NCF Nation: Tigers-Vols-101511

An emotional return for LSU's Chavis

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
11:13
PM ET
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- It was an emotional return to Neyland Stadium for LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis.

But the best part for him was that it was a successful return.

Chavis

Chavis

LSU whipped Tennessee 38-7 on Saturday, and afterward, Chavis was awarded with the game ball in the locker room.

“We gave John the game ball. It was very emotional,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “He loves this place, and his kids played awfully well against them.”

For 14 seasons, Chavis was Tennessee’s defensive coordinator under Phillip Fulmer and was as loyal as they come. He turned down numerous offers to go elsewhere and remained at his alma mater, where he walked on and later earned a scholarship as a middle guard in the 1970s.

Chavis’ defenses were the backbone of some of Fulmer’s best teams, in particular the 1998 national championship team. But Fulmer was fired following the 2008 season, and the entire staff was pushed out.

Chavis, whose two sons still live in Knoxville, hadn’t been back to Neyland Stadium prior to Saturday’s game. He admitted that dressing in the visiting locker room and sending in plays from the visiting coaches’ booth created a feeling that was hard to describe.

Before the game, Chavis wasn’t even sure where the visiting booth was in the press box and had to be directed to it.

“I didn’t know what to expect coming back,” said Chavis, who refused to talk about the game during the week because he didn’t want the focus to be on him.

But when it was over Saturday, Chavis lost it emotionally a couple of different times.

His eyes welled up with tears on the field as he hugged his players after the game.

“He hadn’t said much about it, but we knew this one was special to him,” LSU safety Eric Reid said. “We played for him.”

While talking to reporters after the game, Chavis was again reduced to tears.

“I said I’d never do this again, but I did it,” Chavis said. “So I’m a softy. Call me a big baby. It’s great that people still care about you. It was a good feeling to be back in this stadium.”

It was also a good feeling to see his defense limit its opponent to a single touchdown for the third straight week. LSU held Tennessee to 66 total yards in the second half.

Of course, the Vols only had three offensive possessions after halftime, and the third one came with 1:35 to play.

“I’ve never been involved in a game where you had two series in the second half, and that’s basically what we had,” Chavis said. “We played two series of defense in the second half, and the game was over.

“Our offense has done that most of the year. They’ve controlled the football and done a great job of it. Geez, no turnovers. I mean, it’s been amazing. It’s a lot easier to play with that type of offense. There’s no question about that.”

Chavis joked that he almost got bored in the second half.

“I didn’t have anything to do for a good while,” he said. “I had an opportunity to think about 10 different things and forgot about nine of them before they got the ball back.”

Miles, Tigers buck convention for results

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
10:49
PM ET

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Les Miles proved a long time ago that he doesn’t care what anybody else thinks.

He’s going to coach his LSU football team the way he sees fit.

Some of the decisions he makes and particularly some of the things he says have been known to border Bizarro World at times.

But this whole quarterback deal with Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson really isn’t a big deal at all, at least not to those inside the LSU football family.

“I think it’s more on the outside perimeter,” Lee said. “We’re not worried about it all. It’s not a distraction to us.”

Lee made his seventh straight start at quarterback Saturday, guiding the No. 1-ranked Tigers to a 38-7 win over Tennessee at Neyland Stadium.

A fifth-year senior, Lee threw two more touchdown passes Saturday and has 10 for the season and one interception. In fact, the Tigers (7-0, 4-0) have now gone 48 offensive possessions without a turnover, and Lee has been the picture of efficiency in leading this offense.

He’s been steady, smart and productive.

Yet, when the second half began Saturday with LSU still trying to put Tennessee away after leading 17-7 at the half, Jefferson was the Tigers’ quarterback … and not Lee.

“We’re going to keep chugging, and it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is,” LSU sophomore running back Spencer Ware said.

Obviously not, but most coaches go out of their way not to tinker with something that’s working, especially when it rises to the level of seven straight wins by double digits and a No. 1 ranking.

But, then, Miles isn’t most coaches, and he wants to make one thing very clear: He’s going to play both quarterbacks the rest of the way.

“I like using both quarterbacks,” Miles said. “I think that’s what works best and what we need to do. Both guys can do different things. We like to do that, and we’ll continue to do that. There’s a want for both guys to have success and have team success.”

Asked specifically if Lee was still the starter, Miles said, “We’re going to go just like we’ve gone. It’s going to be our call, the offensive coaches’ call and my call, and it’s just that simple.”

Jefferson, in his third game back since being reinstated to the team, played most of the way in the second half.

And even though he threw the ball just three times the whole game, he was plenty effective. He guided the Tigers on a 12-play, 66-yard touchdown drive and then a 16-play, 99-yard touchdown drive.

The Vols (3-3, 0-3) didn’t even have the ball eight minutes in the second half. Their third and final possession of the second half came with 1:35 to play and the outcome long since decided.

LSU threw the ball just five times after halftime and cranked up a running game that has pounded teams into submission all season in the second half. The Tigers finished with 260 rushing yards against the Vols, and 196 of those came after the break.

Ware said the Tigers can sense when they’re about to break a team.

“When we get that feeling, that’s when you see us at our best,” Ware said.

Jefferson wasn’t made available to the media after the game. He’s talked only once since having his felony second-degree battery charge dropped to a misdemeanor and rejoining the team earlier this month.

Immediately, the LSU players welcomed Jefferson back, and several of them said there was an empty feeling without him those first four games.

At the same time, they’ve been outspoken about how well Lee has played, and probably the real key in making this whole dual-quarterback system work is the way Lee has handled everything.

“I’m not concerned at all,” Lee said. “Jordan brings something else to the table athletically at quarterback. You saw him run the ball tonight, and that’s something he does a little bit better.

“If that’s what needs to happen, that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

Lee said he didn’t find out that he wasn’t starting the second half until the team was back out on the field.

“We were warming up, and I was told it was a change that was going to happen,” Lee said. “I was all for it.”

His LSU teammates are all for whatever is going to get them to the SEC championship game and ultimately the Allstate BCS National Championship Game.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to win,” Ware said. “If it takes two quarterbacks, we’re going to do it.

“This is our year, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to take it to the promised land.”

Video: LSU receiver Russell Shepard

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
9:05
PM ET

Chris Low talks with LSU WR Russell Shepard about the Tigers' 38-7 win against Tennessee.

Final: LSU 38, Tennessee 7

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
6:56
PM ET
KNOXVLLE, Tenn. -- No. 1-ranked LSU has a way of wearing you down in the second half.

It’s like a purple and gold steamroller.

Tennessee found itself on the wrong end of that steamroller Saturday, as LSU pinned a 38-7 beating on the Vols in Neyland Stadium.

There wasn’t much flashy about the Tigers’ seventh straight win, all by double digits, and the only real drama centered around Jordan Jefferson opening the second half as the quarterback instead of Jarrett Lee.

But this is sort of the way this LSU team rolls: Run the ball with a vengeance, play keepaway on offense and play suffocating defense. LSU outscored Tennessee 21-0 in the second half, and the Vols only had three offensive possessions.

The Tigers (7-0, 4-0) now return home next week to face Auburn. After that comes an open date and then the game everyone’s been waiting on – Alabama on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa.

The Vols (3-3, 0-3) lost for the second straight week. Matt Simms filled in for the injured Tyler Bray at quarterback and was intercepted twice, one of those returned 89 yards by LSU’s Morris Claiborne to set up the Tigers’ first touchdown.

It doesn’t get any easier for Tennessee. The Vols travel to No. 2-ranked Alabama next week.

Jefferson leads long LSU drives

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
6:38
PM ET
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- It's hard to argue with results.

Jordan Jefferson, who started the second half at quarterback for LSU, just guided his second of two long touchdown drives -- this one a 99-yard drive.

Jarrett Lee has played very little in the second half, but it hasn't really mattered because LSU has done what it does best -- and that's keep the ball away from the other team.

The Tigers lead 31-7, and the Vols' second possession of the second half didn't come until the midway point of the fourth quarter.

Jefferson starts second half for LSU

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
6:10
PM ET
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- LSU coach Les Miles has been committed to keeping Jordan Jefferson involved in the offense and actually started him in the second half of the Tennessee game.

Jefferson has become the Tigers' running quarterback and had several key runs in the 12-play, 66-yard scoring drive.

But when LSU had to convert on third-and-5, Jarrett Lee came back into the game and fired a strike to Rueben Randle for a first down.

It's a combination that has worked to this point. But will it work against Alabama's defense, especially with Lee being more of the designated thrower and Jefferson more of the designated runner?

Then again, maybe Miles is setting everybody up?

At the half: LSU 17, Tennessee 7

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
5:41
PM ET
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- No. 1-ranked LSU hit a few big plays on offense and defense to take a 17-7 lead over Tennessee into the half Saturday in Neyland Stadium.

Here's a quick halftime analysis:

Turning point: LSU's Morris Claiborne intercepted a Matt Simms pass inside the 10-yard line and returned it 89 yards, setting up the Tigers' first touchdown early in the second quarter and snapping a scoreless tie. The Vols appeared to have the momentum after a review from the booth overturned a call on the field and ruled Rajion Neal was inbounds on a 38-yard catch to the LSU 42-yard line. But Claiborne's interception return changed the entire complexion of the game.

Player of the half: LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee is 9-of-13 and has a pair of touchdown passes to Rueben Randle and Spencer Ware.

Stat of the half: The Tigers had to drive just 41 yards for their two touchdowns.

Stat of the half II: Who would have guessed that Tennessee would have as many rushing yards at the half (64) as LSU?

Stat of the half III: The two teams are a combined 2-of-11 on third down.

What Tennessee needs to do: If the Vols can keep from turning the ball over in the second half, they may have a chance. They looked like they might have found something in the running game there at the end of the half. On the flip side, the Vols are probably going to need the Tigers to turn it over to make up the 10-point deficit. That's easier said than done. LSU has now gone 46 offensive possessions in a row without a turnover.

Vols' running game comes alive

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
5:21
PM ET
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee's running game was non-existent in its first two SEC games, but at least has a pulse against LSU.

The Vols were held to minus-29 rushing yards in their two SEC losses to Florida and Georgia, but have had surprising success on the ground against an LSU defense that has suffocated opposing running games all season.

In pulling within 14-7, the Vols pounded the middle of that LSU defensive front with seven straight runs (with a key pass interference call mixed in) and have already rushed for 66 yards.

LSU is allowing Tennessee to hang around in this game, and give Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms credit for hanging in there in the pocket on his 44-yard completion to Da'Rick Rogers after throwing two really bad interceptions earlier.

Claiborne strikes for LSU

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
4:56
PM ET
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The demoralizing thing about playing against LSU is how quickly the Tigers' defense can change the complexion of a game.

LSU leads Tennessee 7-0 early in the second quarter despite the Vols' defense playing as well as it has all season.

In fact, Tennessee had all the momentum after getting a favorable review on a deep pass and moving out to midfield. But on the next play, Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms tried to go deep, and Morris Claiborne had Da'Rick Rogers blanketed.

Not only did Claiborne make a leaping interception inside the 5, but he showcased the kind of running skills that also make him one of the league's most feared kickoff returners. He turned on the jets and weaved 89 yards, setting up Jarrett Lee's short touchdown pass to Rueben Randle and completely taking the wind out of Neyland Stadium.

It's the kind of game-changing play the LSU defense has made all season, and the Tigers needed it, too, because their offense hadn't done much of anything in this game.

It was the longest non-scoring interception return in LSU school history.

LSU's Miles never predictable

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
4:32
PM ET
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – With Les Miles, it never happens the way you think it will.

Something says he sort of likes it that way.

LSU had a fourth down on Tennessee’s 30-yard line Saturday and less than a yard to go. But instead of going for it, Miles decided to kick a field goal.

That’s right, the same Miles who loves rolling the dice.

The only problem was that the field goal was blocked by Tennessee, which was a moot point. That’s because LSU didn’t get the play off in time and was penalized for delay of game.

The Tigers wound up punting the ball from the Vols’ 40 after taking another delay of game on purpose and had to settle for a touchback.

Just the way Miles drew it up.

One thing that seems obvious, at least through the first quarter, is that LSU misses starting center P.J. Lonergan, who's out with an ankle sprain.

Welcome back, Chief

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
3:47
PM ET
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- There was a funny moment right before the LSU-Tennessee game in the press box with LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis walking around looking for the visiting coaches booth.

Chavis, of course, was the Vols' defensive coordinator for 14 years until Phillip Fulmer was fired following the 2008 season and has coached countless games from the booth here.

But he'd never called a game from the visiting booth until today.

One change for LSU today is that center P.J. Lonergan will be replaced by T-Bob Hebert in the starting lineup. Lonergan has been slowed by a high ankle sprain.

LSU looks to climb Rocky Top

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
2:22
PM ET
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. –- No. 1-ranked LSU makes its first trip to Neyland Stadium today since 2006.

That was a talented LSU team, one led by quarterback JaMarcus Russell. The Tigers won the Sugar Bowl that year.

This LSU team is even more talented and has won every game by double digits this season. This will be the Tigers’ fourth game away from home, too.

Several story lines are front and center today.

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis makes his first return to Neyland Stadium since Phillip Fulmer’s firing following the 2008 season. Chavis was the Vols’ defensive coordinator under Fulmer for 14 years.

For Tennessee, Matt Simms steps in as the Vols’ starting quarterback after Tyler Bray broke his thumb last week against Georgia.

Simms was Tennessee’s quarterback in last season’s game, which LSU won 16-14 in wild fashion. It looked like Tennessee had won the game, but the Vols were flagged for having 13 defenders on the field on the final play of the game, giving the Tigers one more shot.

They cashed in from the 1-yard line in what was a crushing loss for Derek Dooley and the Vols.

Tennessee last beat a No. 1-ranked team 26 years ago right here in Neyland Stadium. The unranked Vols shut down Auburn and Bo Jackson that day, 38-20.

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