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Chavis: Tigers defense kept it simple

9/9/2012

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's talented defense dominated a potentially explosive Washington offense in a 41-3 win Saturday and the secret to the Tigers' success, well, wasn't much of a secret.

"We didn't do anything different," said LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis after the Tigers held the Huskies to a mere 183 yards offense. "Matter of fact, we may have been a little bit more vanilla than we've been in the past. What we wanted to do is go out and improve from a technique standpoint, individually."

For a defense that's young in spots, Chavis thought that was the best approach after the 41-14 season-opening win over North Texas when the Tigers were dominant in spots, but gave up some big plays on breakdowns and were held without a sack.

This time, the defense had far more big plays while keeping things simple.

LSU certainly dominated its individual matchups. Up front, the Tigers controlled the line of scrimmage forcing eight plays for negative yards.

In the secondary, the young defensive backs matched up well with a talented group of Huskies receivers with neither Jalen Collins nor Jalen Mills, the two freshman replacements for Tyrann Mathieu, getting exploited. Mills, a true freshman, recorded his first career interception.

Several times Washington quarterback Keith Price tried to throw on man-to-man coverage by the two freshmen to no avail. Price, a 3,000-yard passer in 2011, finished with modest numbers -- 17-for-36 for 157 yards with four sacks and an interception.

LSU's formula was simple. The Tigers got after Price with a four-man rush and let the defensive backs cover. And Price said he noticed the rush coming.

"I actually felt it," he said. "I felt the pressure and tried to get out a couple times and you see I threw a pick trying to do too much."

And here's the scary thought for opponents: LSU did most of its pressuring with but four men.

"Not a lot of pressuring," Chavis said. "Not as much as we will as we continue to grow."

Of the four sacks, three came from defensive ends, including the first of the season by All-America candidate Sam Montgomery. Montgomery, quiet in the season opener, also had 1.5 tackles for loss and the defensive line had four between them.

"They are definitely the best defensive line I've ever seen," Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jackson said.

Chavis said by keeping things simple and emphasizing fundamentals this week, he saw across-the-board improvement. In the opener, North Texas twice burned LSU on blitzes for touchdowns. Washington simply did not see many blitzes to give it a chance to do the season.

"I made a few mistakes in the first game in terms of what we did," Chavis said. "I could have made better calls."

The defense, it turns out, wasn't ready for some of his wrinkles. But they will be.

"It takes time to become a good pressure team," Chavis said. "We're not far away."

Against Washington, Chavis found out he has the pieces. Not only did the secondary hold up and the line dominate, the linebacker play continues to be much improved over a season ago. Kevin Minter led the Tigers with nine tackles Saturday and head coach Les Miles said he was more than satisfied with the play of his veteran starters.

"I said this early in fall camp, that I thought this was a defense that was going to improve as we go along," Chavis said. "We're not there yet, not by a long shot. But we played well tonight against a good football team and we've got to continue to improve if we're going to be where we expect to be."