No. 9 LSU welcomes quick shot at redemption

Zach Mettenberger insists LSU’s offense is not as bad as it

looks.

”We’re close. We’re very close,” Mettenberger said after

practice Monday evening. ”We just got to get it to where all 11

guys on offense are doing the right things at the right time.”

LSU (5-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) was unable to score a

single touchdown in a 14-6 loss at No. 4 Florida last weekend, but

Mettenberger said eliminating minor, correctable errors could

drastically enhance the ninth-ranked Tigers’ offensive output when

No. 3 South Carolina (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) visits

Death Valley this Saturday night.

”There are a lot of different things that factor into it that

fans and the media don’t really see but I can assure you that all

of our mistakes are correctable,” he said. ”We’ve just got to

take care of business and get them corrected.”

If the Tigers’ fail to do as their quarterback prescribes, their

hopes of playing for a national title in Miami could virtually

vanish. A victory, however, would provide almost immediate

redemption and inject the Tigers right back into the BCS

discussion.

”It’s a perfect situation,” safety Eric Reid said. ”We had a

tough loss, but at the same time, we can have a big win this

Saturday.”

Reid and the rest of LSU’s defense remains confident after

shutting out the Gators in the first half and forcing two turnovers

on fumbles before Florida broke through for a pair of second-half

touchdowns. By then end of the game, LSU’s defense had played an

exhausting 70 snaps and had been on the field for nearly two-thirds

of the game (37:24).

”We did have a couple miscues but I feel like we improved a

lot,” said LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, the SEC defensive player

of the week after making 20 tackles (one short of a school record),

registering two sacks and forcing a fumble. ”This was probably our

best game that we played, I feel like, especially with the

competition we were going against. Florida has a ridiculous amount

of talent.”

LSU coach Les Miles called his defense’s performance

”tremendous,” and said both side of the ball are playing with

plenty of effort.

Still, he acknowledged the anemic state of the offense threatens

to undermine LSU’s season if its execution does not improve.

”We have to play smarter,” Miles said. ”We have to run it and

throw it better.”

LSU has averaged nearly 200 yards on the ground this season,

though much of that has come against overmatched opponents. The

Tigers managed only 42 yards rushing against the Gators, and the

passing game did little to offset the Tigers’ struggles on the

ground. Mettenberger completed fewer than half his passes for 158

yards, was intercepted once on an overthrow of an open receiver and

was sacked four times.

”All of us are making our mistakes at inopportune times,”

Mettenberger said. ”It’s a learning process.”

That process has been slowed somewhat by injuries, particularly

to the Tigers’ top offensive lineman, left tackle Chris Faulk. That

has forced some shuffling up front, but Miles said LSU has

recruited well and has the talent to fill the voids. The key is how

quickly the new starters learn from their mistakes.

”We enjoy the fact that there are some young guys being trained

and playing key football early in this season so that we can be the

best later in the season,” Miles said.

Mettenberger and quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe have

discussed ways to deal with the pass rush while the reformed

offensive line jells, and they decided the shotgun formation was

not the answer. Mettenberger said taking the snap under center with

a five-step drop allows him to read the defense better than if he

has to take his eyes off the opponent momentarily to catch a

shotgun snap.

Miles also said it may be time to call more plays for powerful

running back Spencer Ware, last season’s second-leading rusher.

”He is a guy that, in my opinion, is a pretty dangerous weapon

and someone that we have to use more frequently,” Miles said.

Miles said Mettenberger is continuing to improve, and that

everything from dropped balls to fumbles like the one Odell Beckham

Jr. had deep in Florida territory are as much to blame for the

offense’s struggles as any mistakes by the quarterback.

Jarvis Landry said he and fellow receivers plan to work extra

with the quarterbacks after practice, as they did last week, in

hopes of improving their timing and chemistry.

”Right now it’s just trying to work on trust – trust with Zach

and timing,” Landry said. ”For an effective passing game, those

things are the highest requirement. It’s just being in right place

at the right time and Zach trusting us to be there and letting the

ball go.”