September 25, 2009 7:44:00 AM
The numbers say LSU''s running game is 10th in the Southeastern Conference.
Mississippi State''s defensive players see something different on film.
The Bulldogs are preparing like they are about to face one of the conference''s best running teams. One of their goals is to hold the Tigers below their 163.7 yards per game average when the teams meet at 11:21 a.m. Saturday (WCBI-TV) in a Southeastern Conference game in Starkville.
"We know they''ve got a good running team and we''ve got a good plan for it," MSU junior linebacker K.J. Wright said. "With the plan we''ve got now, I know it''s going to work and it''s made to stop the run."
The Bulldogs (2-1, 1-1 SEC) allowed 390 rushing yards in a 49-24 loss at Auburn and 33 yards rushing last week in a 15-3 victory against Vanderbilt.
Wright, who leads the team with 21 tackles, called the Auburn loss "a learning experience" and said the defense switched things up and moved players around after the loss.
MSU junior defensive end and SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week Pernell McPhee said the unit was disappointed in how it performed against Auburn and was determined to do something about it.
"We knew everyone was going to call us out after that Auburn game," McPhee said. "We came to practice and fought through a lot of things. We won (the Vanderbilt) game, and we''re trying to do the same thing against LSU (3-0, 1-0)."
LSU coach Les Miles doesn''t believe his running game is poor, but thinks it could get off to better starts in games.
He came off the field upset last week after a 31-3 win against Louisiana-Lafayette because he believed the Tigers hadn''t rushed well enough.
When Miles saw the Tigers had rushed for 175 yards, he wondered if he had watched a different game.
"I''m sitting there going, ''Wow, when did we do that?''" Miles said. "We need to rush the football maybe a little bit earlier, a little bit better, and more efficiently. We can be better, and certainly we''re going to."
Miles has challenged his offensive line to have a better game this week.
The Bulldogs are giving the Tigers respect after studying senior running backs Charles Scott and Keiland Williams.
MSU coach Dan Mullen said LSU uses two tight-end sets and fullbacks to run a power game and then goes to its spread run game.
"That''s what makes them difficult to defend," Mullen said.
Scott (37 carries, 164 yards) is on the Doak Walker Watch List and Maxwell Award Watch List, while Williams (27-164) is his backup.
The Tigers also don''t mind giving the football to speedy senior Trindon Holliday (six-29) for a change of pace.
"When we watch the film, those guys are pretty aggressive," McPhee said. "We''re going to try and keep our pads down low and do our best. We''re going to try and carry (momentum) over from last week."
Smith expected to play
Redshirt freshman Tobias Smith, of Columbus, should be in the rotation at right offensive guard.
Mullen said Thursday night Smith has practiced all week at full speed.
Smith has yet to play in a game this season after preseason ankle surgery.
Junior tight end Brandon Henderson (ankle) practiced Thursday and also could be available.
"How much Brandon plays will still be up in the air," Mullen said. "Knock on wood, we''re healthy and need to stay that way the rest of the season."
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