Amid the euphoria of No. 1 LSU's win over second-ranked Alabama earlier this season, offensive coordinator and line coach Greg Studrawa was concerned about the Tigers' inability to run inside against the Crimson Tide.
Studrawa and his linemen say they're motivated to change that going into the BCS title game rematch in New Orleans on Jan. 9. "I don't think we played well. It's that simple," Studrawa said. "Give credit to Alabama's defense. They're a good defense, no doubt, but we've played good defenses before. We didn't execute as well as we wanted to. "The great thing is, these guys know they can do better, and so do I," Studrawa continued. "I'll call a better game and get them in position to make better plays. We're going to play better. I'm confident that we can."
LSU, which averaged 215 yards rushing this season, had 148 at Alabama, matching a season low in a 9-6 overtime victory in which neither team scored a touchdown.
Most of LSU's runs against the Tide were option plays to the outside. "We won the game but we lost up front and we want that to be different this time," left tackle Chris Faulk said. "We didn't do a good job coming off the ball. It was so loud and it was like nobody wanted to make a mistake so we were jumpy."
For Faulk and fellow linemen, there was no hiding from their struggles against Alabama when the raspy-voiced Studrawa gathered them for a film session. "When we were watching that, the five of us from up front kept looking at each other and saying 'We've got to play better than that,' " right tackle Alex Hurst said.
Since Studrawa moved to the offensive coordinator spot in a pinch in August when Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, Studrawa has called games from the press box, leaving his linemen on the field without their top position coach.
Studrawa was confident in making such a move because LSU has a veteran group of players that coaches said they trusted to police themselves. "The good thing about it is, when the kids watched that game, they saw it," Studrawa said. "They didn't sit in here and rejoice in what we did in that game. They knew we did enough things to win that game, but they also knew we missed on a lot of opportunities that we had. That's the most important thing."
Following the Alabama game, the LSU offense generated 284.3 rushing yards a game and 6.3 yards a rush. The only hiccup was a first-half malaise against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game when the Tigers couldn't generate a first down and scratched out only 21 yards on five possessions.
The second half was a different story - 225 yards, mostly on the ground with freshman Kenny Hilliard and sophomore Alfred Blue inflicting much of the damage on the Bulldogs respected defense.
There was a common thread to the Alabama and Georgia defenses because both use a 3-4 scheme. Solving the Bulldogs over the final 30 minutes is something Studrawa hopes can serve as a blueprint. Also high on the list of lessons learned: Don't panic. "In the beginning of the game against Georgia we were pressing," Studrawa said. "Georgia did some different things that we didn't adjust to right away. We made our halftime adjustments and we were fine. "That's a beautiful thing about this team," Studrawa continued. "They don't panic. They told me 'Coach we got it.' "