This article was copied from the Times-Picayune Sports Desk Log.
Miles says defense depends on match-ups
Monday, September 19, 2005 - 5:30 p.m.
By William Kalec

BATON ROUGE - SPAM doesn’t have this long of a shelf life.

For the past week, every cubicle Lombardi (or perhaps in this case, cubicle Saban) dined on a heaping helping of criticism directed toward Bo Pelini’s perceived passive defensive scheme, dumping on the Tigers’ new defensive coordinator following a rather generous performance against Arizona State on Sept. 10.

Listen to the radio. Overhear a restaurant conversation. Call your grandmother. It’s the talk of the swelled town. As political strategist James Carville said last week, even surviving an awesome, humbling natural disaster can’t wipe away the tendency for LSU fans to find something to complain about.

Yes, LSU escaped with a victory but only in spite of surrendering 461 passing yards to Sam Keller while the Devils’ running backs combined for another 100. Doesn’t matter that disturbing dish was served 10 days ago, these Chicken Littles still can’t seem to get enough.

So with its still-interested readership in mind, the media went back for leftover-seconds at Les Miles’ weekly press conference, addressing one of the few hot-button issues to surface so far during Tennessee week.

And though Miles failed to rattle any cages with his quotes, he did toss a bone to those begging for some semblance of the not-so-far-gone days featuring intense man-to-man coupled with a cornucopia of blitz packages - a trademark of the old Tigerland regime.

“They probably played a little bit more man (coverage) than was played in the first game,” Miles said of the fundamental differences in his defense compared to Saban. “That’s not to say that won’t be played a little but more extensively in the second game. It really kind of depends on who we’re playing.”

On paper, at least, Tennessee and Arizona State seem to clash, offensively, which hints to some sort of defensive shake-up. Through two games, Erik Ainge and Rick Clausen are 40 yards shy of matching Keller’s individual performance against Pelini’s bunch, not to mention several football fields behind when you add what he did in the Temple and Northwestern games. Tennessee’s Gerald Riggs Jr. piles up most of his yardage between the tackles compared to the Devils’ tandem taking handoffs out of the spread formation - more finesse than physical.

“I think it’s a match-up,” Miles said. “How do our players match up vs. their players? How does a man-scheme, with a quick-release passing opportunity for them, either give them opportunities or take them away? I understand, 1-2-3, let it rip, put the ball in the air and then it’s their players vs. your player when it’s man-to-man.

“Certainly, you can see that working to our benefit and you can also see that working against us. So, I think it’s the mix - the ability to let that corner know he has some help and, when we choose, put him out there man-to-man.”

While Pelini’s defense did concede mounds of yards, the Tigers were placed in prime locations to force fumbles or pick-off Keller. Almost forgotten is Ali Highsmith’s key strip inside the LSU 10-yard-line when the Devils appeared on the verge of upping the advantage to 24-7 in the third quarter. And on the final drive, Chevis Jackson had an ideal opportunity to slam the door slip through his hands, certainly not Pelini’s fault.

“There are so many things to take into a account no matter what our scheme was,” defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. “We definitely gave up more yards and more points than we wanted to. I think we’re OK. I think we improved last week. We cleared up some things and I think we’ll do some things different to get ready for Tennessee.”