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LSU rushes to build its case

Second-ranked Tigers rack up 290 yards on ground against South Carolina in a 28-16 victory that reinforces national-title potential.

September 23, 2007|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

BATON ROUGE, La. -- For an indication of just how lopsided second-ranked Louisiana State's 28-16 victory over No. 14 South Carolina was, consider this: LSU's Colt David nearly outrushed the Gamecocks.

And David is LSU's kicker.

On a rain-soaked Saturday when LSU outrushed the visitors, 290 yards to 17, and scored on a fake field goal that had to leave viewers reaching for the TiVo remote, the Tigers (4-0) reminded everyone why they're the team to beat in the Southeastern Conference. And maybe the nation.

"I think we deserve a lot of first-place votes," said receiver Trindon Holliday, breaking the team's code of silence on such matters. "I think that we're overlooked a little bit. I think we should be getting more credit than we're getting."

The Tigers won by 12 points, but the game wasn't that close. From the moment late in the second quarter when David took an over-the-shoulder pitch from holder Matt Flynn on the trick play and ran 15 yards untouched into the end zone, LSU clearly had the upper hand.

In the postgame news conference, Coach Les Miles gave the standard line that his team still has a lot to work on, but the only specific deficiency he mentioned was a South Carolina defender partially blocking a punt. The game was a rout, even if the scoreboard didn't necessarily reflect it.

Miles shrugged off the notion the victory was especially sweet because it came against South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier, who came into the game 14-1 against LSU as a player and coach -- all while at Florida.

But the Gamecocks made their share of critical errors, among them making two catches for apparent first downs and then, in an effort to get more yardage, losing them.

"We're just not a real smart bunch right now," Spurrier said.

Earlier in the week, Spurrier riled some in these parts when he credited former Tigers coach Nick Saban with building the program -- conspicuously leaving Miles out of the equation. Saban recruited and signed 10 of the 11 starters on LSU's base defense.

"It really didn't bother us; we know the truth," said defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, defending Miles' integral role. "This is our coach, and LSU is his. This is his stadium and everything."

The 303-pound Dorsey, widely regarded among the nation's top defensive players, helped spark a unit that forced three turnovers, two more turnovers on downs, sacked South Carolina quarterbacks Blake Mitchell and Chris Smelley three times, and allowed a paltry 0.6 yards per carry.

Dorsey said the last statistic, in particular, "lets us know during the week when we practice, this is why. Because it pays off on Saturday."

When it came to offensive payoffs, the Tigers were happy to spread the wealth. Even though they nearly rolled up 300 yards on the ground, they didn't have a 100-yard rusher. Seven ball carriers, including rotating quarterbacks Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux, had double-digit days when it came to rushing yardage.

"You can't have selfish guys and play four or five tailbacks," said Jacob Hester, who led all rushers with 17 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown. "You've just got to be humble about yourself, and when somebody else is in there you have to cheer them on. And that's what we do. We're all best friends."

There were plenty of backslaps and smiles to go around. But LSU players are acutely aware they have some tough opponents coming up, including home games against Florida -- perhaps twice, counting a potential SEC championship matchup -- and Auburn; and at Kentucky and Alabama, where they'll be reunited with Saban.

Still, people outside the LSU locker room are looking down the road to a possible national championship showdown with top-ranked USC at the Superdome in New Orleans. For the most part, the Tigers won't touch that subject.

"I'm not going to be a politician," defensive end Kirston Pittman said. "But that's the mind-set we have around here. Coaches tell us not to read the papers, to stay offline -- I don't know if anyone does it, but we were told not to pay attention to those kind of things."


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