LSU safety Ronald Martin breaks up a pass intended for Georgia wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 02, 2013 10:10 PMIf nothing else, Georgia’s 44-41 shootout victory over LSU last Saturday forced the Tigers into the traditional first step to recovery.
The Tigers admitted they had a problem. On defense.
It was hard to look the other way anymore. None of the old excuses applied.
It could no longer be blamed on a lull after jumping to a big lead. The Bulldogs pounded and strafed their way down the field virtually from start to finish.
The one cheap touchdown the Bulldogs got following a turnover (Odell Beckham’s muffed punt) might have been a game- and momentum-changer, but it seemed like a drop in the bucket in the overall carnage.
Give all the well-deserved credit you want to the Georgia offense — and, yes, everybody in the Southeastern Conference seems to be scoring in bunches these days — but never in their long history had the Tigers scored 41 points in a 60-minute game and still lost.
“We’ve got to play better,” LSU head coach Les Miles said of his defense. “We’ve got to get them ready. When you’re tested by your best opponents that’s where you find out more.”
What they learned was fairly sobering for a traditionally defensive-tough team like the Tigers — 494 total yards by the Bulldogs, four touchdown passes by Aaron Murray, only one three-and-out (negated by the turnover).
The Tigers’ well-toasted secondary, often looking confused as they were abused, took most of the blame, but they had virtually no pass rush to help them, and it wasn’t like the linebacking corps shined either.
“We’re in this thing together,” Miles said. “Coaches and players. Coaches are not without fault. Certainly, I’ll take my share, and we’ll be better.”
Miles discussed several key points of concern:
• Trying to do too much.
• Breakdowns in communication, particularly in the secondary.
• Young players trying to replace eight defensive starters gone from a year ago.
• Using more players.
• Generating more of a pass rush.
Bottom line: “I think we’ve got the right guys,” Miles said. “I don’t think there’s any reason to put guys to the side. But we’ve got to get better. I think we’ll all kind of reach in and get that done this week.
“If I could pinpoint anything, I think we had guys trying to do too much.”
Miles, used the game’s first play as an example. He never mentions names in his critiques, but presumably he meant defensive end Danielle Hunter who got caught inside while going for a kill shot tackle behind the line instead of keeping containment on tailback Todd Gurley, who bounced outside into Hunter’s vacated area for an 8-yard gain.
“Should have contained,” Miles said. “Instead of just doing the things we’ve asked him to do, he’s going to try an exceptional play.
“That’s certainly for our coaches to address and get prepared. Just do the things we ask you to do. You’ll be great. Not just good, you’ll be a great defense.”
The overriding defensive snapshot of the game, however, was the look of confusion by defensive backs, apparently often out of position for most of Murray’s 23 completions.
“I can just tell you there was a signaling (of defensive calls) issue and a player-to-player communication that there was difficulty in,” Miles said. “There was at least one player-sideline difficulty.
“We can’t have blown coverage. No matter what — whether it’s player-to-player, whether it was player-coach. Those are the fastest ways to get you beat. Our attention as coaches is certainly there.”
Miles wouldn’t blame it on youth.
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he said of younger players taking their turns.
“We have good players. We like our players. Our coaches are in with our players. We’re not going to get other guys. We’re going to coach the ones we’ve got.”
Maybe even more of them.
“One of the things we’re going to want to do is get some fresh bodies out there with the veterans,” Miles said. “If we can get some young guys ready to take more snaps … the veterans get to play a little fresher. We’re looking for those guys that can come in and give up five-snap breaks. That will make the whole defense a little fresher.”’
LSU, which has seven sacks in five games — none against Georgia — has been reluctant to blitz this season, which would expose an inexperienced secondary from having to match up in man-to-man coverage.
But Miles hinted that may no longer be the case. And it might cut down on some of the confusion in the secondary, particularly one where Miles says athleticism is not an issue.
“We’re probably as comfortable with man-to-man coverage with our young guys as we are (with) zone coverage, to be honest,” Miles said. “In many instances, a very capable cover guys breathes a sigh of relief if he just sits on a guy and takes him man to man.”