LSU Team Report
By The Sports Xchange
With No. 2 LSU scheduled to play Middle Tennessee one game after the Tigers dominated No. 9 Virginia Tech for a 48-7 victory, the potential for distractions might be the biggest opponent.
First, there's LSU gaining on No. 1 USC in the national polls, with seven new first-place votes in the coaches poll and 20 new first-place votes in the AP rankings.
Second, there's a lot of talk about LSU coach Les Miles being interested in the Michigan job if Michigan parts ways with embattled coach Lloyd Carr. With Miles being a former Michigan player and assistant, the connection is obvious.
Finally, there's the temptation to let up after the Virginia Tech win. With all the talk of a national championship, polls and Michigan, it's easy to ignore Middle Tennessee.
It's the job of the coaches, starting with Miles, to bring this team back down to earth and keep the Tigers grounded.
"The (Virginia Tech) film was as I expected," Miles said. "I felt like there were some really strong performances. I think the coaches did a magnificent job in game plan. I think they knew, really, how to attack them -- offense, defense and special teams.
"There's still a lot of improvement that's needed, whether you can see it or not in the stands. There are some things we really need to accomplish. We still need to make some improvement in the blocking, and that'd be offensive line, backfield, wide receivers -- so that's everybody. If we do that on the offensive side, we'll be much better."
That leaves no room for talk of championships, polls and other jobs.
"It's the improvement I want to talk about, and the course, staying the course," Miles said. "I think if we do those things this could be a really fun season."
--Most NFL draft analysts insist DT Glenn Dorsey would have been a top-15 pick in the 2007 draft, but Dorsey wasn't satisfied with his junior season and decided to return for a shot at national awards and one of the top five spots in the 2008 draft. As the key player in the middle of one of the nation's top returning defenses, Dorsey's performance will go a long way toward determining LSU's success this season. Through two games, he has recorded 11 tackles, 10 solo stops, two tackles for loss and a sack, despite almost constant double teams.
--With LSU losing Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis to the first round of the NFL draft, WR Early Doucet steps up as LSU's go-to receiver. Through two games, he has 15 receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns. The constant attention he got from Virginia Tech's defense allowed receiver Brandon LaFell to have the best game of his career.
--LSU lost two four-year starters at the safety spots, including NFL first-round draft choice LaRon Landry, but their replacements, strong safety Craig Steltz and free safety Carl Taylor, are off to strong starts in their new roles. Steltz has seven tackles, two for loss, a sack, four interceptions and five pass breakups in two games, while Taylor has six tackles, one for loss, a sack, an interception and a pass breakup.
--The last thing LSU coach Les Miles wants to talk about these days is the tenuous status of Michigan coach Lloyd Carr. Miles played and coached at Michigan, so it's only natural that his name is already coming up as a replacement if something happens to Carr. "I can only tell you honestly that I'm not going to give any thought to it," Miles said. "I'm not going to worry about it. I've received no calls, because I've put the word out: Leave me alone."
--With 24 points on its first five possessions against Virginia Tech, LSU now has outscored its opponents 157-7 in the first quarter in the 15 home games under Miles and has outscored its opponents 113-7 over the past 10 quarters.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: LSU got off to a good start against Virginia Tech by driving 87 and 85 yards for touchdowns on its first two possessions. LSU eventually rolled up 598 yards of total offense, including 297 rushing yards on 41 carries. QB Matt Flynn played well in the second game as the new starter, WR Brandon LaFell stepped up when Tech tried to stop leading receiver Early Doucet and the Tigers made good use of their depth at running back. Despite that success, the Tigers are convinced they haven't shown all they can do in first-year offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's playbook. "We really haven't used all our weapons yet," Doucet said. "We have a lot more in store for the season. We're going to bring some more horses out of the stable."
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: A relentless LSU defense held Virginia Tech to 149 total yards, 11 first downs and 2.6 yards per play. Through two games, LSU has allowed seven points, forced eight turnovers and recorded seven sacks. The defense was already strong up front with DT Glenn Dorsey and DE Tyson Jackson, but DE Kirston Pittman stepped up with a big game against Tech. The new starters at the safety spots, Craig Steltz and Curtis Taylor, continue to play well. The key now is continuing to develop depth to keep starters fresh and replace any injured players along the way.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm just saying that I'm about taking care of this football team. This is a very important football team to me, and so I want to make sure I'm going to do everything I can to prepare them. Period. ... I really don't want to talk about it. I don't like that talk. I'm more focused on this team and what we're doing here, and that's it." -- LSU coach Les Miles, deflecting speculation on his possible interest in the Michigan coaching job.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Middle Tennessee at LSU, Sept. 15 -- Winning isn't the issue for the Tigers in this game. With outstanding performances in the first two games and a lot of ground left to cover, the Tigers must continue to take advantage of every opportunity to improve.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Matt Flynn -- Flynn isn't going to remind anyone of JaMarcus Russell, last year's starter and the top pick in the NFL draft. Russell is bigger, stronger and has a cannon for his arm but Flynn is playing up to his own advantages, including his mobility. His style of play might actually be a better fit for offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's offense. It certainly fit against Virginia Tech when Flynn completed 17 of 27 passes for 217 yards (all career highs) and ran for a seven-yard touchdown.
WR Brandon LaFell -- Defenses will continue to focus their coverage on senior WR Early Doucet, just as Virginia Tech did, so the Tigers will need other receivers to step up. Against Virginia Tech, it was LaFell who came through with the best game of his career, catching seven passes for 125 yards -- both career highs -- and turning a quick slant pass into a 56-yard reception in the first quarter.
DE Kirston Pittman -- LSU returned three starters on the defensive line, led by DT Glenn Dorsey and DE Tyson Jackson, but also entered the season with an opening at right end. Pittman took a big step toward filling that opening with his performance against Virginia Tech, earning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors by recording a career-high eight total tackles and a quarterback pressure.
ROSTER REPORT: Flynn limped during the second half after a first-half hit on his ankle. "I can tell you he could've finished the game if it was a game we needed him to play in," LSU coach Les Miles said. Flynn sat out Sept. 10's practice and returned to the practice field the next day. His status for the Middle Tennessee game is uncertain. "We're looking at him, but I think he can play," Miles said. "We'll see how it goes. I think he could play."
If Flynn needs to sit out or take a limited role this week, the good news is that backup Ryan Perrilloux saw his most extensive playing time in the Virginia Tech game and threw two touchdown passes. "He played every quarter," Miles said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see him play in a mixed bag of things throughout (the season)."
With so much talent at running back, LSU appears to be making the most of the situation. Senior starter Jacob Hester remains LSU's most dependable back and rushed for a career-high 81 yards against Virginia Tech while Williams proved to be the Tigers' most explosive back in the game with touchdown runs of 67 and 32 yards. Trindon Holliday and Charles Scott averaged 8.0 and 6.0 yards per carry. "I think the mix of tailbacks and the mix of styles benefited us," Miles said.
LSU Team Report
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