Miles includes offensive line among LSU's problems

LSU running back Leonard Fournette (7) is stopped near the goal line in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) LSU coach Les Miles, a former offensive lineman at Michigan, knows as well as anyone how much of a problem the Tigers have with their blocking up front.

After reviewing film of the 17th-ranked Tigers 34-29 loss to Mississippi State, Miles declined to single out his offensive linemen for poor performances, but he didn't absolve them, either.

''It's the offensive line, it's the running backs, it's the quarterback, it's the wide receivers,'' Miles said Monday. ''We need to make a collective adjustment. I believe that will certainly be done.''

Center Elliot Porter, however, was quicker to accept responsibility on behalf of his position group.

''If we execute, our backs are good enough to make the right cuts. We have to do a better job with our technique. Then, we have to finish our blocks,'' Porter said. ''We have to be like LSU's offensive line of the last two years - tough, physical, linemen who finish blocks.''

The final score in the loss to Mississippi State belied how all but the final frantic minutes of the game went.

Two Tigers touchdowns sandwiched around a Bulldogs turnover in the last two minutes reduced what had been a deficit as large as 24-points early in the fourth quarter.

The statistics reflected the Bulldogs' dominance through most of the game.

LSU is a team built around its running game, yet the Tigers had their four tailbacks - Leonard Fournette, Kenny Hilliard, Darrel Williams and Terrence Magee - held to a combined 76 yards on 20 carries. They all struggled to find holes in the Bulldogs defense.

When the Tigers tried to throw, starting quarterback Anthony Jennings was under constant pressure and was sacked three times - so hard a couple times that he was in obvious pain as he left the field.

The Tigers returned four starters on the offensive line - left tackle La'El Collins, left guard Vadal Alexander, right tackle Jerald Hawkins and Porter. Suspended for the first two games, Porter was back in the starting lineup for the Louisiana-Monroe game two weeks ago.

The veteran linemen were expected to set the tone for a LSU offense with a number of new starters or regulars at quarterback, running back and receiver.

Miles insisted that he saw ''dominant play'' by Collins and Hawkins, and ''good play in and out'' by Porter, Alexander and fill-in right guard Ethan Pocic. Miles added, however, that there was an ''issue of protection when offensive linemen made mistakes.''

When freshman quarterback Brandon Harris entered the game for the final four minutes, he did not appear to have as many protection problems.

He completed six of nine passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Miles indicated that Harris' performance has earned him more playing time this week against New Mexico State.

''I enjoyed the fact that Brandon Harris gave us a tremendous lift,'' Miles said. ''He came into a position that was very difficult. We said to him, `Make some deep throws, use your arm and use your feet ...' He did exactly that. He earned some more consideration at quarterback.

''We've got a long season ahead of us. Practice weeks are very revealing,'' Miles added. ''When there's a separation there, it will be noticed and changes will be made. In any situation, we'll play the guy we feel gives us the best opportunity at victory.''

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