LSU seeks to right ship against New Mexico State

Sep 24, 2014 - 3:57 PM Baton Rouge, LA ( - The 17th-ranked LSU Tigers will try to get back on the winning track on Saturday night, as they step out of conference action to take on the New Mexico State Aggies in the last of a four-game homestand at Tiger Stadium.

NMSU's season got off to a promising start, winning its opener at home versus Cal Poly (28-10) and following that up with a victory at Georgia State (34-31) in its first-ever Sun Belt Conference bout. The Aggies have since dropped back-to-back games to Texas-El Paso (42-24) and archrival New Mexico (38-35) to dip to .500.

LSU opened up the campaign with three straight wins, including a neutral-field defeat of nationally-ranked Wisconsin in the opener (28-24), which allowed it to climb all the way to No. 8 in the rankings prior to last week's contest with Mississippi State, which it lost, 34-29, despite its fourth-quarter comeback effort. It was only the Tigers' third loss in a Saturday night home game in 46 tries during the Les Miles regime.

"I have to improve and be a better head coach," Miles said. "I think we will look at how we conducted business and what we need to differently. I think our players will too."

LSU won the only previous meeting in the all-time series back in 1996, 63-7.

The Aggies have played well on the offensive side of the football this season, as they score 30.2 ppg and rack up 425.8 ypg, while converting third downs at 52 percent efficiency.

Tyler Rogers has completed more than 61 percent of his passes for 1,056 yards while accounting for 11 touchdowns, but he can be careless with the ball at times, having thrown six interceptions.

Rogers has a strong connection with Teldrick Morgan, who ranks seventh nationally in both catches (31) and yards (464) and has scored four touchdowns. Joseph Matthews (17 receptions, 195 yards, three TDs) has also been solid out wide.

Larry Rose III missed the UTEP game but still has a team-best 62 carries resulting in 269 yards and a touchdown. Xavier Hall (146 yards, three TDs) is often called upon near the goal line to punch it in.

NMSU's downfall comes on the defensive side of things, where it allows 30.2 ppg and 422.5 ypg, although it has created eight takeaways.

Rodney Butler (47 tackles, INT), Derek Ibekwe (44 tackles, 2.0 TFL) and Kawe Johnson (39 tackles, FF) are all tackling machines. Jay Eakins (27 tackles, 3.5 TFL, sack) is solid on the defensive line but the team has just two sacks.

The LSU offense was bottled up against Mississippi State for most of last week's game before putting together a comeback effort with three fourth- quarter touchdowns. On the season, the unit has played well, scoring 36.0 ppg on 437.8 ypg.

Anthony Jennings (.513 completions, 723 yards, five TDs, INT) completed only half his pass attempts versus MSU and was sacked three times before exiting with a shoulder injury that leaves him questionable for this contest. Brandon Harris looked strong at the end of the game, completing 6-of-9 passes for 140 yards with two touchdowns and put the team in position to try for a go-ahead touchdown in the final seconds before being picked off.

"(Harris) came in a position that was very difficult," Miles said. "We said to him, okay, make some deep throws and really use your arm, use your feet to see us win this game. He did exactly that. It was a tremendous lift, and he earned some more playing time without question. And he earned some more consideration at quarterback."

Malachi Dupre was on the receiving end of both of Harris' fourth-quarter touchdowns and finished with four catches for 120 yards. Travin Dural had another huge game (six receptions, 124 yards), giving him 18 receptions for 494 yards (fourth in the nation) and four touchdowns.

In the ground game, Kenny Hilliard earns most of the work with 245 yards and four touchdowns on 50 carries. Leonard Fournette (38 receptions, 200 yards, two TDs) has been solid in his freshman season.

The Tigers' defense was chewed up for 570 yards last week, the most they have ever allowed under Les Miles. The poor showing wasn't enough to sully a strong season on that side of the ball, however, as the unit allows just 14.5 ppg and 296.8 ypg.

Ronald Martin (23 tackles, INT, FF) leads the team in stops and is one of 15 players with double-digit tackles. Danielle Hunter has a team-best 3.5 TFL and a fumble recovery.

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