LSU coach Les Miles made no bones about it.
When his fourth-ranked Tigers travel to Sanford Stadium for Saturday's key SEC game against No. 18 Georgia (3:30, CBS), he wants his Bayou Bengals to get back to the basics - including running the football.
Last week, the Tigers (4-0, 2-0) continued to struggle as Keiland Williams and Charles Scott combined for just 35 yards on 15 carries.
Miles said numbers like that won't cut it against the Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0). But just because his offense had issues in that department against Mississippi State, that doesn't mean LSU won't try to get right against Georgia.
"I still want to run the football. It's too fundamental to me not to be important, and I want that," Miles said in his weekly press conference Monday afternoon. "I want it for Charles Scott and that offensive line and Keiland Williams, and I want to be able to come off the football."
But again, the defense can choose to play everybody inside, and that makes it a much more difficult position to run the football, and I wanted them to throw it. I wanted our guys to throw the football against that gaming front of Mississippi State's."
Sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson had no trouble obliging his coach.
Jefferson had a career-best 233 passing yards on 15-of-28 attempts with touchdowns of 4 and 58 yards to wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who finished with six catches for 101 yards.
"I think LaFell is having a real strong year, and his play is very difficult to defend. I think he's making big plays," Miles said. "We need to keep getting him the ball."
No doubt the Tigers wouldn't mind Chad Jones getting a few more touches himself.
It was Jones' 93-yard punt return, plus an amazing goal-line stand by the Tiger defense which enabled LSU to hold off Mississippi State 30-26 last Saturday in Starkville.
It marked the first time that LSU scored in every aspect of the game - offense, defense and special teams - since 2002.
"If you look at special teams, the return that Chad Jones puts on is a great decision on a bouncing ball that he picks up and cleaning fields and then returns with great personal effort," Miles said. "There were guys who had great blocks like Brandon Taylor, who really had the first block that sprung the return, and Perry Riley got one on about the midfield stripe. Again, it was a great personal effort by Chad Jones, and certainly it was timely."
Jones' play put LSU up 30-21 early in the fourth quarter but the Tigers had to hold on for dear life to secure the win.
With time running down, Mississippi State advanced all the to LSU 2-yard line before picking up just one yard on back-to-back runs. MSU then went to the air, but Jones knocked down a pass on a third down. A quarterback keeper on fourth down fell a yard short and LSU was able to escape with the victory, which bumped the Tigers up from No. 7 to No. 4 in the AP Top 25.
"At this point, the focus has to turn to the very next game. We're fortunate to be 4-0; we'd like to be 5-0, and only the next opponent stands between us and that goal. Everybody talks about rankings. Rankings have never made any difference to me and not to our football team. We understand we earn where we finish," Miles said. "The No. 4 ranking is certainly a spot, and that's it. It's close enough to be where you want to be in the end, but there's no position except for the final ballot. When we get to the end of the season, that's where we want to be ranked highly."
NOTES: LSU saw its streak of consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown come to an end at six. Mississippi State scored in the first quarter.
LaFell has now caught a pass in 32 straight games (31 of those multiple-reception games) When Jones returned a punt 93 yards for his first career touchdown with 14:36 left in the fourth quarter. It was the second longest punt return in school history and the longest since Eddie Kennison's school-record long 100-yard return for a TD against Mississippi State on Sept. 10, 1994.
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