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LSU linebacker Duke Riley and linebacker Lamar Louis, No. 23, celebrate after denying a return on a punt by Florida in the first half Saturday in Baton Rouge. (Associated Press)<br>

LSU linebacker Duke Riley and linebacker Lamar Louis, No. 23, celebrate after denying a return on a punt by Florida in the first half Saturday in Baton Rouge. (Associated Press)

Hobbs Column: LSU can, in fact, play some defense

Last Modified: Saturday, October 12, 2013 9:44 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

BATON ROUGE — And now we take you back, however briefly, to a simpler day and age of Southeastern Conference football.

Hold off on LSU’s invitations to join the frilly Pac or Big 12s just yet. The Tigers apparently junked that audition.

Wake up the kids. LSU can, in fact, play some defense.

The Tigers don’t absolutely have to get into a full-blown track meet anymore for any hope of survival.

Witness LSU 17, Florida 6. Old school to the core.

It turns out LSU can play bare-knuckle football, too, the down and dirty kind.

About the only concession the Tigers made Saturday to this new-age stuff was to attach face masks to their helmets.

LSU toyed with the no-huddle, but it looked way out of place — awkward, almost — and the Tigers quickly junked it for student body left, right and wherever, all the while keeping the threat of that dangerous passing game in the Gators’ heads.

It’s not an LSU game without some Mad Hatter trickery, but after a telegraphed attempt at a double pass, the Tigers settled into pounding Jeremy Hill at the Gators and daring them to stop him.

They never did.

When Florida had the audacity to convert a late fake punt, it ticked off the LSU defense so badly they took it out on the Gators and pushed them backward so far and fast that Florida’s decisive set of downs, which began at the LSU 20, ended up at midfield, turned over on downs to a mass swarming of defenders all over quarterback Tyler Murphy.

The Tigers still look like they can throw it all over the lot, but they will never stray too far from the power running game.

Saturday’s game it certainly came in handy. You do what you have to do.

Zach Mettenberger wasn’t bad at quarterback and Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham certainly had their usual gazelle-like contributions. It’s always best to keep an eye on them.

Thanks for playing, guys.

But, enjoy the view, the big grunts were going to handle this one. Hope you didn’t mind playing decoy, if only for one game.

This was a game with only two touchdowns, one of them scored by a 270-pound fullback and the other on a quarterback sneak.

Honk if you had J.C. Copeland and Anthony Jennings in the touchdown pool.

Grunt loudly if you thought LSU’s defense could be trusted with only 17 points to play with.

Maybe on defense they do grow up eventually and act like true Tigers.

While everybody was still wringing hands, the Tigers have suddenly spent their last six quarters allowing only three field goals and no touchdowns.

It helps that they can tackle again, and not a moment too soon.

The Tigers defense, often accused of coddling and abetting opposing quarterbacks this year, almost beat Murphy to an orange pulp. They sacked him four times and he’ll feel a lot more of the bruises from the Gators’ foolish attempts at forward passes.

Granted, Florida isn’t exactly a sleek offensive machine, and the Gators didn’t seem to trust a novice quarterback to try to exploit the kind of big plays the Tigers have given up in big gulps most of this season.

But LSU’s previously soft defense must have been offended. They looked like Tigers again.

Florida can play some defense, too — the best in the SEC coming in.

LSU could have gotten fancier on offense, perhaps, might even had put some more distance in the final score.

But all it might have done was give a tough Florida team, one that seemed intent on hanging around, the one big break they needed to get back in the game, maybe even steal it.

“The key was controlling the game,” Miles said, and LSU certainly did that.

And, by the way, don’t suggest that Miles and the Tigers have ever played “the nail” to anybody’s “hammer.”

Apparently it has stuck in his craw ever since last year’s Florida game, a similarly brutal affair in which the Gators prevailed 14-6 with a self-professed “hit-them-in-the-mouth” game plan to stop the Tigers.

Who knew LSU could play that kind of game — and win — this season?

You knew when the first naughty words slipped out that Miles was happily feisty Saturday’s in his own good-natured way.

Miles is adjusting to letting coordinator Cam Cameron discover new bells and whistles to the LSU offense.

But their old coach, Bo Schembechler at Michigan, would have approved of this one.

Miles liked this kind of game and he had his first true YouTube moment of the season to prove it.

It came when he was asked if it was more fun being that proverbial hammer while nailing Florida instead of when the roles were reversed last year.

The suggestion had Miles biting nails.

“How anybody could ever say hammer and nail,” Miles shouted back good-naturedly. “I can tell you right now, here is what happens: two very quality teams take the field and compete like a (SOB) for victory. And you know what? It is not a hammer-and-a-nail relationship. It’s an opportunity for an opponent to be equal and to raise their level of play in such a fashion that they win.

“You respect the opponent and he is not the hammer and he is not the freakin’ nail. He’s the opponent. You understand?

“And I am just letting you know I resent that. I resent the fact that suddenly we were nailed. You got it? I mean, honest to peace ... I mean, I’m just letting you know, I felt differently than the nail. So you know.”

I have no idea what all that means literally.

But I think it means, if only briefly, not only was the old LSU defense back, so was the old, familiar Les.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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