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Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. (Associated Press)

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. (Associated Press)

Tigers look to tame Johnny Football with turnovers

Last Modified: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 11:10 AM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Actually, the common notion that LSU slowed down the fast-paced Texas A&M offense last year is a little misleading.

True, the Tigers won 24-19, and were one of only two teams that held the Aggies and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel to under 29 points. And the 17 points Florida held them to was in the season opener before anybody, even A&M, knew who Johnny Football was and what they had in him.

Maybe it’s relative when talking about an offense that hardly slows down and usually scores in bunches, but the Aggies last year against LSU did ring up 410 yards of offense and most of the Tiger defenders who “slowed down” Manziel admitted afterwards that they were sick and tired of chasing him all over Kyle Field. Oxygen was the postgame drink of choice.

But upon further review, the biggest factor in that game — maybe the real key to “stopping” the Aggies — was that LSU forced five turnovers in the game, two Manziel interceptions and three lost fumbles.

There usually are takeaway opportunities for a defense against that style of offense. Part of Manziel’s cocksure charm is that he isn’t afraid of throw it up in a crowd and hope for a miracle.

The Aggies’ 18 turnovers thus far this season — 11 interceptions, 7 lost fumbles —  are the second most in the SEC.

But can LSU take advantage?

Last year’s veteran Tiger defense eventually led the SEC with 33 takeaways. This year’s re-tooled defense has struggled in several areas, but none more than forcing only 12 turnovers. That’s on pace for 16 for the season, or less than half last season’s total. At the moment, only three SEC teams have fewer.

The Aggies, for instance, though statistically the worst defense in the SEC, have managed to get 20 takeaways already this year.

“We talk about it, and I think we’re focused on it.” Miles said of the glaring lack of thievery with a defense that, for all its woes, actually ranks fourth in SEC in giving up 354 yards per game.

But it’s often had trouble getting off the field, in part because the Tigers have only six interceptions and another half dozen fumble recoveries.

“I think young players don’t necessarily recognize the times they have the opportunity to strip or put their helmet on the ball and/or play the ball at the highest point and bring it down,” Miles said. “And I think that certain guys have that penchant and certain guys don’t.”

“I think that our guys will kind of pick that up as they go.  Again, I think you see some of our veterans, they kind of understand it, but some of those young guys are still kind of figuring it out.”

This would be a good week for an epiphany.

“Certainly it’s a great challenge,” Miles said of the Aggie offense that was such a shock to the SEC system last season in its inaugural ride through the conference. “I mean, they’re a better football team offensively.

A&M is about to lap the SEC field in most offensive statistics, leading by a wide margin with 49.2 points and 578 yards per game. Last year’s totals were 44.5 points and 558 yards.

It’s basically the same system, although Manziel has tended to stay in the pocket more than during his herky-jerky debut a year ago.

LSU’s defense is vastly different.

Miles said the key last year was “you have to be smart enough to make adjustments so that you (take) advantage (of) your athletes.”

Last year LSU held A&M to just seven points in the second half after easing up and concentrating on containing Manziel more than pressuring the elusive waterbug.

“We’re going to do similar things (but) we’re not going to necessarily do what we did a year ago,” Miles said. “But I think some of the principles will be the same.

“It’ll be a great match up.  I think our defense is really looking forward to it.  These Tigers look forward to a challenge, and this is really going to be one.  I think our guys will play well.  I think we have a nice scheme in a variety of ways to pressure him, disguise some coverage, get in the backfield, move him when we can.”

Posted By: Tadd Martin On: 11/19/2013

Title: Another factor...

in the loss. A&M had one missed field goal & 2 missed PAT. A&M's FG & PAT kicking game was pure gamble all last season. New kicker this year has made a difference.

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