The junior linebacker duo of Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen led the LSU (5-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) defense that held the Utah State offense, which ranked No. 9 in the country coming into the game, to 159 total yards in the Tigers’ 42-6 football victory on Saturday.
Queen played one of the better games on the defensive side of the ball, leading the team with three tackles for loss, five solo tackles and six total tackles.
“I thought Patrick Queen had his best day,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron. “You could see our guys running, chewing up all the grass not giving them a lot of breakdowns or two-way go’s.”
Coming off of a game against Vanderbilt in which LSU missed 18 tackles, every practice leading up to the game focused heavily on proper technique and angles. Phillips and Queen exemplified the difference in Saturday’s game and the Vanderbilt game.
“It was really more of an effort thing,” Phillips said. “We came into this game with a chip on our shoulder. It doesn’t matter if it’s practice or the game, Monday through Friday we’re going to go out there and play aggressive.”
Queen and Phillips combined for 11 total tackles, and didn’t allow Utah State to get anything going in the screen game, making tackles in space and wrapping up. All of Queen’s tackles for loss came on screen plays, signaling not only the improved tackling of the defense but also the schemes employed by LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
“I have to credit our defensive coaches,” Orgeron said. “It was like going to the dentist going to work every day. We had to get after it. We had to get better. There was a high intensity all day in the office, all day on the drills and all day at practice.”
Another sore spot for the defense against Vanderbilt was stopping the run, as the Tigers gave up 145 rushing yards. LSU held Utah State to just 19 rushing yards, and 10 of those came in the fourth quarter.
“Coach [Orgeron] has been over our shoulder talking to us about tackling all week,” Queen said. “That’s what we focused on and that’s what we got better at.”
Following the departure of first round draft pick Devin White, Phillips and Queen have each stepped up at the middle linebacker position this season, combining for 60 total tackles and 6.5 tackles-for-loss through five games.
“It helps when you have a linebacker like [Queen] that who can actually close in,” said senior defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko. “It allows us to penetrate even more. When you have a linebacker like PQ, Jacob and Damone [Clark], who can actually close in and make tackles and help out the defensive line where we don’t have to hesitate a little bit or hold blocks longer. It helps out a bunch.”
Fehoko said he gave a speech to the team on Thursday emphasizing the pride and tradition of LSU’s defense. The Tigers’ linebacking corps certainly played up to that tradition against Utah State.
The Tigers have a daunting three-game stretch ahead of them starting with No. 7 Florida in Tiger Stadium, but Queen believes LSU will be ready.
Florida will be without starting quarterback Feleipe Franks, who broke his leg earlier in the season, but his replacement, Kyle Trask, has been adequate. Trask has completed 70 of 97 passes for 881 yards and seven touchdowns so far this season.
“It’s really exciting. We’ve been at their house for two years,” Queen said. “They beat us last year, but the only thing I’m thinking about is getting back out there with the guys and perform.”