(AP) - LSU coach Les Miles wants his players to realize that the margin for error their talent has given them early this season will shrink as the stakes rise, and that sloppiness will eventually catch up to the ninth-ranked Tigers if they don't clean up mental errors soon.
''We have a talented team which can be dominant at times,'' Miles said. ''But, we play too close because of those penalties.''
LSU committed 14 penalties in a 34-24 victory at Syracuse last Saturday. On offense, there were four false starts as well as an illegal formation penalty, the last of which nullified an 87-yard touchdown run by Leonard Fournette, who still finished with 244 yards rushing and two TDs.
In addition, five major penalties against the defense occurred during all three Syracuse touchdown drives.
Safety Rickey Jefferson and cornerback Kevin Toliver were called for pass interference. The flag on Toliver nullified an interception by Jefferson. Nickel back Dwayne Thomas was called for grabbing a face mask. Defensive end Lewis Neal and linebacker Deion Jones were hit with personal foul penalties.
Three weeks into the season, the Tigers are averaging nine penalties for 86 yards per game.
''We're on it,'' Miles said. ''We're going to work at it and get it fixed.''
Miles said that the crowd noise at the Carrier Dome was a likely factor in the false starts. Yet one of his offensive linemen offered a different reason.
''False starts are the result of a lack of focus,'' senior tackle Vadal Alexander said. ''You can't have penalties like that. The crowd noise is less a factor. There are techniques we have to handle crowd noise and we didn't use them. That was a case of us not being focused.''
Despite remaining unbeaten, the Tigers (3-0) dropped in the Top 25 from eighth last week to ninth as they prepare for a visit by Eastern Michigan on Saturday night.
The Tigers said their sloppiness wasn't limited to penalties at Syracuse, but also execution.
Even though Fournette had a huge day running the football, the holes were not there as often as the previous week against Auburn. Fournette met more resistance at the line of scrimmage, sometimes using his strength to plow through it, sometimes not.
Fournette had 17 yards in losses against the Orange defense. In addition, Brandon Harris was sacked twice. The Tigers offensive line had yielded only one sack in the victories against Mississippi State and Auburn.
''That was more us than them,'' Alexander said. ''It's our job to get the running back to the second level (of the defense) untouched. Then, we have to protect Brandon in the passing game. This is definitely something we need to get fixed.''
Eastern Michigan (1-3) is last by a wide margin among FBS teams in rush defense at 373.3 yards per game - not a good fact with Fournette next on its schedule. So LSU will be heavily favored; the Tigers opened as 46-point favorites.
Regardless of the score, Miles wants to see his team play a cleaner game.
''We will bring awareness of the penalties to the players,'' Miles said. ''They have goals for the season. It's about our path and what we want to accomplish as a team. All in all, I am very glad to be in the position we are in right now. We are in pursuit of a penalty-free game and that's what we'll do.''
The Eagles lost 58-36 at home to previously winless Army last week, allowing a shocking 556 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on the ground as they were unable to figure out the Black Knights' option offense.
Eastern Michigan did manage to run for 193 yards and three TDs, led by Darius Jackson, who had 16 carries for 141 yards and two scores. His seven rushing touchdowns are tied for ninth in the FBS.
LSU and Eastern Michigan have never met. The Eagles have lost 10 straight to ranked teams, getting outscored by a margin of 52.0-11.8.