Florida's run defense toughest in league
By Matt Vines The Daily Reveille

October 3, 2006

Baton Rouge, LA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- LSU football has had its share of troubles in the rushing game this season, ranking No. 55 in the nation, and the Tigers might get bogged down against the Florida Gators in "The Swamp."

Florida's defense ranks No. 4 nationally against the run, allowing 50.2 yards per game, just over two yards a rush and only one rushing touchdown this season.

The Gators have tightened up even more during Southeastern Conference play, holding Tennessee to negative yardage, Kentucky to 39 yards and Kenneth Darby and Alabama's stable of running backs to 83 yards.

Florida has allowed only 43.6 yards per game in its three SEC matchups.

"They are a talented group who play very hard and strong inside," said LSU coach Les Miles. "They can rush the passer or defend the run with seven guys in the box or less. Jarvis Moss is a fast and big defensive end. [Defensive lineman] Ray McDonald can play inside or outside and has been very strong for years."

The Gators held Tennessee, a historical breeding ground for running backs, to minus 11 rushing yards in Knoxville, Tenn. The rushing total has decided the victor in this series 15 of the last 17 contests and was the lowest rushing yardage in the Philip Fulmer era. The Vols have broken the 200-rushing-yard barrier against California and Memphis, averaging 133 yards per game.

McDonald said Florida has to keep up with other SEC defenses.

"It is [on us] a lot," McDonald told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. "You see teams like LSU and Auburn; you know they have great defenses. We know we have a great defense, too. When you see scores like 7-3, it's like, 'God, we played Tennessee and gave up 20 points to these guys.' We know we can't do that. We have guys coming up like LSU and Auburn who are playing great defense, and we know we have to get to that level."

LSU senior offensive lineman Brian Johnson said the offensive line has played against defenses as good as Florida in the past.

"They have a veteran group of guys [up front]," Johnson said. "They are very quick and physical, but it's not anything that we haven't seen yet. We have seen good defensive linemen and linebackers all season. We are going to treat them like any other opponent."

LSU has not fared as well on the ground, struggling to find a consistent, healthy running back with four players having at least 29 carries.

True freshman Charles Scott leads the team with 214 yards but only gained 27 yards on 11 carries Saturday against Mississippi State University.

Junior fullback Jacob Hester is next with 140 yards, while junior Alley Broussard has 120 and senior Justin Vincent has 77.

Hester said the offensive line is improving and creating more rushing lanes.

"It is hard when you're a young guy because you aren't feeling the game," Hester said. "Now they are in a flow, and their assignments are getting more crisp. The pass protection has been great all year, and the run blocking is improving. The holes are getting bigger and better. If they don't give us the run, then we can pass against them."

The Tigers have averaged 144.6 rushing yards a game and scored14 rushing touchdowns, but the majority of the yardage came late in games against inferior opponents.

LSU has rushed for only 75 yards per game against SEC opponents, gaining 42 yards against Auburn and 108 yards against Mississippi State.

"When we are in excess of 400 yards in a game and score on the first five times with the ball [against Mississippi State], we still have to run the ball efficiently," Miles said. "There were runs that we liked, but we would like to make more big plays in the running game. We need to get more yards per carry. We are going to work on it, but we aren't going to be consumed by it."

Miles said a "significant" ankle injury will most likely keep junior guard Will Arnold from playing, forcing another young guy to start.

The most likely candidate is sophomore guard Herman Johnson. He will make his fourth career start, with his third-consecutive start at right guard this season.

"It's hard to be consistent when we have guys moving around on the line," Brian Johnson said. "But we are starting to come together, and we will show that this weekend. The young guys have been amazing as far as progress. [Sophomore tackle] Ciron Black has been great through Auburn and Mississippi State's front, and Herman has been solid in his starts. Those guys will be good long after I leave."

(C) 2006 The Daily Reveille via CSTV U-WIRE

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