LSU coach Ed Orgeron said at halftime of LSU’s 42-6 win over Utah State that the Tiger defense was playing with a chip on its shoulders.
The defense has been the most criticized aspect of LSU’s game this season, with a surging offense and steady special teams unit. LSU defensive lineman Neil Farrel said post game that the Tigers didn’t pay attention to any of that outside noise, but they played like they did.
“When you play to the standards of LSU football, you don’t play for anybody else but those three letters on you chest,” said junior defensive end Breiden Fehoko. “You’re going to do the best that you can and I think everybody took it to heart this week — however missed tackles, the coverage busting or no pass rush. We play to LSU’s standard and it’s always going to be about us.”
This was the LSU defense that everybody had been waiting for, holding Utah State to 159 total offensive yards with three interceptions.
It was almost a totally different defense than two weeks ago at Vanderbilt. LSU coach Ed Orgeron said that they looked at every single missed tackle against Vanderbilt and adjusted the drills in practices based on what was and was not working.
“We emphasized tackling this week and in the bye week,” Delpit said. “I think we did a good job of that. I think we played lights out.”
LSU had 18 missed tackles against Vanderbilt two weeks ago and improved to just four this week to go along with the three picks— by Derek Stingley, Kary Vincent and Grant Delpit — two big stops in the red zone and seven forced punts. LSU only had two interceptions on the season coming into Saturday.
Delpit said he saw Stingley’s interception coming the moment it left quarterback Jordan Love’s hand. Love is one of the top quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL draft, but LSU held him to just 15-of-30 for 140 yards passing.
“That was a phenomenal play by a phenomenal athletes one-on-one,” Orgeron said. “Derek is a great talent. I though we were tight on our coverage and I think we had a better pass rush today.”
Delpit said the defense felt more rested as the offense — which was averaging a time of possession of a little more than two minutes a drive before the game — slowed down the tempo and utilized the run game a little more. He still felt the defense would’ve put up the same performance even if the offense hadn’t given them extra rest.
A huge part of the improvement in the secondary came from the pass rush.
Orgeron felt that a lot of pass rush improvement came from K’Lavon Chaisson’s return from injury, but a lot of it was also preparation as LSU felt they knew when Utah State was going to pass the ball and matching the scheme to that.
In that same vein, Patrick Queen had probably his best game of the season, totaling six tackles and three for loss.
“(I saw) a lot of closing speed,” Fehoko said. “It helps when you have a linebacker like that who can actually close in because it allows (the defensive line) to penetrate even more.”
A lot of the offensive work came outside of the practice field. Queen watched film on his own before a team meeting. Delpit organized a defensive back skill walk-through. Chaisson did the same with the outside linebackers. They were doing everything in their power to not have a repeat performance.
“I think as a defense, we played hard, we ran to the ball, we made tackles and plays when they came to us and caught ball when they came to us,” Delpit said. “That’s big. I think we did pretty well.”
“We came and shut up a lot of doubters and we’ve got to keep it up for next week and after that and keep going. (The next step) is showing up in big games. It’s going to be a test with Florida, Mississippi State, Auburn.”