BATON ROUGE, La. — Perhaps it’s a theme for the LSU and Ole Miss seasons, or perhaps it’s merely a coincidence.
Either way, Ole Miss’ third-quarter struggles have coincided with LSU’s third-quarter surges.
That was the case for both teams yet again on Saturday night in the No. 25 Tigers’ 38-21 victory over the No. 23 Rebels in which the home team scored 17 unanswered points in the second half to win their third consecutive game under interim coach Ed Orgeron.
Seconds halves — and in particular, third quarters — have been kind to LSU of late and quite the opposite to Ole Miss for the length of the season.
That theme continued when LSU outscored the Rebels 10-0 in the third quarter, outgaining them 221-30 in yards and limiting them to three three-and-outs and a turnover.
This season, opponents have outscored Ole Miss 78-34 in the third quarter. Florida State bounced back in the season opener thanks to a 23-0 run in the period. Alabama followed a similar blueprint when it edged the Rebels 17-3 in the frame.
It’s nothing new for the Tigers either, who under Coach O have dominated the third quarter 45 to 0. Those numbers are 73-7 in LSU’s favor for the entire second half.
“We came out in the second half and they didn’t score a touchdown. That was big, but we knew the whole game that we could hold them to that,” said junior defensive lineman Davon Godchaux. “We played sloppy in the first half on defense and in the second half we just got it done. Our defense is real. Our defense ain’t no joke. We’re real, but we just need to keep getting better.
“I just thought our defense was more athletic. We played with more swagger and was tougher. They came out, punched us in the mouth and scoring in the first quarter on the first drive. That was big for us to come out in the second half and stop them. We got fired up and realized it was a dogfight. We had to get in a dogfight and face a little adversity.”
Godchaux makes a point.
The Tigers trail 10-0 with 4:48 remaining in the opening quarter, the largest deficit they had seen since Orgeron took over as interim coach.
That was a sharp contrast compared to last week’s home game against Southern Miss. Then, the LSU players felt they came out flat, then needed the second half to regain their composure.
Against the Rebels, the defense came out … too hyped?
“We had to settle down and get comfortable. I felt like we were overhyped,” sophomore outside linebacker Arden Key explained. “We were making a lot of mistakes. We came in, got on the drawing board and fixed it. They weren’t doing anything different than we saw on the field. We just had to settle down. It’s not about adjusting; it’s about settling down, getting our feet up on the edge and playing football.”
The LSU defense righted the ship as soon as the second half got underway. Not surprisingly, it was in the third quarter.
“We just had to tighten up the screws,” sophomore defensive back Donte Jackson said. “We know the things we messed up on the first half, we had to tighten up. We were confident they were going to come back to those plays they got us with and they did, and we stopped them. We didn’t take anything from another defense, we were just playing LSU defense.”
That sentiment was echoed by senior linebacker Duke Riley, who like his defensive mates, gave credit where credit was due: to the Tigers playing like Tigers.
“We know what kind of defense (we can be) if everyone is on the same page, if everyone is calm and we’re just having fun out there,” he said. “A perfect team is when someone is making a mistake and the other 10 guys are making it look like it never happened. That was our goal in the second half — to play off each other.”
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