Andre Anthony almost cried before he even stepped on the field Saturday night as LSU blew out Southeastern 31-0 in its first home game of the season.
After redshirting during his freshman season due to eligibility issues and sitting out in his sophomore season with an ankle injury, Anthony played the majority of snaps at Buck linebacker for the injured K'Lavon Chaisson. Sophomore Ray Thornton started at Field linebacker in place of junior Michael Divinity, who did not dress out because of a suspected one-game suspension.
LSU has always preached a "next man up" philosophy, and that was on full display tonight.
“Like Coach O says, 'never blink,'” Thornton said. “There shouldn’t be a change when one guy goes out and another guy comes in. We just have to adapt to that.”
“This game, I feel like, was mostly about opportunity,” Anthony said. “Some guys went down, and it was just everybody getting the opportunity to show what they need to do, play how they need to play and show the coaches that they are ready for the next game and the games after that. I feel like as a whole, everybody who got the opportunity to play fulfilled that.”
Anthony and Thornton thought they both played well, but LSU coach Ed Orgeron expected great. Thornton emphasized the need to take the things they learn in practice into game settings.
“I didn’t see a lot out of them,” Orgeron said. “I didn’t see a lot of productivity out of them. We’re going to watch the film, and maybe it’ll be a little bit different, but they’re going to have to play better than they played tonight.”
Thornton and Anthony both put up sufficient numbers against the Lions, but it still left a lot to be desired. Anthony totaled three tackles and one quarterback hurry, while Thornton put up five tackles and one sack.
While certain things need to be corrected going forward, Thornton said it ran smoothly for the most part.
“Everybody’s not perfect, like I said," Anthony said. "We made the plays that we needed to play, the plays that came to us. Everybody makes mistakes, but I feel like we did good, and we both know that we can do better, no matter how everybody else thinks we did.”
The LSU defense as a whole gave Southeastern a lot of trouble. The defensive line and linebackers spent most of the night in the Lions' backfield, finishing with five total sacks and 10 tackles for loss. The Lions even had -16 yards rushing in at the end of the first quarter.
“One of our focuses was to contain the quarterback because we knew he was a dual threat quarterback,” Thornton said. “We knew the ball was going to be coming out quick, and it was going to be important to get off the ball and get in the backfield and maintain our rush lanes, so that’s what we did.”
After the defense allowed two fourth-quarter touchdowns in against Miami in Week 1, the defense was focused on limiting those missed coverages and mental errors late in the game.
The LSU defense sets goals for themselves for each game. Tonight was about allowing less than 75 yards rushing and no points.
“It was mostly about finishing,” Anthony said. “We start on their neck, we want to stay on their neck. We don’t want to let them in, we don’t want to let them score. They got a good little drive, they go momentum but the main thing with us is finishing the game. If we’re up, we want to stay up. We don’t want to give them momentum to come back.”
The Tigers almost gave up another late touchdown after Southeastern drove from their down 1-yard line to the opposite 24-yard line with relative ease. LSU cornerback Greedy Williams intercepted Southeastern quarterback Chason Virgil to end the drive and any momentum the Lions would have in the fourth quarter.
“That was big because, like I said, the main thing is about finishing,” Anthony said. “They got a little drive going, and everybody was probably getting a little bit tired and stuff like that, but we finished the drive and Greedy got the pick.”
Anthony credits defensive coordinator Dave Aranda for calling the right plays and putting in the best possible scenario to succeed, especially when the linebackers and defensive line can trust the defensive backs behind them.
When the defensive backs like Williams are able to make big plays behind them, it opens up the pass rushers to do the same thing.
“That’s what we want,” Anthony said. “It works hand in hand. The DBs lock up and we get the sacks, or we get the quarterback hurries and they get the picks.”