SEC TELECONFERENCE: Miles ready to get Tigers “back on track”
Coach plans to double-team South Carolina’s potent pass-rushers
The tone of Tigertown this week following LSU’s first regular season loss since 2010 has been almost unanimously negative.
In the wake of Saturday’s 14-6 defeat to Florida in Gainesville, the Tigers (5-1) have returned home to ample scrutiny from fans and media alike.
But if the rest of the city is still reeling from the past weekend, the ninth-ranked Tigers are, instead, looking forward to the one ahead: a primetime date with No. 3 South Carolina (6-0).
A Saturday Night in Death Valley.
And, according to their head coach, the Tigers’ confidence isn’t shaken in the least.
“I don’t know if a loss of confidence is something that happens after one game,” Miles said Wednesday morning during the weekly SEC coaches’ teleconference. ”There’s a natural sting felt, and there’s a real want to redirect and get back on track. You have to have you have to play with your stinger, so to speak.”
Miles said he was particularly impressed with how his team has responded on the practice field, saying the loss to Florida has fueled his players’ fire during the week of preparation for the Gamecocks.
“They recognize nobody’s going to get this corrected but us,” he said. “Their practice habits have been very good. They are responding.”
Across the sideline from Miles will be an infamous figure in LSU circles: Steve Spurrier. The Ol’ Ball Coach is 14-3 in his career against LSU, but the former Florida Gator player and coach is still winless (0-2) against the Tigers as the Gamecock headman.
Spurrier’s side is coming off a 35-7 win over then No. 5 Georgia and is a popular bet to beat LSU, despite Vegas dubbing the Tigers as four point favorites.
For his part, Spurrier knows Saturday’s game will be anything but easy money.
“[LSU was] preseason number one in the nation,” Spurrier told the press Tuesday. “There was a reason for that.”
Spurrier said both Tuesday and again Wednesday he expects his team to be completely healthy, despite a flu bug that passed through the locker room shortly after the win against Georgia.
That list of healthy players includes All-SEC running back Marcus Lattimore, who is just about back to 100 percent health after a knee injury in 2011. The result has been an SEC-leading 116 carries and nine rushing touchdowns.
“We try to give it to him as much as we can,” Spurrier said, “but we know we can’t give it to him every play. We have to mix in some throws.”
The Gamecocks have mixed the throw in well this season the few times they’ve needed to. Though quarterback Connor Shaw is last in the league among starting quarterbacks in passing yards per game, he’s the conference’s most efficient quarterback, and the Gamecocks trail only Geno Smith-led West Virginia in the NCAA’s passing efficiency charts.
But Miles is more concerned with Shaw’s legs than his arm.
“He has good feet, makes good decisions, gets the ball out of his hand, and he’s not going to stay in the pocket any length of time,” Miles said.
That last part, says Miles, is of utmost importance. LSU’s pass rush with Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, and Lavar Edwards is one of the best in the country, but they’ll have to play it safe at times and contain Shaw, who can break for a 20 yard gain on any play if the defensive line doesn’t hold its ground.
“If the play is going to come open in a timely fashion, [Shaw]’s out and does an extremely good job of just moving the chains,” Miles said.
As good as LSU’s pass rush is, South Carolina’s is every bit as good - if not better. On one end stands projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Jadeveon Clowney, who leads the conference in sacks with six. On the other is Devin Taylor, a 6′8 freak of an athlete who is as lethal stopping the run as he is rushing the passer.
Both promise to provide LSU’s tackles - a weakness in the line in the absence of Chris Faulk - with the challenge of their careers.
That’s why Miles plans to give them a little help, particularly on Clowney.
“You have to put more than one body on him, go the other way, make sure your technique when you do single blocking is very good, and rise to the level of competition and play well,” Miles said.
Ultimately, that’s exactly what Miles expects not just from his tackles, but from his entire team on Saturday night: to rise to the level of the competition and play well.
The only other choice?
Miles has other plans for Saturday night.
“We’re looking forward to getting back on track,” he said.