Louisiana State uses depth, talent to rout another nonconference foe
LSU didn't miss a beat Saturday in its methodical 41-3 beat down of Washington.
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BATON ROUGE, La. — No, sixth-year Louisiana State tackle Josh Dworaczyk wasn't around the last time the Tigers lost a regular-season nonconference game — that happening a decade ago.
But he's proof of why LSU isn't going to be beaten by anyone it plays outside the Southeastern Conference this season — and quite possibly inside as well.
Replacing projected injured first-round draft pick Chris Faulk at left tackle, Dworaczyk helped make sure the Tigers offense didn't miss a beat Saturday in their methodical 41-3 beat down of Washington.
"If somebody goes down, then I've usually had enough reps to play that position," said Dworaczyk, who missed last season with a knee injury after starting every game in the previous two at left guard. "The coaches had a lot of confidence in me as a starter, too.
"The entire offensive line as a unit plays so well. Any of our younger guys are capable of stepping up if they're needed."
Dworaczyk wasn't the only LSU player unexpectedly finding himself in a starting role.
True freshman cornerback Jalen Mills, who replaced Heisman finalist Tyrone Mathieu when Mathieu was dismissed from the team in August, was credited with seven tackles and came up with the game's only turnover for the Tigers defense — an interception of Keith Price in the third quarter.
LSU coach Les Miles does not allow true freshmen to speak to the media, but junior safety Eric Reid had plenty to say about Mills.
"Jalen was thrown in the fire," Reid said. "And he's responding to it well.
"Jalen's young, but he's very talented and very savvy. As long as he keeps on learning and improving, he's going to keep doing well."
That Mills was able to contribute in a pressure position right away says much about LSU's level of recruiting, going back to the Nick Saban era.
One thing fairly unusual about Mills is that he is from Texas. On Saturday, 14 of LSU's starters, seven on each side of the ball, were from Louisiana.
Contrast that to Washington, which had eight in-state starters despite having 2 ½ million more people than the Bayou State.
"The coaches recognize talent and they get the young guys in here with the attitude that you will get the chance to play if you're good enough," said Reid, who prepped at Dutchtown High School in Giesmar, La., about 15 miles south of Tiger Stadium. "We expect our young guys to play like they're juniors or seniors.
"They usually pick it up quickly, but it means you can never relax about being a starter just because you've done it before."
Saturday's victory was LSU's 39th straight against a nonconference foe in a regular-season game dating to the 2002 opener at Virginia Tech, tying the NCAA record held by Kansas State. During that time frame, the Tigers lost bowl games to Texas, Iowa and Penn State.