Allen seems to have a small tweak in his ankle," Miles said. "He'll be fine. We might tape him up and let him run today. Certainly, he'll be ready for the (Ole Miss) game."

Miles said that linebacker Tahj Jones had a minor setback in his recovery and didn't dress for the Florida game. Miles also indicated that safety Ronald Martin didn't play against the Gators because of an unspecified injury.

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