For all the positives that came with two schedule changes, a late start to the season, a multitude of disruptions and a 35-31 win at Arizona State in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, No. 3 LSU still had to come home and deal with the reality of a defense that allowed 560 yards.
"I'm a little disappointed," defensive coordinator Bo Pelini said. "I didn't think we executed very well, and that goes back to coaching. But it was nothing that can't be corrected, and we're moving in that direction."
For all the concern over his defense, first-year LSU coach Les Miles came away convinced the Tigers (1-0) aren't as bad as they looked at Arizona State.
"Their offense is pretty good. They've always thrown the ball extremely well. The quarterback threw some balls into receivers that were covered very well. There were two opportunities to get picks that went right through our hands," Miles said. "Had we done things differently we may have had an opportunity at a couple more. It was the kind of game had we executed people would have come off saying look at all the turnovers we'd gotten."
The extra time during the open date between the Arizona State game and Saturday's home game against Tennessee gives the Tigers a chance to work on their defense, but the Tigers actually find themselves with less to learn after five previous seasons under Nick Saban, who left LSU for the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
While Saban gave his players a lot to think about from the time the defensive call game into the huddle and the snap of the ball, Pelini tends to keep things simpler.
"We would get two or three calls at a time and we'd make the call according to the formation," middle linebacker Cameron Vaughn said of Saban's defense. "That was good, but a lot of times we lacked communication because it's hard with 92,000 people screaming in your ear. We had a lot of busts doing that.
"With Coach Pelini, the call is going to be the call 90 percent of the time. We'll check it sometimes, but usually it will just play out. We have a lot fewer communication busts."
Either way, the goal is the same. So is the outcome when the call is right and the players execute the defense.
"You play with great effort and get 11 hats to the football," Pelini said. "That's where great defense starts. We talk about it all the time.
"When you get there you have to get there in a bad mood with the awareness that you're not going there just to make a tackle but get the ball out, too."
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