BATON ROUGE, La. — Rickey Jefferson was forced to watch Saturday’s 45-10 victory against Southern Miss from the sidelines, a place he isn’t used to, nor wants to be.
LSU’s senior safety broke his leg Thursday in what his teammates called “a freak accident,” which puts an unfortunate ending on a 2016 season that represented a breakout campaign.
With Jefferson out, the rest of the Tigers secondary was left to pick up the slack. During Saturday’s win, that was precisely what they did — beginning with Jamal Adams’ forced fumble and subsequent recovery — to spark a second-half drive.
It should come as no surprise Adams made the play. After all, the entire LSU defensive backfield is playing for Jefferson, their teammate and, more importantly, their brother.
“That’s what he would want,” senior cornerback Tre’Davious White said. “To play as a secondary, to play as one. Remember him with the way that we play because he’d do anything to be out there with us.”
“That’s my best friend. Me, him, M.J. (Patterson) and Kendell (Beckwith) have been roommates for three years, so it hurts me to see him back there. We came in together and we’ve played every game together, so it’s definitely one of those feelings I don’t like. I feel for him because as a guy coming here, he didn’t play too much until the back end. As a senior, he became a full-time starter. To not be able to finish is an unfortunate thing.”
With Jefferson out, in came junior defensive back John Battle.
The second-year player didn’t have to shake off too many nerves before cracking the starting lineup, but realized the situation he was walking into. He understands what No. 9 brings to LSU’s secondary — with more than just his style of play.
“I can’t replace Rickey. He brings a different energy, but I try to do whatever I can,” Battle said. “He’s irreplaceable. He’s our captain. He’s always encouraging us so I’m trying to do my part the best way I can.
“Rick’s our guy, he’s our brother. We were all devastated when we found out he had a broken leg. We had to come together as brothers and play this game for Rickey.”
A slow start resulted in a 10-all tie at halftime, but in the third quarter Adams helped swing momentum back in favor of LSU with a strip and recovery, which led to Derrius Guice’ second touchdown of the quarter.
The Tigers scored 28 unanswered in the third quarter and 45 unanswered to close out the game and earn the win. The spark, undeniably, came from the secondary, and Adams credits Jefferson for the motivation.
“That’s our brother,” he said. “He went down with a freak accident. We miss him out there so much. He’s our heartbeat. We’re going to play for him and make plays, and hopefully, get him back out there.”
— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) October 15, 2016
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