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LSU Team Report
It's a simple fact: LSU's game at Tulane on Sept. 29 is the kind of game the second-ranked Tigers are expected to win. That's what great teams do to mediocre teams, even on the road.
Great teams also learn to focus on the task at hand and make the most of every opportunity instead of looking past an opponent to the next week. So far the Tigers have done that. Now they need to prove they can do it again this week as they try to avoid the temptation to start thinking about next week's home game against No. 3 Florida.
"If you look at a long view, this week is awfully important," LSU coach Les Miles said.
For one thing, the Tigers (4-0, 2-0 SEC) need to forget about what they've done in the first four weeks of the season.
"The preparation and the letting go of how you did last week, and the enjoyment for preparing and the enjoyment for what you're about to do and how you're going to become a part of this team is something that every young guy on our team has to understand and look forward, not behind them," Miles said.
The Tigers have plenty of work to do. The defense is ranked first in the nation in all four major categories but South Carolina did drive down the field for a 7-0 lead last week. The offense is learning how to make use of its multiple weapons but starting quarterback Matt Flynn is less than 100 percent because of a tender ankle and the Tigers are still looking for dependable go-to receivers in the absence of injured senior Early Doucet.
For all of its talent and depth, LSU is fortunate to have solid, experienced leaders among their upperclassmen. Seniors such as defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and running back Jacob Hester know how to lead by word and example and have to use both methods to show the younger players how to prepare and play this week.
"We know we're rated as one of the top teams in the country," sophomore running back Keiland Williams told the Baton Rouge Advocate, "and in order to accomplish something we want to accomplish, which is a national championship, you kind of have to have a short memory. You have to forget things and move on.
"You learn, and you catch on from the guys around you. A lot of our guys came from high school powerhouses, and that was something that you had to learn in high school also, so it carried on to the next level. Seeing the veterans here do it, it sort of feeds down to everyone on the team. "
--WR Early Doucet began the season as LSU's top target. The Tigers lost Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis to the first round of the NFL draft, and Doucet entered the season as LSU's go-to receiver. Through two games, he had 15 receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns and the constant attention he got from Virginia Tech's defense allowed receiver Brandon LaFell to have the best game of his career. Now he's out with a reported groin injury and the Tigers are looking for a go-to receiver to step up in his absence.
--LSU coaches have taken a lot of criticism over the past two seasons over their use of a punt protection formation often referred to by detractors as Punt Ugly. The critics gained more evidence last week when South Carolina blocked an LSU punt. The Tigers also need to do a better job on punt returns, an area that hasn't been the same since they lost Doucet on returns. "We really just have to get some better return yardage there," coach Les Miles said.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: For an offense without one particular go-to player at tailback, LSU is doing an effective job running the ball, entering their fifth game of the season ranked ninth in the nation with 245.75 rushing yards per game. Now the Tigers need to do a better job in the passing game as they continue to adapt to life without Doucet, who may miss another 2-3 weeks. Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux both appear to be capable passers but the Tigers are looking for more consistency among the receivers.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: It's hard to find a weakness in a defense that leads the nation in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and pass-efficiency defense, allowing 5.75 points, 161.5 total yards, 26.75 rushing yards and 134.8 passing yards per game. The Tigers are at their best but if there is a potential concern, it's the indefinite loss of DT Charles Alexander to a knee injury. Alexander started the first three games this season and, even though the Tigers remain strong in the middle with a rotation of Dorsey, junior Marlon Favorite and sophomore Al Woods, they could use one more player for that rotation.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our football team needs to improve. There are a lot of places where we need to improve. Our kickoff returns and punt returns must improve. The focus is on us getting better. We are a talented football team with improvement to make." -- LSU coach Les Miles.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Matt Flynn -- Between the rain and his tender ankle, Flynn didn't seem to be as quick and sharp as he had been earlier in the season. He completed only eight of 19 passes for 70 yards with one touchdown and one interception and lacked the burst he showed in the first two games before sustaining a sprained ankle.
RB Jacob Hester -- The Tigers possess depth, talent and versatility at tailback but Hester remains the most solid, dependable option at this point. That's important for a team still looking for a go-to receiver with injured senior Early Doucet out of the lineup.
WRs Brandon LaFell, Jared Mitchell, Terrance Toliver and Demetrius Byrd -- With Early Doucet out, the Tigers need two or three of these receivers to step up and become reliable players.
ROSTER REPORT: So far, LSU coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton have been able to work with both quarterbacks and it appears they will continue to use both senior Matt Flynn and sophomore Ryan Perrilloux throughout the rest of the season. Some of that has to do with Flynn's ankle but most of it is because Perrilloux brings a dual threat as a passer and runner and needs to prepare for the future. "Matt Flynn is our starter, period," Miles said. "I'd say Flynn's really sore, but really no worse for wear -- just kind of managing the ankle. I think he'll be better on the back end of this week, certainly, than he was for the game."
Miles said leading receiver Doucet (groin) is improving but said Doucet is more likely to sit out the Tulane game and return for next week's home game against Florida.
Starting center Brett Helms sustained an elbow injury Sept. 22 but is expected back. Miles isn't as confident about senior left guard Will Arnold, who is trying to bounce back from a viral infection. "And it's really messing with him," Miles said. "It needs to settle down so we can start looking to count on him again."
With DT Charles Alexander suffering a knee injury during practice on Sept. 19, he will miss an indefinite period of time. Since Alexander started the first three games this season and Ricky Jean-Francois is out for the season due to academic issues, the Tigers are working with a new rotation at tackle. Junior Marlon Favorite moved into the starting lineup last week alongside Dorsey while sophomore Al Woods became the primary backup in a three-man rotation. However, defensive coordinator Bo Pellini said he will consider pulling the redshirt off true freshman Drake Nevis if he can get Nevis ready to play soon.
Previous Report: 09/24/2007