Dig Baton Rouge

LSU eager for Southern Miss challenge

The last time the LSU football team took the field, they re-wrote the school’s offensive record book in a dominant victory over Missouri.

Next up is a battle with Southern Miss – a team that struggles defensively.
That could very well mean more points and yards for the Tigers.

LSU is itching to play again under new-coach Ed Orgeron, who’s still putting his stamp on the program after taking over for outgoing coach Les Miles.

After an unexpected bye week, Orgeron said the Tigers are ready to roll.

“There was an empty feeling in our bellies (last weekend),” Orgeron said. “We wanted to compete. But we had to move forward and focus on the future, and that is Southern Miss. … We’ve identified several areas on offense, defense and special teams that we want to improve this week, and … we think our team will come back fired up, ready to go and looking forward to playing at home in Tiger Stadium.”

For LSU, the focus will be on continuing the team’s recent spat of offensive success.
Against Missouri, LSU gained more than 600 yards of offense – a school record for output in SEC games.

A lot of that output was because of quarterback Danny Etling’s efficiency and ability to loosen the defense for the Tigers’ dominant, powerful running game.

Against Missouri, Etling completed 19-of-30 passes for 216 yards. He also rushed three times for 18 yards.

In the bye week, Orgeron said a lot of the staff’s energy has been on making Etling more comfortable. The coach said a lot of the team’s new offensive changes are designed to make the game simpler for the quarterback so that he can better make plays down the field – especially on third downs.

“We made him quarterback friendly,” Orgeron said. “It’s about protection. We gave up no sacks (against Missouri). We want to make short, easy throws to Danny – some easy reads. We want to give him an opportunity to do things that he does well.”

Of course, if LSU can have even a small semblance of a passing game, the team’s running game is likely to thrive in a big, big way.

Against Missouri, LSU rushed for more than 400 yards – gashing the overmatched foe both in between the tackles and on the edges.

Orgeron confirmed this week that standout halfback Leonard Fournette is again unlikely to play as he battles complications from two sprained ankles.

But the Tigers are loaded at halfback and still feature Derrius Guice, Darrel Williams and Nick Brossette – three players who all average 6.1 yards per carry or better this season.

That average may go up against a Southern Miss defense that’s struggled mightily in 2016.
The Golden Eagles have allowed 28 or more in four of their six games.

Last week against Texas-San Antonio, Southern Miss allowed more than 500 yards, including 339 yards on the ground and 9.7 yards per carry.

Golden Eagles coach Nick Hopson said the No. 1 test his team faces is matching LSU’s physicality.

“We know we’re playing a very good football team and a very physical football team,” Hopson said. “We know we have to get better. That’s our charge this week. We have to go out and play physical football.”

Defensively, LSU is as sound as anyone in the country, having allowed a SEC-best five touchdowns in five games.

Orgeron credited first-year defensive coordinator Dave Aranda for a lot of that success, touting that the coach is one of the best in the country.

But LSU’s defense will be stiffly challenged on Saturday, because Southern Miss can move the ball.
The Golden Eagles have scored 30 or more points in every, single game this season – one of the only teams in the country to accomplish that feat.

But a key cog in that success is quarterback Nick Mullens and he may not be able to play against LSU.

The quarterback hurt his thumb last week against Texas-San Antonio, and Hopson said he’s in jeopardy of missing the game.

He Hopson can’t play, junior Parker Adamson will be the next man up.

He was 6-of-12 for 38 yards last week.

“They’re a football team that we know is a really good team,” Hopson said. “We know they’re a very talented football team and we understand that we have to play better.”

Orgeron said the same thing of his group. He said he challenged the Tigers this week to keep getting better.

“We’re going to get out there today and we’re going to take it one day at a time,” Orgeron said. “This is a new season for us. This is game two of our season and that’s what we’re looking at – staying focused.”

LSU offense vs. Southern Miss defense
ADVANTAGE: LSU
The Tigers have entirely too much talent, and should be able to make plays in both the running and passing game against an overmatched Southern Miss group. Expect LSU to move the ball at will.

LSU defense vs. Southern Miss offense
ADVANTAGE: LSU
Look, Southern Miss can play – especially offensively. But they’ve never faced a defense like LSU’s. Much like Missouri’s high-powered offense came to a halt against LSU, we expect Southern Miss to suffer the same fate – especially if their quarterback can’t play.

SPECIAL TEAMS
ADVANTAGE: LSU
The Tigers have the sheer athleticism to get past Southern Miss on special teams. We don’t expect the Golden Eages’ return game to have much success, and we’d not be surprised if the Tigers popped a return for a big play.

DIG’s PICK
LSU 44, Southern Miss 14

Photo by Sean Gasser.

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