How did LSU turn into a team with the toughness to grind out wins under pressure? Phil Longo said it’s because the Tigers have found their purpose.
The Ole Miss offensive coordinator said the Rebels must be on guard against an LSU defense playing its best football of the year, part of his weekly press conference before Saturday’s matchup at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford.
LSU has bounced back well from a September 30 loss to Troy, beating ranked opponents Florida and Auburn in the last two games.
“They’re playing with a purpose right now,” Longo said. “The last two weeks are probably their two best games.”
He particularly noted sophomore linebacker Devin White, who “can flat out run,” and redshirt freshman cornerback Greedy Williams, calling him “very athletic and physical.”
Both will test Ole Miss, which has struggled badly in the running game this season. The Rebels entered last week 127th of 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in rushing offense, and even a 113-yard night by Jordan Wilkins only moved the team up to 119th.
Longo, though, noted that the run game’s effect isn’t just about yards gained on the ground – it also extends to successful plays in the passing game through play action.
That, he said, made a big difference in last week’s 57-35 victory against Vanderbilt, accounting for about 40 percent of Shea Patterson’s 351 passing yards.
“We had 151 or 159 yards throwing off our run game on Saturday,” Longo said. “So the running game continues to help us get the ball to some of the skill kids on the outside.”
Naturally, Patterson is expected to carry the offensive load for the Rebels. If the sophomore has to exit the LSU game for any length of time, that’s a very bad sign.
Longo did say backup quarterback Jordan Ta’amu performed well in his brief appearance near the end of the Vanderbilt game. Although he didn’t throw a pass, Ta’amu carried three times for 32 yards, giving some confidence that he can handle the challenge if he’s called upon at some point this season.
“Jordan can scoot. He showed that in spring ball, he showed that in summer camp,” Longo said. “He has some run talent, and he can throw the football, but he was in the game at a time when we wanted to run some clock and get off the field.”
Although LSU comfortably leads the overall series, Ole Miss typically plays the Tigers tough at home and has won three of the last four matchups at Vaught-Hemingway. The Rebels haven’t lost consecutive home games in the series since 2005 and 2007, when the team was under current LSU coach Ed Orgeron.
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