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LSU Team Report
While the LSU football team probably isn't teetering on the edge of insanity, there's no doubt the ninth-ranked Tigers need to learn some valuable lessons from their past experiences as they prepare for Saturday's game at fifth-ranked Florida.
As a team, the Tigers have a lot to learn from their 7-3 loss at No. 2 Auburn on Sept. 16. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell passed for 269 yards at Auburn and the Tigers still failed to get in the end zone.
"We got a loss, so you've got to understand what we need to do," receiver Dwayne Bowe told the Baton Rouge Advocate. "You hate to lose, but maybe Auburn showed us what we have to do in the passing game."
The Auburn game also taught LSU something about what it needs to do in the running game. LSU's 267.4 passing yards per game is third in the SEC, but the Tigers ran for only 42 yards against Auburn and continue to struggle to run the ball consistently.
"We're going to do the same things we've always done," LSU coach Les Miles said. "We learned from Auburn we have to run better. We're running more effectively in short yardage and goal-line situations."
At the same time, Miles said, "They have to honor the run or they'll gang up on the pass. Right now they're certainly honoring the pass. That should give us some opportunities to run the football better."
While Russell passed for a career-high 330 yards last week against Mississippi State and enters the Florida game as the nation's second-highest-rated quarterback, he has his own lessons to learn.
The last time he played at Florida, on Oct. 9, 2004, he threw two interceptions deep in LSU territory in the first quarter, leading to a quick 14-0 lead for Florida. Russell spent the rest of the game on the bench while senior quarterback Marcus Randall rallied LSU to a 24-21 victory.
Two years later, Russell is eager to prove himself to the Gators.
"It's going to be a good one, and I can promise you I'm a whole different person than I was back then," Russell said. "It's going to be a lot different, and I'm really looking forward to it. You can tell I've matured a lot as far as game experience and as a person. I look back on that game to better myself."
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Auburn has been the only team to push LSU and still scored only seven points against an LSU defense that leads Division I-A in total defense, allowing 193.4 yards per game, and pass efficiency defense. The Tigers also rank No. 2 in scoring defense, allowing 7.4 points per game. It helps to be No. 5 nationally in both sacks (3.8 per game) and interceptions (nine).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We know it's crucial to get a win if we're going to have any chance of staying in the national title hunt. We know what's at stake. We know that we've got to get our jobs done and stay with one loss so we can have hope at the national title." -- LSU RB Jacob Hester
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB JaMarcus Russell -- Mississippi State decided to stop the run and dare Russell to win last week's game with the pass. Russell responded by completing 18 of 20 passes for a career-best 330 yards and three touchdowns. Russell, the SEC offensive player of the week, now ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency, having completed 70.4 percent of his passes for 249.2 yards per game with 10 TDs and only one INT.
WR Craig Davis -- LSU is loaded with talent at receiver, but Davis leads the way with 25 receptions (tied for fourth in the SEC) and 78.8 yards per game (seventh in the SEC).
DB Craig Steltz -- Steltz is tied for the SEC lead after making interceptions in four consecutive games.
DE Chase Pittman -- LSU's defensive line continues to make plays. Last week it was Pittman who stood out with five tackles and two sacks for minus-8 yards.
ROSTER REPORT: The Tigers may be playing at Florida without their most reliable offensive lineman, starting left guard Will Arnold. "I'm not confident we'll have him," coach Les Miles said. "He's got a pretty significant ankle (injury)."
If Arnold is unable to play, Miles said sophomore Herman Johnson most likely will start at left guard. Johnson started last week at right guard in place of Brian Johnson, but Brian Johnson is expected to return this week after missing two games with a toe injury.
The Tigers also hope to have senior TE Keith Zinger back in the lineup after he missed most of the past three games with a stomach problem. Even if Zinger is limited to some extent, he's still LSU's best blocking tight end and should help a running game averaging 75 yards per game and 2.4 yards a carry in two SEC games this season.
Previous Report: 10/04/2006