By BRYAN LAZARE, Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — With one-third of LSU’s regular season schedule finished, coach Ed Orgeron is still looking for his team to put together a solid 60 minutes.
In a tense 35-26 victory over Syracuse on Saturday, the 25th-ranked Tigers took an 11-point lead into halftime on the strength of their defense. The offense improved after halftime as LSU had to hold off a fourth-quarter rally by the Orange.
The Tigers’ final non-conference game is set for Saturday when Troy makes a visit. After that, LSU will face seven Southeastern Conference opponents over an eight-week span.
“We’re 3-1,” Orgeron said. “We would like to be 4-0. We have played well in spots. We are strong in some areas. We are young in a lot of areas. We played well in a lot of spots versus Syracuse. Our focus against Troy is that we want to play a complete game.”
LSU’s offense relied on big plays against Syracuse. Danny Etling threw touchdown passes of 43 yards to Stephen Sullivan and 87 yards to Drake Davis. Backup quarterback Myles Brennan beat a blitz with a dump-off pass to Darrel Williams, which gained 43 yards to set up a touchdown.
Williams followed up his reception with a 20-yard scoring run. In the final minutes, wide receiver D.J. Chark went 20 yards for a touchdown on a jet sweep to clinch the victory for the Tigers.
Overall, however, the offense had trouble sustaining drives. Etling was sacked a couple of times and was hit on a number of other occasions. Derrius Guice was limited to 14 yards on eight carries. Guice had been ruled out of the game by Orgeron last Wednesday because of a knee injury. Guice changed Orgeron’s mind one day later.
The line is receiving a lot of the blame for the offense’s inconsistencies. True freshman right guard Ed Ingram was benched in the second quarter and was replaced by redshirt sophomore Adrian Magee, who got the first extended playing time of his career.
“We had a technique problem on the offensive line,” Orgeron said. “Syracuse’s defensive line had good technique and our offensive line didn’t. Then, we have to win our one-on-one blocks. We expect our older guys to play better.
“We may have to simplify things,” Orgeron said, adding that offensive coordinator Matt Canada suggested that the Tigers had “too much” in the game plan lately.
“We have to do what our players can do best. We need to run the football,” Orgeron said. “We have to get back to LSU style of football, being physical.”
Orgeron said he doubts Guice will play against Troy. Of course, he said last Wednesday that Guice would not be in uniform against Syracuse, and he ended up starting.
The defense held Syracuse to a field goal in the first half. But quarterback Eric Dungey led three touchdown drives in the third and fourth quarters.
“We didn’t contain their quarterback outside,” Orgeron said. “We didn’t get off the field on third down and we needed better eye discipline in our pass coverage.”
Outside linebacker Arden Key, last season’s top pass rusher, had another unspectacular outing in his second start of the season. Key had two tackles, no sacks and no quarterback hurries.
“Arden is very, very rusty,” Orgeron said. “He is down to 260 (pounds), but he is not in football shape. He’s not Superman. He missed three sacks where he was one step away against an elusive quarterback. Arden could’ve come out with a great game if he gets those sacks.”
After giving up 10 points combined in victories against BYU and Chattanooga, the Tigers have allowed 63 points against Mississippi State and Syracuse.
“We were pleased with the win,” said inside linebacker Devin White, who had a career-high 13 tackles. “The effort was good. We’re not happy with the amount of yards we gave up passing and rushing. We were pretty dominant in the first half. In the second half, we were sloppy. We didn’t finish the game.”
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