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LSU’s midterm grade is in the books and with the exception of one major letdown, the Tigers are right where most pundits thought they might be and perhaps a little ahead of schedule in some regards.

Splitting road games at Auburn and Florida and grinding out another road victory at South Carolina leaves No. 11-ranked LSU (5-1, 3-1 SEC) squarely in the hunt in the league race, although the degree of defeat to the Gators tarnished the Tigers national championship aspirations for now.

LSU’s latest test — Saturday’s 24-17 triumph against the Gamecocks — wasn’t achieved easily. It required a late-game surge from the offensive line and a suffocating defensive performance throughout the second half.

But just getting back on track was enough for LSU coach Les Miles for now.

“It looked like I thought it would look,” Miles said Sunday. “Certainly it was a great effort. I saw defensive improvement, offensive improvement. Sloppy, not quite exactly what we wanted, but a step in the right direction. We get a win on the road in this conference.
It’s nice to be looking forward to five games at home. It really makes, obviously, the next game have a little more importance to it.”

Not that it wasn’t already important enough.

No. 7 Georgia (6-1, 3-1) visits Tiger Stadium on Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. showdown between top-10 SEC foes. The battle with the Bulldogs launches a stretch of five consecutive home games for LSU and is a game anticipated since the preseason, when Georgia was anointed No. 1 in most polls.

For the Tigers, the win at South Carolina was a step forward for more reasons than the simple fact that it began the recovery process from a 51-21 loss the week before at Florida.

LSU’s dual-quarterback rotation of freshman Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch seemed to click as well as it has against any SEC opponent this season.

Lee hit on 16-of-26 passes for 189 yards and uncorked a handful of timely downfield throws. He was intercepted once, a turnover that set up the Gamecocks’ go-ahead TD right before halftime. But Lee continued to show an uncanny ability to remain unflappable after a mistake.

Hatch completed 2-of-3 throws for 10 yards and a score and ran five times for 19 yards.

“I think we’re further along at quarterback in the progression there,” Miles said of the two-QB system. “I think we need to take steps again this week, but I like the way we are using our quarterbacks in and out.

“I think it’s still evolving and I think it really is based on game plans. What’s the best way to attack an opponent. We feel like we have some real advantages in certain areas” with both quarterbacks.

The Advocate
10/20/08