Baskerville, Tigers banking on defense against productive Volunteers

AROUND THE BALL: With a pick-six and more disruptive play this season, Evangel product Micah Baskerville has made impact LSU needs Saturday against Tennessee. (Photo by PETER FOREST, Journal Sports)


BATON ROUGE — Micah Baskerville doesn’t want to let them down, and the “them,” of course, are his brothers on LSU’s defense.

“You know, I don’t want to let my brothers down,” said Baskerville, who was a four-year starter at Evangel Christian. “You know and I know they’re not gonna do that to me. So I just go out there and try to play my hardest for them and the coaches.”

That mindset has allowed the fifth-year senior linebacker to help anchor a defense that has become the team’s strength this season.

No. 25 LSU enters Saturday’s showdown against No. 8 Tennessee giving up an average of 14.8 points and only 184.6 passing yards per game.

The Tigers flexed that strength in last week’s come-from-behind road win over Auburn.

After having some busted coverages that allowed Auburn to build up a 17-0 lead, LSU’s defense did not give up another score after the 9:38 mark in the second quarter.

Not only did LSU’s defense post a shutout in the second half, but also the Tigers turned the momentum of the game.

In the second quarter, BJ Ojulari strip-sacked Auburn’s Robby Ashford and Jay Ward scooped it up and returned it 23 yards for the touchdown.

“I told him that was a captain’s play,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said. “What I meant by that was that that was an effort play, and that was a timely play that gave us the life that we needed at that particular time. We were down 17-0, and we needed something good to happen.”

“It did bring a lot of energy and it brought Uncle Mo to our side,” said Baskerville, who has 15 tackles and one interception on the season. “I believe in our guys; we can play against anybody whatever time and I believe we’ll get the job done. Just got to be more disciplined starting off.”

It’s easy to see why Baskerville believes in the Tigers’ defense.

In the second half of LSU’s last three games, the defense has given up only three points, a 45-yard field goal in the third quarter of the 31-16 win over Mississippi State.

“Some players came in and said that was not a standard,” said Ward, on what the defense discussed at halftime of the Auburn game. “So we came out in the second half and showed y’all what the standard was.”

That standard will be tested on Saturday when No. 25 LSU (4-1, 2-0 SEC) hosts No. 8 Tennessee (4-0, 1-0 SEC). Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. in Tiger Stadium, televised on ESPN.

Led by quarterback Hendon Hooker, the Tennessee Volunteers lead the SEC in yards per game (559.25), passing yards per game (365.75) and points (48.50) and have not turned over the ball at all.

LSU’s defense, meanwhile, has forced 12 turnovers.

“We will need to be disciplined for sure,” Baskerville said. “Someone’s gonna have the hard down, and they’re just about making the play. So you know, I believe in our guys and our athletes. I feel like we’re gonna be able to make that play when it’s called upon us.”

Ward added, “With Tennessee having no turnovers this season and our defense creating turnovers, I’d say on Saturday, it is going to be a good game.”

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