Baton Rouge, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - After suffering a disappointing loss, the 13th-ranked LSU Tigers will attempt to lick their wounds during their Homecoming clash against the Furman Paladins on Saturday night.
Furman has experienced an up-and-down campaign in the FCS, going 3-4 overall. After suffering back-to-back losses to start the month of October, the Paladins got back on track last Saturday with a 27-10 home triumph over Appalachian State.
LSU appeared to be one of the nation's best teams in the early going, winning six of its first seven games, including signature victories over TCU, Auburn and Florida. The Tigers faced another difficult task last week in traveling to Oxford, Mississippi for a bout with Ole Miss, but they fell victim to a last- second field goal in falling by a 27-24 final.
"There's a number of reasons why we didn't win that (Ole Miss) game," said LSU head coach Les Miles, who's team in the only squad from a BCS conference to play nine straight weeks to start the season. "But in my opinion it's me. I did not get it across to them. I made the points, I spoke the words, but I need to teach better. I challenge myself that way."
"I think Furman is a very capable team," he continued. "They're tough. There's guys on that team that could play for any SEC team that we play. We're going to have to play well to beat them.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs.
Furman has failed to impress offensively, scoring just 22.1 ppg on a lackluster 304.1 ypg.
A lack of identity under center is largely to blame for the Paladins' struggles. The revolving door of signal callers include Reese Hannon, Duncan Fletcher and Dillon Woodruff, with all three combining to complete just 59 percent of their passes for 1,074 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.
Regardless of who gets the starting nod, at least Furman can rely on a solid rushing attack led by Hank McCloud, who has picked up 604 yards and four touchdowns on 115 carries.
Gary Robinson has been able to show promise no matter who is delivering him the ball, catching 24 passes for 351 yards and two scores.
Defensively, Furman has held most of its opponents in check (24.1 ppg, 356.0 ypg), although it obviously hasn't faced an adversary as talented as LSU this season.
Carl Rider is one of the best linebackers in the FCS, tallying 73 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Greg Worthy (64 tackles, two FF) and Gary Wilkins (6.0 TFL, 3.5 TFL, INT, FF) are also having strong seasons.
LSU is in the midst of one of the best offensive campaigns in school history, putting up 39.2 ppg and 456.0 ypg, but it came up short in last week's loss with just 388 yards and three turnovers.
Zach Mettenberger has taken huge strides at quarterback this season, completing better than 65 percent of his passes for 2,164 yards and 16 touchdowns, but he had his worst game of the year against Ole Miss, tossing three interceptions.
"I think we had a good game plan going in, we just failed to execute," Mettenberger said. "Obviously, you can't go anywhere in this conference, turn the ball over and expect to win. This game is really on me."
Despite missing a game early in the season due to suspension, Jeremy Hill is still the SEC's third-leading rusher with 779 yards and his 10 touchdowns are tied for the league lead. Terrence Magee (268 yards, three TDs) and Kenny Hilliard (222 yards, six TDs) are also in the mix, especially near the goal line.
Mettenberger has the luxury of throwing to two of the conference's top-four receivers. Jarvis Landry (53 receptions, 795 yards, eight TDs) and Odell Beckham (42 receptions, 805 yards, six TDs) have both made their share of big plays this season. Mettenberger rarely targets anyone else, as no other player has registered double-digit catches.
Although LSU's defense has been a step behind the extremely high expectations it has set for itself, it is still one of the SEC's best units in allowing just 22.6 ppg and 370.6 ypg.
Lamin Barrow has a team-high 57 tackles to go with 3.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. Jalen Mills has two of the team's five interceptions and also leads the squad in sacks with 3.0.