Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans leaps past a fallen teammate as Mississippi defensive back Cody Prewitt tries to during their game on Oct. 6,. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Monday, October 15, 2012 9:36 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Les Miles knows that LSU might not get away with settling for field goals against a Texas A&M team coming off a 59-point performance.
After grinding out a high-stakes, 23-21 victory at home against previously unbeaten South Carolina last Saturday night, the sixth-ranked Tigers began preparations on Monday for a trip to College Station, Texas.
The 11 a.m. kickoff could be the start of a long day if LSU's defense isn't sharp against freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies prolific offense.
"I hope we can contain" Manziel, Miles said. "The good thing is that our defense will be one of the fastest he will have seen. Hopefully we will use a style of pressure that's most effective. At times it's going to be coverage and keeping him in the pocket, and other times, hopefully we can get to him."
The 20th-ranked Aggies have won five consecutive games since losing at home to No. 3 Florida in their season opener. In four of the five victories, Texas A&M scored at least 48 points. Last weekend, the Aggies won a 59-57 shootout against Louisiana Tech.
Manziel accounted for an SEC-record 576 yards against the Bulldogs. He ran for 181 yards and three touchdowns and completed 24 of 40 passes for 395 yards and three touchdowns. In six games, Manziel has nearly 2,400 yards of total offense.
One area in which Miles said he must see improvement is red-zone offense. LSU had four drives that reached at least the South Carolina 15 yard-line but did not produce touchdowns. Drew Alleman attempted four field goals, making three and missing one.
"We have to take care of our responsibilities" in the red zone, Miles said. "We can't turn the ball over. We have to execute well. Our guys are more understanding that we're getting down there so often and not coming away with 7s. We are normally getting 3s. That has to change."
Against the Gamecocks, the field goals were enough to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in four years and keep LSU in the hunt for a national title.
In that game, however, the Tigers rode the energy of a pumped-up home crowd in Death Valley, where they've now won a school record 22 straight.
"The memory of Tiger Stadium is always renewed when you bring in a quality opponent," Miles said. "The crowd started on the first play and our team played to that. I can't tell you how much we enjoy playing there."
Other than whipping Washington, LSU had few thoroughly impressive performances during the first half of its schedule. A loss against South Carolina would have put the Tigers in dire straits in the Southeastern Conference Western Division standings.
Instead, LSU overcame the absence of three starters on the offensive line for its best rushing performance of the season. True freshman Jeremy Hill had 124 yards, 50 of which came on a victory-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter. The right side of the line consisted of redshirt freshman Trai Turner and true freshman Vadal Alexander.
Hill "has a very quality football IQ and just a natural sense for what should be and what shouldn't be," Miles said. "He has great ball skills, and of course his size and speed combination lets you know that he was going to have that opportunity to play. The thing that you wonder about a freshman is how he will respond when the lights turn on in a game like last Saturday night. ... Jeremy responded very strong."
By edging the Gamecocks, LSU remained one game behind Alabama and Mississippi State in the SEC West standings.
After playing Texas A&M, LSU will have a week off, giving the Tigers two weeks to prepare for a highly anticipated match-up with No.1 Alabama. The Tigers also will host Mississippi State on Nov. 10.
Of course, the stakes won't be quite as high for LSU if it can't slow down the Aggies, who are in their first season of SEC play after coming over from the Big 12.
"We'll look very forward to playing Texas A&M at Kyle Field," said Miles, who had success in the Big 12 as Oklahoma State's coach before taking the LSU job. "The early morning game, I think we'll also look forward to that, get in and get it going."