No. 6 LSU coach Miles encouraged by passing game progress
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) No. 6 LSU and eighth-ranked Florida both will likely have a Harris behind center when the unbeaten Southeastern Conference teams clash at Tiger Stadium on Saturday.
While there will be questions about how well Gators backup Treon Harris will fill in for suspended starter Will Grier, LSU coach Les Miles is starting to get some answers about how competent his passing attack can be with first-year starter Brandon Harris.
Because South Carolina was able to contain star running back Leonard Fournette for much of last Saturday’s game, LSU needed more production Harris – and got it. He completed a career-high 18 passes on 28 attempts for a career-best 228 yards and two touchdowns. The passing game was the reason LSU took a 17-10 lead into halftime.
”If teams stack up on Fournette, the opportunity to score in the air will be there,” Miles said. ”If there are a lot of guys in the box, there will be the opportunity to make the throw. Brandon is beginning to understand the position. Quarterback is all about control. It is a much more cerebral position.”
Fournette finished with 158 rushing yards, but that was a season low for him and more than half came on an 87-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Outside of that carry, Fournette picked up just 71 yards on 19 attempts.
The Tigers actually had more passing yards (135) than rushing yards (103) in the first two quarters against South Carolina. Harris was a perfect 5-of-5 for 93 yards in the second half when LSU wore down the Gamecocks defense with its deep running back corps.
”We knew the whole week with the coverage South Carolina was playing we were going to have to be sharp,” Harris said. ”They’ve got a four-man rush, so you’ve got to hold the back and just let those windows open up.
”That game didn’t do anything for my confidence. These coaches have a lot of confidence in me. We haven’t trailed until this game, so there hasn’t been really a need to throw the ball. We don’t need to say we need to pass the ball more. We’ve done everything we had to do and we’re 5-0.”
LSU’s offense looks like it could be exceedingly hard to stop if its passing game performs well. Fournette has cracked the 1,000-yard rushing mark in just five games. Freshman backup Derrius Guice led the Tigers with 161 yards rushing against South Carolina.
”The performance we had Saturday against an SEC team is going to open some eyes,” said wide receiver Malachi Dupre, who caught a career-best six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. ”They will realize we can be balanced. Opponents do respect our passing game because they know the capabilities of Brandon and our receiving group.”
LSU entered its game against South Carolina averaging an SEC-worst 95.5 yards passing per game, and the Tigers’ numbers through the air against the Gamecocks stood in stark contrast to their totals a week earlier in a victory over Eastern Michigan, when Harris finished 4-of-15 for 80 yards, in part because of several drops by receivers.
”Just because we had a good performance (against South Carolina), we can’t let it sit in our heads,” Dupre said. ”That’s just like how we couldn’t let a performance like (the previous week), which wasn’t a good one, sit in our heads. We have to keep improving.”
Meanwhile, Miles downplayed the Gators’ change at quarterback, which was confirmed Monday when Florida officials announced that Grier failed a drug test. Grier has said the test results stemmed from his use of an over-the-counter supplement.
”I assume they will still have a very capable guy,” Miles said. ”I would expect that their core plays will be the same. That will not change. We will prepare in the same way. They will just have a different quarterback doing things now.”
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org