Miles mandate: Clean it up
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 12:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 12:31 p.m.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Lackluster efforts in victories against Auburn and Towson have fourth-ranked LSU needing to make an adjustment as it begins the heart of its Southeastern Conference schedule this week.
The Tigers will take on 10th-ranked Florida at “the Swamp” in Gainesville on Saturday.
Following the game against the Gators, LSU will meet three more currently ranked opponents in the next four games — No. 6 South Carolina, No. 1 Alabama and No. 20 Mississippi State.
Tigers coach Les Miles has been unhappy with the way his team has performed the past two weeks, a span in which LSU committed five turnovers and 19 penalties. Towson outrushed LSU by 30 yards due to a number of missed tackles.
“We need to play better,” Miles said on Monday. “We need to be consistent with our culture. We had uncharacteristic turnovers. I'm glad we're getting them out early. We can't afford them as we go forward.
“Our defense played like they are expected to play in spots (against Towson). But, we unexpectedly gave up a grind-out drive at the back end of the game. I am not happy with the penalties. This team understands how to play and the culture in our building. I suspect they will play well against Florida.”
LSU has won its first five games for the fourth straight season and for the fifth time in Miles' eight years as coach. Florida, in its second year under coach Will Muschamp, has won its first four games.
“The Swamp is a great place to play,” said Miles, who has a 1-2 record in Gainesville. “If you enjoy classic college venues and if you enjoy the SEC, the Swamp is as good as it gets. It's a quality opponent on the road and it's loud.”
Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger will make his second road start Saturday. Mettenberger struggled at Auburn when he completed just 15 of 27 passes for 169 yards. He was sacked twice and lost two fumbles. For the season, Mettenberger has thrown two interceptions and lost three fumbles.
Miles believes that Mettenberger is not to blame for a passing game that is averaging slightly more than 200 yards per game.
“Our quarterback play, by and large, has been very good,” Miles said. “The thing that he does is he tries to extend the play. That puts him in jeopardy. We are not looking for Zach to extend the play. We want him to get it out of his hands. We may punt it a little more, but we can take away negative plays.
“Zach shares in the responsibility, but he's not the one reason for our inefficiency in the passing game. It's the running backs, the offensive line and the receivers. Our passing game will improve. I like Zach. His energy and effort is good for this team.”
LSU will be without another starter for its game against Florida. Fullback J.C. Copeland injured a knee injury against Towson and is out indefinitely. Walk-on Connor Neighbors will probably replace him in the lineup.
“We have heard some positive things about J.C.,” Miles said. “We are hoping for a quick recovery, but I don't know how quick.”
Copeland will be the fifth projected starter to miss significant playing time. Running back Alfred Blue is also out indefinitely with a knee injury. Offensive tackle Chris Faulk had knee surgery and is gone for the season.
Outside linebacker Tahj Jones is academically ineligible. Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from the team for the season in August for a third violation of the athletic department's substance abuse policy.
“When you step into a starting role, you must play up to the expectations of that position,” Miles said. “Some of these guys are not as good as the starters. But given time and given coaching, they can be as good as what any team has.”
Getting his team's attention has been a problem due to a rather soft September schedule. No. 23 Washington, which lost to LSU 41-3, is the only team with a winning record. This week, however, Miles expects practice to be intense without him needing to say much.
“This is one of those weeks that I am not going to have to get their attention,” Miles said. “They'll come to play.”