How blueprints and a change in mindset helped the LSU defense have its best showing of the season

Stevens, Fehoko and veteran leaders used bye week to change defensive mindset

LSU safety JaCoby Stevens knows the secondary has the blueprint. It's something the unit came together and created after surrendering 38 points to Vanderbilt on Sept. 21.

Through four games, Stevens and the secondary felt that they were punched in the mouth. So Stevens and a few veteran members of the secondary decided to get together and create a blueprint for the unit to follow over the bye week.

"I feel like we lost two of the first four rounds in the fight," Stevens said of the effort through four games. 

So what exactly is the blueprint?

"Well the one thing we put in the blueprint was to always respect our opponent," Stevens said. "Not coming in and saying 'oh this guys doesn't run good routes' but instead look at what they're actually doing. How his releases are as he's coming off the field. Does he take an inside release for an outside route. Or does he have a speed release to get up the field? Things like that and just having attitude."

"Having the mentality that I'm going to make the play and I'm not going to look for someone else to come up and make the play."

What made the performance through four games frustrating for Stevens and the rest of the defensive players was they felt like it was strictly a mentality issue. The defense allowed Texas to score 38 points and two weeks later, allowed the same against a far inferior Vanderbilt squad.

"I know a lot of people say it was tackling but wanting to tackle and making a tackle is 90 percent mentality," Stevens said. 

Stevens made sure to make his voice heard, saying he was tired of the defense getting beat. The unit and defense as a whole responded in a perfect way, holding Jordan Love and Utah State without a touchdown and just 130 yards passing with three interceptions.

Senior defensive end Breiden Fehoko took it upon himself to give a rather passionate speech the Thursday before the Utah State game. The message was simple. 

"We have so many great players on this defense, guys that are going to have futures at the next level,” Fehoko said. “So I just told everybody that when you play to the standard of LSU football, you don’t play for anybody else but the three letters on your chest.”

The defensive front seven reacted well to the challenge, combing for two sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. Fehoko didn't want to act like his message was anything more than a motivator, saying the team had already shown signs of a different mindset well earlier in the week.

"Honestly, the speech, regardless if I give it, I think the guys kind of had a mentality that we are going to play our best game," Fehoko said. "And I think that's what you get when you have mature players. That's what you get when you have players that are ready to buy in and everybody on this defense was locked in. Everybody knew what they were doing and that shows in the product you were given on Saturday."

Yet, no matter how you slice it, Utah State was just one game and the tests only get tougher from here on out for the LSU defense. Stevens knows this and knows that consistency will ultimately take this team where it wants to go. 

That starts this weekend when the No. 4 Tigers host No. 7 Florida in Death Valley.

"We've seen how we practice leads to how we play," Stevens said. "We've created that blueprint and now we just need to follow it. If we can do that, we can get our numbers up and be that top defense that we set out to be in the beginning of the year."

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