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LSU's Odell Beckham tries to get away from Florida's Chris Johnson during the first half of their game on Saturday. (Associated Press)

LSU's Odell Beckham tries to get away from Florida's Chris Johnson during the first half of their game on Saturday. (Associated Press)

Miles not ready to write off passing game

Last Modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 6:49 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Les Miles isn’t ready to throw his hands up in frustration yet over the LSU passing game.

What he’d like to see is a little better hands on the receiving end of it.

The 10th-ranked Tigers (5-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference), coming off an anemic offensive performance against Florida, will probably face an even better defense when they host No. 3 South Carolina (6-0, 4-0) Saturday night.

LSU would like to rely on its power running game. But even that hasn’t been there as more and more teams stack up the line of scrimmage against a patched-up offensive front, verily daring the Tigers to throw it.

And it’s been a struggle.

LSU ranks 12th of the 14 teams in the SEC in passing, which in the fragile ecosystem for a balanced attack, surely contributed to the Tigers managing 42 yards rushing against Florida last week.

The throwing game has been worse than that. Only three SEC teams have given up more sacks than the 15 against Zach Mettenberger.

The Tigers have struggled to protect Mettenberger and the receivers seem to be hit and miss about catching what he throws.

“I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet,” Miles said of the offense in general and passing game in particular. “We need to execute at a high level.

“We’re playing some young players, but that is no excuse.”

The season-long trend continued last week, with another three or four outright drops and couple more potential catches that could have been made.

The biggest catch — Odell Beckham’s 56-yard bomb immediately after the Gators’ go-ahead touchdown — ended in disaster when he was stripped and lost a fumble trying to extend the play.

That’s kind of the way it’s gone when the Tigers put it in the air.

“There were a couple of guys who touched balls that could have brought them in,” Miles said. “It could easily have been a different game. Until that time, we’re going to keep coaching to improve them.”

There is some talent there. Beckham starred as a true freshman last season, with a knack for snatching everything that got near him. He’s had several drops.

Jarvis Landry, a special teams star last year, was the nation’s top-rated prep receiver coming out of Lutcher two years ago. Journeymen Kadron Boone and James Wright had their moments in the early games, but have all but disappeared in recent weeks.

Miles is waiting for one of them to stick out.

“It’s coaching,” Miles said. “It’s preparing and it’s allowing them to mature. I think our receiving corps is improving.”

Miles has also seen improvement in Mettenberger, who nevertheless hasn’t quite lived up the hype of being the passing-game messiah for LSU, which really hasn’t been that efficient in the air since Matt Flynn directed the 2007 national championship run.

“A lot was expected of him,” Miles said of Mettenberger. “He’s trying to give us that. I saw improvement in the last game (although) he’d like to have one pass (interception) back.

“But there are a lot of those throws that are really, really close. I think there’s a chance that if we handle field position better, catch a ball at the 20-yard line and get to play from there, that game might have been a little different.

“I like Mettenberger. I think he’s going to improve with snaps. And I think he has improved.”

The receivers, maybe not so much.

“We’re struggling,” Landry admitted. “Everybody wants to make a play. You kind of see guys doing things out of their element.

“He (Mettenberger) has given us more opportunities more frequently. He’s gotten in a rhythm. We’ve got to take advantage of our chances when Zach gets in a smooth rhythm.”

So the work continues, with Miles vowing to keep stressing holding on to the ball — during and after the catch.

“I think we’re not that far off,” Miles said. “We have to get there and it takes work. There isn’t any question there.”

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