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BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU defensive back Jalen Mills gave up the first touchdown of his career against a team from the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision.
So as Mills looks forward to Saturday night's home opener against Sam Houston State, he's warning teammates to stay focused on their assignments and not get lulled to sleep by the prevailing public sentiment that the Bearkats (1-1) are no match for the No. 12 Tigers (1-0).
"You can't go into a game and think you're just going to run over an opponent," Mills said this week. "If you go into a game with not the same attitude toward the bigger games that we have, it can be a disaster."
The touchdown Mills gave up against Towson in 2012 didn't cost the Tigers a victory, but Mills never forgot about it, and reviewing video of the play with defensive coaches wasn't too pleasant.
Likewise, LSU coach Les Miles dismisses the notion that such games are not important.
Miles wants starters to demonstrate the discipline to be sharp, regardless of an opponent's stature. If the first team can build a healthy lead, coaches can sub in — an evaluate — young reserves who may be relied upon down the road.
So while LSU may very well improve to 10-0 all-time against team from the FCS (formerly I-AA), a sloppy victory won't do.
Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler is under no illusions about his team's challenge, but expects his team to compete.
His roster includes players who've transferred from Football Bowl Subdivision programs such as TCU and Texas Tech.
"There's not going to be a lot of underdog stories and stuff in the locker room," Keeler said. "LSU is a good football team, but we think we're a good team, too. We just need to line up and play."
Here are some things to know about Sam Houston's first visit to No. 12 LSU:
DEAF VALLEY: Tiger Stadium was already famously loud. It should be even more so this season after premium seating was added above the older south end zone seats. The expansion increases seating capacity to just more than 102,000 and effectively encloses the stadium on three sides. "I'm really looking forward to it," LSU receiver John Diarse said of the Tigers' home opener. "More fans, more noise, a great atmosphere like never before."
ONLY FRESHMEN: Miles wasn't about to downgrade a pair of high-profile freshmen on his offense after somewhat inauspicious debuts last week. Quarterback Brandon Harris played only one series, a three-and-out. Highly hyped running back Leonard Fournette saw more action last week than Harris, but did not score or break off any long gains. "I just want you to know something; we were thrilled with their performances. They exceeded our expectations," Miles said. "So, Brandon Harris, he is coming. Leonard Fournette, just relax. Don't be impatient. They're freshmen."
BIG YARDAGE: The Bearkats have demonstrated a knack for moving the ball and scoring, averaging 613.5 yards of offense and 43 points through their first two games. That kind of success has Keeler curious to see how his offense will fare against a Southeastern Conference defense this week. "One of the most interesting things about this game will be the athletic match-up on the perimeter," Keeler said. Sam Houston's receivers include TCU transfer LaDarius Brown, who played against LSU last season. "He's a big, physical receiver, a fast guy," Mills said. "He was a Division I (FBS) receiver, so he does have the athletic ability and we have to go into this game very focused."
PLAYING UP: Since joining FCS-level football in 1986, Sam Houston has played 29 FBS opponents, beating three: Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe and New Mexico. "A lot of times in these kind of games, the home team may not be paying that much attention to you. If you can get them on their heels early and take the crowd out of the game, something could happen," Keeler said. "Our goal is to be in range in the fourth quarter. Then, maybe the home team starts looking around asking 'What's going on?' and you've got a chance."
MILES APART: Since Miles took over at LSU in 2005, LSU is 6-0 against FCS teams, outscoring those opponents 232-64 combined.