Miles embraces break from SEC play

Oct 27, 2009 - 1:23 AM By BRETT MARTEL AP Sports Writer

BATON ROUGE, La.(AP) -- Les Miles figures there's little use in trying to ignore the fact that No. 9 LSU's game at Alabama on Nov. 7 is looming largest on the minds of just about everyone associated with the program.

He only hopes his players will see Saturday night's home game against struggling Tulane as a much-needed opportunity to get better before LSU (6-1) returns to its Southeastern Conference schedule.

"We understand that our greatest ally at this point is time - to improve, do better and play strong and play dominant against our next opponent." Miles said Monday. "Then we'll look around and see where we are at."

Tulane (2-5) is coming off a 43-6 loss at Southern Mississippi, its third straight loss, and Tulane hasn't beaten LSU since 1982.

Miles nonetheless referred to the Green Wave as "dangerous," and said his players must continue to build on the substantial improvement they showed in a 31-10 victory over Auburn.

Jordan Jefferson passed for a career-high 242 yards and threw a pair of touchdown passes against Auburn, going a long way toward putting his miserable performance against Florida (96 yards passing, five sacks) behind him.

It was only the ninth career start for the sophomore, and it was the first time this season he looked comfortable throwing deep and trusting his receivers to make plays, something he'd pledged to do during LSU's recent bye week.

"What I think we're finding is, each game he continues to improve, he understands, he learns, he sees the field well, and I'm not surprised," Miles said. "There's no ability for a coach to take you beyond experience. ... You need as many snaps as you can get, and then, it helps him translate those plays in a game more effectively, especially for a guy that has the talent that he has."

A pair of freshman also emerged on offense, with Russell Shepard scoring on a 69-yard run and Rueben Randle hauling in a tough 31-yard catch along the sideline.

Miles said a number of young players who had not seen much action until the Auburn game "will play key roles during the rest of the season."

If the rest of the season goes as planned, LSU could re-emerge as a contender to win the SEC and compete for a national title. If LSU pulls out a victory at No. 2 Alabama, the Tigers would vault into first place in the SEC Western Division, setting up a potential rematch with Florida in the SEC title game.

"Our football team recognizes that if they do the things that they are capable of, we'll get to a position where we'll play for everything that we want," Miles said.

The timing of the bye week appeared to work in LSU's favor, giving the Tigers an opportunity to take a hard look at what went wrong in their 13-3 loss to the Gators on Oct. 10.

"The recognition of how we played against Florida and the comparisons of the two teams that were made by the (LSU) players who played really told them something," Miles said. "I think it became a more urgent want to prepare, improve and be the team they are capable of being."

Although LSU has only lost one game all season, there were few instances before the Auburn game in which the Tigers looked dominant.

LSU needed a late goal-line stand to escape Mississippi State with a win and a pair of late touchdowns to beat Georgia. The Tigers' offense was thoroughly stifled by Florida, with the game remaining close only because of timely plays by LSU's defense.

Even the defense was struggling in key areas, entering the Auburn game ranked last in the SEC in sacks with five. The unit nearly doubled that total against Auburn, sacking Chris Todd four times. One sack produced a turnover and LSU also had an interception.

"This defense seems to have a smile on its face when it goes out to play, and they are playing aggressive and downhill," Miles said. "There is great effort. There is a sprit there that is allowing them to continue to get better."

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