BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) LSU cornerback Tre’davious White sees evidence that the Tigers’ defense can maintain its recent suffocating form when it opens Southeastern Conference play next Saturday.
The eighth-ranked Tigers haven’t allowed a point for nearly 10 quarters, posting consecutive shutouts for the first time in nearly three decades.
”Every week we get better,” White said after LSU’s 31-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday night. ”Guys are getting more comfortable and I feel like with the way that we prepare … we’ll perform well next week, too.”
The next test comes against Mississippi State, led by quarterback Dak Prescott, who scored touchdowns rushing, passing and even receiving in a 35-3 rout of South Alabama on Saturday. Prescott accounted for a total of 364 yards of offense in the game.
While the Tigers’ previous two opponents – Sam Houston State and ULM – do not field quarterbacks as dynamic or accomplished as Prescott, shutting down those two offenses wasn’t easy.
Sam Houston is in the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision, but considered one of the better offensive teams at that level, averaging more than 414 yards and 35 points per game. The Warhawks of the Sun Belt Conference had piled up 534 total yards in a 38-31 victory over Idaho the week before they traveled to Death Valley.
Against LSU, ULM could not even manage 100 yards and finished with only six first downs. LSU also forced and recovered a fumble.
Linebacker Deion Jones said the Tigers’ success on defense comes from mental preparation and good communication.
”We have improved basically on lining up correctly and putting ourselves in the right spot before the play,” Jones said. ”That is very important, especially against hurry-up offenses.”
And then there’s the talent, depth and experience in the secondary, which has several defensive backs – such as White, Jalen Collins and Rashard Robinson – who’ve looked comfortable in man-to-man coverage. That has allowed defensive coordinator John Chavis to call an array of safety and cornerback blitzes.
”Guys not being afraid of competition, going out there on an island and being able to hold a good wide receiver man-to-man – that opens up a lot for a defense,” linebacker D.J. Welter said. ”I feel like our defensive backs are a big plus on our defense.”
Added White, ”The coaches have trust in us to win one-on-one battles on the outside. … It allows coach Chavis to do a lot more stuff, to get home on blitzes.”
While the defensive backfield was expected to be a strength, less was known about how the interior defensive line would shape up. There, the Tigers have gotten a boost from 6-foot-4, 298-pound freshman Davon Godchaux, who has played in all three games and has been in on seven total tackles, including one for a loss.
”It is amazing how quickly he is taking to the calls and doing well what we are expecting of him,” coach Les Miles said. ”He is so physical up front. … We are enjoying him tremendously.”
As much as LSU’s defense has dominated its previous two opponents, Miles said the unit’s best stretch of play came in the second half of the season opener against Wisconsin. The Badgers led 24-7 after scoring with 12:24 left in the third quarter, leaving LSU’s defense little margin for error if the Tigers were to come back.
Wisconsin did not score the rest of the way and LSU won 28-24. On Saturday night, Miles seemed to take no small measure of satisfaction in mentioning that the Tigers have scored 108 points since the last time they gave up any.
After a run like that, confidence won’t be a problem, regardless of who the next opponent is.
”I just feel like if we play together and just communicate, we can do it each and every week because of the guys that we have on this defense, all the talent that we have and the great coaches that we have to come up with a great game plan,” White said. `”It’s just up to us to go out and execute.”