LSU head coach Les Miles. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 9:18 PM
Maybe there’s still a little too much “Michigan Man” and Bo Schembechler disciple lingering in Les Miles’ DNA to accept what seems to be the inevitable with Texas A&M Saturday.
But the LSU coach hasn’t totally warmed up to the notion that his offense may have to be his best defense against the Aggies’ up-tempo, score-in-a-hiccup offense.
“I’m not looking forward to that type of game,” Miles admitted somewhat sheepishly. “I want the defense to stop them.”
But he acknowledges that it will be quite a challenge for an LSU defense that has struggled against far more pedestrian offenses than the one A&M will take to Tiger Stadium.
Most forecasts call for a track meet where the offenses will basically have to hold serve to keep up.
“LSU was extremely effective,” Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said Wednesday of LSU’s defense last year. “A lot of those players aren’t playing in this game Saturday.”
Even Miles swallows hard and admits it’s quite possible it could turn into one of those “games where you have to score to hold point, really.”
LSU’s offense would have been in trouble in that kind of game last year. This year it might benefit the Tigers.
Nobody has really slowed down the Aggies. LSU’s defense has struggled against good offenses, but its own offense has also been effective — and the Aggies defense has been historically bad. A&M is at or near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference rankings in virtually every defensive category.
So if the shootout materializes?
“I think we’re better equipped this year to take advantage of it,” Miles said.
The simple game plan: the longer LSU controls the ball, the less opportunity Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has for his mischief.
“I think time of possession and running the football,” LSU running back Jeremy Hill said of the key. “We can really pass if we give Zach (Mettenberger) time, but we need to establish the run and control time … and if we can keep their offense off the field as long as possible, kind of do what Alabama did to us the second half, that would be a good recipe for success.”
That certainly wasn’t the plan last year. LSU somehow handed Manziel & Co. one of their two losses, 24-19. But there was little in the Tigers’ offensive statistics to suggest that LSU won it.
Mettenberger had his coming out party the following game against Alabama. But against the Aggies, hardly a impenetrable object even then, he was 11 of 29 passing for a mere 97 yards, with two completions of 10 yards or longer.
LSU scored its three touchdowns seemingly by accident — two in the final 2 minutes of the first half, following a pair of Aggies turnovers.
The Tigers did rush for 219 yards, including 127 from Hill, whose 47-yard touchdown (on the first play of a drive with just over 3 minutes remaining in the game) put the game away at 24-12.
Otherwise, LSU punted 10 times — eight of them coming after three-and-out possessions — not exactly keeping the ball away from Manziel.
The now-dynamic duo of Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry combined for five catches for 31 yards.
That team couldn’t really afford to get in a all-out shootout.
This one probably needs to stay in character against an Aggies defense that is last in the SEC in yards allowed (454 yards per game) and 12th in points allowed (30.9). They’ve also given up the most touchdown passes in the league and are next to last in rushing defense (211 per game).
“We think we can operate our offense in such a manner that it’ll give them (A&M defense) the equal challenge,” Miles said.
But Miles said it’s not as simple as a steady diet of Hill to run the clock and keep the ball away from Manziel.
“What we’re looking to do, certainly, is maintain the ball,” he said. “But you have to get seven points, too. It’s not like you can just go get first downs. You have to score.
“I recognize the lure of running the football and keeping the ball on the ground and allowing that to slow (the game).
“That’s not going to be our plan. We’re looking to be efficient, we’re going to take shots. We’re going to play LSU football.
“We’re going to move the football and how we do it is with balance … the opportunity for the deep ball every now and then is something that’s certainly there.”