Surging Tigers Look for Another Gritty Performance
Assoc. Athletic Director/Communications
OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. -- LSU, winners of back-to-back games over Top 25 opponents, will look to build on the momentum established after wins over Florida and Auburn in consecutive weeks when they face Southeastern Conference Western Division rival Ole Miss on Saturday in Oxford.
Kickoff between the 24th-ranked Tigers and Rebels is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN with Joe Tessitore, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe calling the action. The game can also be seen on the Watch ESPN App.
The LSU Sports Radio Network, featuring the Voice of the Tiger Chris Blair, Doug Moreau and Gordy Rush, will have the radio broadcast of the game. The game can be heard in the Baton Rouge area on Eagle 98.1 FM or for free on the internet at www.LSUsports.net/live.
LSU brings a 5-2 overall mark and a 2-1 league record into the game. Last week, LSU rallied from a 20-0 first half deficit to beat Auburn, 27-23, in Tiger Stadium in what stands as the largest home field SEC comeback in school history. LSU is also one win shy of becoming bowl-eligible for a school-record 18th consecutive season.
Ole Miss, under interim head coach Matt Luke, is 3-3 overall and 1-2 in conference action. The Rebels are coming off their most impressive performance of the season as last week they rolled up 603 yards of total offense in a 57-35 win over Vanderbilt.
LSU goes into Saturday’s game looking for its first win in Oxford since a 52-3 victory in 2011. LSU lost in Oxford, 27-24, in 2013 and then dropped a 38-17 decision in 2015. Last year, LSU, behind what was then a a school-record 284 rushing yards from Leonard Fournette, overcame a 10-0 first quarter deficit to beat Ole Miss, 38-21, in Tiger Stadium.
Ed Orgeron, who served as head coach at Ole Miss for three years from 2005-07, will be making his first trip back to Oxford as the head coach of the Tigers. Orgeron was on the sidelines coaching LSU’s defensive line for the Tigers’ 2015 visit to Oxford.
The LSU-Ole Miss series dates back to 1894 and remains a fierce rivalry as the schools have met every year since 1945. LSU leads the overall series, which spans 105 games, 60-41-4.
“It’s LSU and Ole Miss and it’s a rivalry game,” Orgeron said on Thursday after practice. “This is for the fans. This is for our players. This is a battle. It’s a border state and for bragging rights. This is what college football is all about. The thing about LSU is that there’s almost a rivalry every week, but that’s why you come to school here.”
Last week’s offensive breakout game by the Rebels has gotten the attention of the Tigers this week. After scoring 57 points last week and outscoring Auburn 20-9 in the second half two weeks ago, LSU is expecting to get the Rebels’ best shot on Saturday night.
“Throughout the week the coaches have been talking to our guys about going to Oxford, playing in that stadium and remembering the last time we were there,” Orgeron said of the 2015 loss. “That team was on fire, and we understand this is going to be a battle. Our team has been told that they will play a lot better. We’ve seen some things on film, and we’re expecting their best effort. I understand that this is a rivalry game, and it’s a game that LSU must win. Our guys are ready for it, and it’s going to be a great battle.”
The LSU defense, which held Auburn scoreless and to only 64 total yards in the second half last week, will face a big test in Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson, who shared SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors with DJ Chark this week.
Patterson leads the SEC in nearly every passing category including TDs (17), yards (2,143) and yards per game (375.2). He’s completed 156-of-237 passes and thrown only six interceptions. Patterson has the luxury of throwing to arguably the best set of receivers in the league, led by AJ Brown with 35 catches for 678 yards and six scores.
As a unit, LSU’s defense continues to improve each week and ranks among the SEC leaders in points allowed (No. 5 at 19.3) and total defense (No. 5 at 315.3). Linebacker Devin White, who has been named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week in consecutive weeks, leads the SEC in both tackles (77) and tackles per game (11.0).
However, it’s the continued resurgence of Arden Key, who played perhaps his best game last week, that could benefit LSU the most against Ole Miss. Key his first sack of the season on Auburn’s final offensive play last week to seal the victory for the Tigers.
The pass defense, which consists of three of the top cornerbacks in the league, ranks second in pass efficiency. Junior DB Donte Jackson has moved over to nickel for the Tigers with Andraez “Greedy” Williams and Kevin Toliver II holding on to the two cornerback spots.
Offensively, running back Derrius Guice had his best week of practice for the Tigers at full strength. Guice totaled 71 yards on the ground against Florida. Guice will look to pass Charles Scott for the eighth-most rushing yards in a career when he takes the field on Saturday night against an Ole Miss defense that allows an average of 238.5 yards per game on the ground.
Senior Darrel Williams is second on the team in rushing yards at 373. Wide receiver Russell Gage has been a spark plug for the offense on the ground. Gage broke for a 70-yard run last week against Auburn, which put LSU into a position to score its opening touchdown.
“We need to be physical and run downhill,” Orgeron said. “Do the things, we know how to do at LSU. I think this is the healthiest Derrius (Guice) has been in a while, and hopefully we’ll see that Saturday.”
Orgeron expects the return of right tackle Toby Weathersby following missing last week’s Auburn game. The Tigers are expected to start their fifth different combination on the line with true freshman Saahdiq Charles at left tackle, Garrett Brumfield at left guard, Will Clapp at center, Ed Ingram at right guard and Weathersby at right tackle.
Danny Etling will once again make the start for the Tigers on Saturday. Etling owns 1,252 passing yards for the season. The senior will make his 18th straight start, which is the fifth longest streak by a quarterback since 1986.
Chark did it all against Auburn with 233 all-purpose yards. On the second play of the fourth quarter against AU, Chark took Aidan Marshall’s punt 75 yards to the house for his second career punt return for a touchdown. Chark joined former Tiger All-American Kevin Faulk as the only players in school history to score on plays of 75 yards or longer three different ways.
“We broke that record last weekend of the largest comeback in Tiger Stadium,” Orgeron said. “We don’t want to do that again. We want to start fast. We want to play with enthusiasm, and it’s going to take that, especially going on the road. We won’t have the crowd behind us, and we’re going to have to start fast.”
LSU will enjoy a bye week following Saturday’s game against Ole Miss. The Tigers will then prep for their week 10 matchup against No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 4.