WKU to face talent-laden LSU secondary Saturday

Junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes will lead WKU against a talented LSU secondary on Saturday.

Brad Stephens

CBS analyst Gary Danielson said there were 10 future NFL defensive backs on the field last Saturday when No. 1 Louisiana State played then-No. 2 Alabama.

The LSU secondary made two crucial fourth quarter interceptions, putting the Tigers in position for a 9-6 overtime win. 

WKU (5-4) will get a shot at the No. 1 Tigers (9-0) and its talented defensive backs at 6 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium.

Offensive coordinator Zach Azzanni got a firsthand look at LSU’s defense a season ago when he was an assistant at Southeastern Conference rival Florida and called them “a typical SEC-looking defense.”

“They’re all tall, high-cut guys that can run,” Azzanni said. “The D-linemen run like linebackers, the linebackers run like secondary guys and the secondary guys run like track stars.”

Football secondaries typically consist of two cornerbacks and two safeties.

The primary responsibility for those positions is preventing opponents from having success passing.

Tiger DBs have done just that, allowing 177.4 passing yards per game, the eighth-lowest total in the nation.

“Their statistics speak for themselves,” Azzanni said. “That secondary is definitely the strong point of that defense. All four of those guys will be playing on Sundays.”

The LSU secondary had to replace cornerback Patrick Peterson in the offseason after he was taken No. 5 overall in last year’s NFL Draft.

But safeties Brandon Taylor and Eric Reid and cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne have filled Peterson’s void.

Reid and Claiborne both made interceptions last Saturday to keep the Crimson Tide scoreless in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile Taylor leads the team with 53 tackles and Mathieu has forced an SEC-high four fumbles.

Azzanni said he was especially impressed with Mathieu, a sophomore nicknamed “Honey Badger” after a Youtube video about nature’s “most fearless animal.”

“You turn on the film and you watch him play, as a coach when you press ‘play,’ that’s how you want your guys to play football,” Azzanni said. “He’s one of the best football players I’ve ever seen on film.”

The Toppers are coming off one of their worst statistical passing performances of the year last week against Florida International.

Under pressure for much of the game, junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes went just 8-of-24 for 143 yards.

Junior tight end Jack Doyle said WKU will have to play its “A-game” Saturday to have any chance of moving the ball against LSU.

“They’re real fast and they make turnovers,” he said. “That’s going to be one thing we really need to focus on is controlling that ball and looking it in and making sure we have it tucked away.”

The Toppers, who are 41-point underdogs against the Tigers, will be looking to continue a five-game win streak  and beat an SEC team for the first time in school history.

Jakes said the LSU game has a chance to be a milestone for moment for the WKU program.

“It’s a once in a lifetime chance to play the No. 1 team, and the No. 1 defense at that,” he said. “I can’t wait until Saturday.”