BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU's hard-charging pass rushers are eager to see what they can do against a first-year starting quarterback.
If the 13th-ranked Tigers' performance against Mississippi State star Dak Prescott last weekend is any indication, Auburn's Jeremy Johnson could see his composure tested substantially more than it was in a pair close victories over Louisville and Jacksonville State.
"We were pretty happy with the pass rush," said junior LSU defensive lineman Lewis Neal, who in his first career start recorded one of LSU's three sacks of Prescott on Saturday night. "But we missed a lot of sacks. We could have had seven or eight. There were more opportunities for us. We'll come out ten times better in the second game."
While Prescott ultimately amassed 335 yards passing in Mississippi State's 21-19 loss to LSU, he needed 52 attempts to reach that figure in a performance that relatively one-dimensional for the usually dynamic quarterback.
Prescott, who was limited to nine yards on seven running plays, struggled to move the offense with anything other than short passes.
His performance this season stood in sharp contrast to the tear he was on in Tiger Stadium a year ago, when the Bulldogs beat LSU 34-29. In that game, Prescott touched the ball 46 times and gained 373 yards — 268 passing and 105 rushing. This time, Prescott had 16 more touches (62) and 57 fewer yards (316).
LSU head coach Les Miles was quick to boast that his new defensive coordinator, Kevin Steele, held Prescott to a career-low rushing total.
"He completed some passes, but our guys in the secondary kept everybody in front of them," Miles said.
Prescott had virtually no time to look deep down field. He had just one completion of more than 20 yards, which was a good sign for the Tigers' defensive front four.
A year ago, Tigers defensive linemen had 10 sacks and 20 quarterback-hurries in 13 games. In addition to their three sacks last Saturday along, they were credited with hurrying Prescott into incompletions six times.
Freshman defensive end Arden Key and sophomore defensive tackle Davon Godchaux each joined Neal in recording a sack apiece. Neal and Key both were credited with two quarterback-hurries. End Tashawn Bower and tackle Christian LaCouture each recorded one quarterback-hurry.
The expectations for the LSU defensive line have been elevated since the hiring of new assistant coach Ed Orgeron, whose reputation was built on his ability to develop college defensive linemen. One game into his time at LSU, the Tigers pass rush is on track to get better results.
"Coach 'O' gives us more freedom," said Bower, who also made his first career start last Saturday. "During the week, we have a real good tempo. He is a great teacher. He teaches (each player) differently because he knows people learn differently."
Key used his speed to sack Prescott from behind on just the second play of his college career.
"Arden is my little brother," Neal said. "I just love the way he plays. He listens all the time to what everybody says. Arden will continue to make the big play."
Now comes LSU's first home game against Auburn, which whipped LSU 41-7 last season with then-quarterback Nick Marshall passing for more than 200 yards and running for more than 100 yards.
Johnson is more of a pocket passer, and has struggled in his first two games with five interceptions.
"Coach 'O' expects us to get a pass rush all the time," said LaCouture, the most experienced of LSU's defensive linemen. "We may not get there every time, but we must rattle the quarterback. We have to close the pocket and make the quarterback uncomfortable."
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Posted on Tue, September 15, 2015
by Associated Press