|No. 24 LSU tries to keep Ole Miss grounded|
Ole Miss' passing offense is humming and No. 24 LSU is trying to get its rushing offense to do the same as these longtime rivals meet Saturday night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss.
The Rebels (3-3, 1-2 SEC) lead the conference in passing yards per game at 357.2 -- 70 more than the next-best passing offense (Missouri). LSU (5-2, 2-1) ranks sixth in rushing yards per game (191) and has a chance for a breakout game.
"They've got one of the best quarterbacks that we're going to face in the country in Shea Patterson," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said of Ole Miss. "Probably the best group of receivers we've seen."
Rebels wide receivers A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge have each caught six touchdown passes, and Brown is averaging 19.4 yards per catch and Lodge 18.2. Patterson completes 65.8 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Tigers cornerbacks Greedy Williams, Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver II all played a big part in shutting out Auburn in the second half last week as LSU rallied from an early 20-0 deficit to prevail 27-23.
They're the main reasons LSU is second in the SEC in passes defensed (35). It's also second in sacks and fifth in passing yards allowed (170.6). Only one opponent (Syracuse) has passed for more than 180 yards against the Tigers.
"They know the stakes are high for us as a football team," Orgeron said of his cornerbacks. "They know the stakes are high for them as individuals, especially going against the great receivers that Ole Miss has."
The Tigers' ground game has been hampered by injuries to running backs Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams, and tackles K.J. Malone and Toby Weathersby. Guice and Williams have been playing, though limited, but Malone and Weathersby missed the Auburn game. Malone is unlikely to play this week, but Weathersby has returned to practice and has a better chance of playing.
LSU has run the ball well enough the last two weeks to beat two ranked teams -- Florida, which was 20th, and Auburn, which was 10th.
In both games, the most explosive runs were made by wide receivers on speed sweeps.
"Obviously we want to get our running game better inside the tackles," Orgeron said.
The running backs and the receivers should be able to accumulate more than their average rushing totals against the Rebels, who are allowing the 13th-most rushing yards per game in the country (238.5).
"(Speed sweeps) have been working really well for us," center Will Clapp told the Baton Rouge Advocate. "We can't rely on that all season to win us games -- got to be more balanced with our run."
In order for the run game to be more consistently effective, Guice has to get back on track. He hasn't had a 100-yard game since Sept. 9.
"You've got to stop Guice. That's first," Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said. "They do a good job with their speed sweep motions to different people. If you load the box up, they'll hurt you with the speed sweeps. They've got some guys who can beat you on the perimeter. But the big focus is stopping Guice."
The Rebels ended a three-game losing streak with a 57-35 victory against Vanderbilt last week. Before that, they had been outscored by a combined 110-26 in SEC losses to Alabama and Auburn.
"I don't think everything is the way it needs to be," Luke said. "We still have a lot of improvements we need to make offensively and defensively. I think that's important to not let a win mask those things."
Orgeron coached Ole Miss from 2005-07 and was fired after compiling an overall record of 10-25, 3-21 in the SEC (including 0-8 in his final season).
"This game has nothing to do with me. This is about the team," Orgeron said. "I had a tremendous opportunity at Ole Miss. I didn't get it done. It was a stepping stone. It was something I needed, and I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful for the mistakes that happened there. Hopefully I don't make them here."
Luke, who's an interim coach just as Orgeron was last season before being hired full time, was Orgeron's recruiting coordinator for one season (2005).