LSU getting picky

Tigers start slow against Idaho, but two interceptions for TDs change game

Updated: September 16, 2012, 1:28 AM ET
By Gary Laney | GeauxTigerNation

BATON ROUGE, La. -- In the annals of LSU football history, the Tigers' 63-14 win against Idaho on Saturday will look like a blowout where the superior team dominated the winless small conference opponent.

[+] EnlargeRonald Martin
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesRonald Martin celebrates after scoring a touchdown off an interception.
What will be forgotten are the times Tigers defenders bailed LSU out of what was, at times, a sluggish performance by a team caught between a big non-conference win over Washington and an SEC opener at Auburn.

Four interceptions of Idaho's Dominique Blackman turned what might have been an upset alert game into a laugher.

Idaho was down just 14-7 when cornerback Jalen Collins tipped a Blackman pass away from the intended receiver and into the arms of safety Ronald Martin, who returned it 45 yards for a touchdown.

Despite that, LSU led just 28-14 at halftime and after the Tigers offense sputtered and punted to start the second half, it was defensive end Lavar Edwards turn to tip a ball, this time to himself at the line of scrimmage. He ran it back 23 yards for a touchdown.

The two defensive touchdowns, which were half of the four intercept ions the Tigers recorded off Blackman, flipped the game from a struggle into a blowout.

"You can't turn the ball over to a team that's that good," Idaho coach Robb Akey said. "And you can't do it the way we did."

With the possible exception of LSU's last interception -- a poorly thrown pass by Blackman into the arms of true freshman cornerback Jalen Mills -- LSU's defenders deserve a tip of the cap for creating the turnovers.

The Tigers made good plays on the ball, showing that despite the loss of Tyrann Mathieu, they're still a team with outstanding ballhawks.

Twice passes were broken up by Collins, who reached in to make nice plays to deflect passes thrown into tight coverage. Both rebounded off Collins into the hands of Martin, who ran one back for his touchdown. The other set up a touchdown.

"The play by Collins really was the play," Miles said, speaking of both interceptions. "He is playing the ball in the air and has the receiver in a defendable position. He then gets his hands on the ball and tips it into the air. That is pure textbook."

On both, the ball bounded right to Martin.

"It's just tip drill at that point," said Martin, who admitted he owes a debt of gratitude to Collins.

"Whatever he wants tonight, he gets," Martin joked.

Opposing offenses won't be laughing when they watch it on film. Their teamwork on the two interceptions isn't what opponents want to see. Collins, a redshirt freshman, is one of the young players LSU is looking to as it searches to replace Mathieu. Martin is the second-team strong safety, getting a rare start because of what was described by Miles as a minor injury to Craig Loston.

After Saturday's performance by the third cornerback and second-team safety, LSU looked as strong as ever in the secondary.

"When somebody goes down, you just have to step up," Martin said.

If the secondary looks as deep as it was before, the defensive line might look even deeper. LSU's other interception return for a touchdown came courtesy of Edwards, whose 23-yard score turned a 28-14 halftime lead to 35-14 early in the third quarter.

"They had just told us [the defensive line] to get our hands up because [Blackman] was getting the ball out quick," Edwards said. "I'm glad I did."

It continued a fast start for Edwards, a senior who entered the season a forgotten man. But with a sack and an interception for a touchdown in the Tigers' first three games, he's been arguably more productive than LSU's two stars who play ahead of him, Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo.

"It's really nice to see guys who have spent time in the program continue to develop and continue to improve and keep getting better and better and in their last season, they play their best," Miles said. "It's wonderful."

And hard to see for opponents. On Saturday, LSU looked deeper where it was already deep, and strong where it was supposed to be thin.

They were so good in those spots, the Tigers were able to turn a sluggish performance into an impressive one and helped continue to evolve the image of this LSU team into one that does not have those perceived weakness.

"I think everyone can see that we can be a dominant football team," Miles said.

Gary Laney | email

Reporter, GeauxTigerNation