BATON ROUGE, La. -- In many preseason projections, LSU's defensive line was rated among the two best in college football, along with Florida State.
So that makes the Tigers' lack of defensive line production in a season-opening 41-14 win over North Texas Saturday that much more puzzling. LSU had no sacks on Mean Green quarterback Derek Thompson, the result of a UNT game-planning and things LSU wants to improve on.
"I felt like we had a good pass rush against [North Texas], but sometimes they were getting rid of it very quickly and under duress," LSU head coach Les Miles said.
On North Texas' two touchdowns, however, the Tigers blitzed and did not get to Thompson, who threw touchdown passes with the aid of mistakes in the secondary.
"Frankly, on the two [touchdown] completions, we would have enjoyed a little more pass rush," Miles said. "I think what we are doing is correct. We just need to improve on our technique and get to the passer. We need pressure."
Linebacker Lamin Barrow lamented his technique on blitzes.
"I feel like a sack is coming if I can just get off [the ball] quicker," he said. "If I can improve on that, everything else is good."
That's an area where LSU may miss Tyrann Mathieu, whose ability to wreak havoc blitzing from a nickel back spot was one of his signature talents.
As for the front four, they were stymied at times by UNT's max-protect approach where the Mean Green kept tight ends and running backs in to help block instead of sending them out on pass routes. Pass-rush star Barkevious Mingo said he was often double-teamed. Despite it, Mingo had a quarterback hurry, as did defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, who also batted down a pass, as did defensive tackle Bennie Logan.
Washington comes to town this week with a high-powered passing attack less likely to keep tight ends and backs in to help block. For one thing, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the Huskies' best receiver. UW's offensive line is reeling from the loss of tackle Ben Riva to a broken forearm.
"The unit that we are, we try to get more pressure than we got last week," Mingo said.
Landry a captain: Wide receiver Jarvis Landry not only was a productive on-field player against North Texas with eight catches for 82 yards, he also has caught Miles' eye on a day-to-day basis enough to be named offensive captain.
"If you could see our practices, what you would see is Jarvis Landry having a blast," Miles said. "It doesn't surprise me the successes he has had or will have."
Landry joins Mingo (defense) and running back Alfred Blue (special teams) as captains.
Copeland impresses: J.C. Copeland, LSU's bull of a fullback, is supposed to be strictly a blocker.
A converted defensive tackle, Copeland was not a ball-carrier in high school and in two seasons sharing time with James Stampley at fullback for LSU, he had just two carries for no yards. So it surprised many when, in his first game as full-time starter after the graduation of Stampley, he carried four times for 33 yards against North Texas, including his first career touchdown.
"What did you guys think?," Miles asked when the subject of Copeland's running came up. "Looks like he can do that pretty good, doesn't it?"
Copeland, by all accounts, earned that observation.
"I worked my butt off in the summer and the spring to show them I could run the ball and catch it," he said.
The work is paying off.
"I think we may have to hand him the ball occasionally," Miles said. "He is rough and tumble and can get some tough yards for us."
If nothing else, he might be on the field more often than in the past. The Tigers used fullbacks on 56 of 72 passes against the Mean Green, enough plays where both Copeland and backup Connor Neighbors saw significant snaps.