LSU Mississippi Football

Mississippi quarterback John Rhys Plumlee (10) carries the ball past LSU safety Grant Delpit (7) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. LSU won 58-37. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)

Thirty-eight points, 614 total yards of offense, 402 rushing yards with an average of 9.1 yards per carry, 8.6 yards per play and 26 first downs.

Those were football offensive statistics for Ole Miss (4-7, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) in its 57-38 loss to No. 1 LSU (10-0, 6-0 SEC) Nov. 16. The 614 yards is the most yards an LSU defense has allowed since 2001.

“I was embarrassed for the LSU defense,” junior safety Jacoby Stevens said. “Defensive-wise, we didn’t put out a great representation of how we practice and how we play.”

“(Ole Miss) did a good job of showing us different looks, and we didn’t do a good job of adjusting,” senior defensive end Rashard Lawrence said. “We haven’t played up to our standard yet. We haven’t played a four-quarter game yet.”

While LSU’s offense has garnered immense praise for the turnaround it's made compared to recent seasons, perhaps even more surprising has been defense’s performance, which had become a known commodity over the past decade. The defense has given up 25 points or more in five games this season. Two of those games were against Vanderbilt and the aforementioned Ole Miss.

Vanderbilt, ranked 126th in total offense, scored 38 points against the Tigers, the most points the Commodores have tailed in a game this season. The way in which the defense has struggled has been hard to pinpoint, but there may be hints as to why.

The defense lost key starters from last season in linebacker Devin White, cornerback Greedy Williams and safety John Battle, but the Tigers supplemented those losses with the addition of freshman cornerback Derek Stingley, the emergence of junior linebackers Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips and Stevens at safety. The talent isn’t the issue, as Stevens noted.

“If we were a bunch of scrubs, if we didn’t have the talent that we have, it would be different, but we do.” Stevens said.

Junior safety Todd Phillips went down with a season-ending injury in the Tigers’ third game against Northwestern State. This led to All-American junior safety Grant Delpit playing a more deep-lying safety role rather than making plays at the line of scrimmage.

Lawrence and junior defensive tackle Glen Logan both suffered injuries in the second game of the season against Texas, forcing defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to shuffle the defensive line.

But even with the injuries and departures from last season, the struggles have been more than expected. Coach Ed Orgeron put the defensive struggles on himself, but Stevens knows it’s up to him and his teammates to be better.

“At some point, we’re going to have to make the plays regardless of the calls, regardless of the situation,” Stevens said “We’re the players out there on the field, and we’re going to have to make that play.”

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