BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - After severe weather gave LSU an unscheduled - and unwanted - weekend off, the Tigers sound eager to finally move on to Game 2 under interim coach Ed Orgeron.
LSU (3-2) returns to the field against Southern Mississippi (4-2) in Death Valley on Saturday night. The Tigers will try to build on their 42-7 demolition of Missouri on Oct. 1, when Orgeron, a former defensive assistant, made his debut in his new post and new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger introduced tweaks designed to spread out defenses and make LSU’s attack more balanced.
“We’re chomping at the bit to play,” LSU fullback John David Moore said this week, in the wake of the postponement of last weekend’s game between the Tigers and Florida Gators in Gainesville, Florida, because of Hurricane Matthew. “Non-conference or conference game, we just want to play.”
While LSU will now play 11 regular season games instead of 12, the Tigers were able to reschedule Florida for Nov. 19, albeit at the expense of a non-conference game against South Alabama that previously had been scheduled that day. The game against the Gators also has been moved from Gainesville, Florida, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. But that’s over a month away, and Orgeron emphasized the need to forget about Florida - for now - and focus on visiting Southern Miss.
“I know those guys are going to want to put on a good show in Louisiana,” Orgeron said of the Golden Eagles. “There are several players from Louisiana, several coaches from Louisiana, and I know this is a big game for them.”
LSU is unranked, but Southern Miss first-year coach Jay Hopson takes little comfort in that. Hopson figures the Tigers, who entered the season ranked fifth-nationally, are just a couple plays away from being unbeaten and ranked even higher. The Tigers were in game-winning field goal range late against Wisconsin, only to throw an interception. In its other loss, LSU appeared to have passed for a winning TD as time expired, only to have the play overturned on video review, when officials determined time expired before the snap.
“We know we’re playing a football team that had a close loss to Wisconsin and controversial end to Auburn,” Hopson said. “If they won both those games, they’d probably be ranked No. 2 or No. 3 in the nation.”
Some other things to watch as the Golden Eagles visit Death Valley for just the third time in school history.
FOREGOING FOURNETTE: LSU star running back Leonard Fournette has missed two games and Orgeron said he more than likely would sit out again this Saturday. That’s hardly cause for the Golden Eagles to breathe a sigh of relief. Sophomore Derrius Guice has rushed for more than 150 yards in each of his two starts, and LSU rushed for more than 400 yards without Fournette in its most recent game.
UP-AND-DOWN MULLENS: Southern Miss veteran quarterback Nick Mullens has had another productive season, throwing for 1,874 yards and 16 touchdowns through six games. But he’s also thrown eight interceptions after just 12 picks in 14 games last season. His completion percentage is down to 58.6 percent, down from 63 percent in 2015.
EVOLVING OFFFENSE: LSU has had about three weeks to work in new wrinkles on offense that Orgeron said are designed to make the scheme more “quarterback friendly,” for Danny Etling, who passed for a season-high 216 yards in LSU’s first game under Orgeron. “First of all, it’s about protection. We gave up no sacks” against Mizzou, Orgeron said. “We want to make short, easy throws for Danny - easy reads, give him an opportunity to do things that he does well. The things that he doesn’t do well, we don’t do.”
BRADLEY’S BIG YEAR: Southern Miss nose tackle Dylan Bradley has had a breakout season, leading the team with 39 tackles, including 10 for a loss and five sacks. The 6-foot-1, 265-pounder played mostly at defensive end before moving inside under Hopson.
DAUNTING DEFENSE: LSU’s defense hasn’t always stifled opposing offenses, but has been stingy about letting opponents into the end zone. LSU has allowed 13 field goals, but only five TDs. “It would be good if we don’t give up field goals, but I feel like if we give up (only) a field goal, it’s like winning,” LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith said.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org
AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi contributed to this report.
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