Les Miles doesn't see LSU's paltry passing numbers against McNeese State as reason to panic.
The Tigers play at No. 5 Auburn Saturday after being grounded last weekend. But the coach said just because sixth-ranked LSU only managed 103 yards passing and no TDs through the air against a team from the Football Championship Subdivision doesn't mean they won't be able to throw against Auburn.
"I see us throw the ball well in practice," Miles said Monday. "It just needs to show up in the game."
LSU (7-0, 4-0 SEC) eventually pulled away for a 32-10 victory over McNeese last Saturday, but the offense seemed to take a step backward.
Using a two-quarterback system with Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee for the third straight game, the Tigers had only two touchdowns and led by only six points until Michael Ford's scoring run late in the third quarter. The fourth and last touchdown didn't come until LSU was running out the clock in the final 90 seconds.
Miles said Jefferson and Lee should have performed better but were hampered in part by a game plan aimed at ball control and emphasizing the run.
"We had a want to manage the game and control the game on the ground," Miles said. "I would have liked to have thrown the football better."
Now LSU faces its toughest test yet at Auburn (7-0, 4-0), which scored 65 points against Arkansas, averages 40 points a game and has one of college football's most productive dual-threat quarterbacks in Cameron Newton. Although LSU has been carried primarily by dominant defense, Miles figures his offense needs to be more productive this weekend.
"We have to be aggressive against Auburn," Miles said. "We are going to have to throw the football.
"But we also have to run it," Miles added. "We are going to run the same offense we've been trying to run. We recognize we have the need to score some points in this game, but we try to do that in every game."
In the past three games, Lee has put up better passing numbers than Jefferson. Lee has completed 71 percent of his throws (34-of-48) for 384 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Lee was the quarterback on all four touchdown drives against McNeese.
Jefferson has completed 50 percent of his passes (15-of-30) for 158 yards with three interceptions. Jefferson, who hasn't passed for more than 100 yards in any game since the opener against North Carolina, has run for 150 yards the past three weeks.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said LSU's running game clearly has been the strength of its offense, but warned against underestimating a passing attack that despite low numbers still features good athletes.
"They are very talented offensively," Chizik said. "They are very physical up front. The running game is what's being extremely productive for them right now, not that their throwing game is not productive. They just seem to be really running the ball well."
The past few weeks, Miles hinted that Jefferson would start with Lee coming off the bench, but this week said, "No starter will be named."
"A change in the order doesn't matter at this point. Both quarterbacks are going to play," Miles said. "We need both quarterbacks' skill sets. I watched a tape where we scored 31 points against Auburn last year with No. 9 (Jefferson) the quarterback the whole day.
"Two years ago at Auburn, No. 12 (Lee) was the quarterback when we won. Both guys are benefiting from the system. They understand their roles. Both are responsible to the game plan. It's a healthy situation."
Auburn has no such quarterback issues. Newton leads the Southeastern Conference in rushing (122.9 yards per game) and is an efficient passer who has accounted for 25 touchdowns running and passing combined.
"You don't stop guys like that," Miles said. "You have to tackle crisply. We have to get a bunch of LSU helmets around him. That will be the push this week."
The LSU-Auburn winner will be the lone undefeated team in the SEC, although one-loss Alabama will remain a factor as it plays both LSU and Auburn next month.
At LSU's football training center, Miles said he could sense the intensity building for this weekend's clash of unbeatens seeking supremacy in the SEC West. Both teams also are high in the BCS standings, with Auburn No. 4 and LSU No. 6.
"There's a lot of energy coming out of that building I work in," Miles said. "The business of football might be a little more important this week. This game will have a lot to do with the West. There will be a smile on our guys' faces as they go to work.
"Our guys will be wet from sweat. They are looking forward to prepare," Miles continued. "BCS rankings don't mean a hill of beans at this time. It's all about the next game."