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Next Men Up: Queen, Harris Step Up off Bench for Tigers

by Cody Worsham
Inside LSU Football - Show 9 +0
Next Men Up: Queen, Harris Step Up off Bench for Tigers

Next Men Up

Down an All-American at linebacker and a senior at safety, LSU’s defense needed its reserves to step up against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday night.

The 29-0 loss will sting until Monday, but the Tigers will take some comfort in the play of a pair of backups that played like starters against the nation’s top-ranked team.

Patrick Queen and Todd Harris each set career highs for tackles against the Tide, helping lead the charge for a defense that offered plenty of resistance against the highest-scoring offense in college football.

Queen found out this week he would start for Devin White, who missed the first half while serving a suspension for a targeting penalty against Mississippi State. The sophomore got a clear message from White all week long, including Friday night, when they roomed together for the first time this season in an effort to better prepare Queen for the task at hand.

“You came here for a reason,” Queen said, repeating White’s encouragement. “Just go out there and play your best game.”

He did just that, picking up nine tackles – eight in the first half – including two for a loss. That’s more than double his previous career-high of four, and he added a quarterback hurry, too.

“Patrick played good,” said junior defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence. “He played hard. He played a hell of a football game. That’s tough when you have to replace Devin like that.”

One of those tackles for loss snuffed out Alabama’s first drive. On first and 10 from the Tiger 14, Queen knocked Jerry Jeudy back for a loss of eight yards. Two penalties later and another tackle for loss later, the Tide had to punt.

It was the first of two red zone stands by LSU’s defense, which kept the game close at 9-0 heading into the last drive of the first half.

“We fought, man,” said Orgeron. “They made some plays, but we stopped them in the red zone. We were fighting our tails off.”

Queen relished the chance to start, particularly against the Tide, whom he grew up watching play LSU annually. He said his relationship with White was critical in preparing him for the moment.

“Coming in as a freshman, I wanted to start,” he said. “He was there, he knew his stuff, I didn’t. He balled out, became an All-American. I look up to him, knowing I have similar skills that he does. He’s smarter in the game, so being around him, he can teach me stuff. It goes a long way.”

Harris, too, prepared like a starter all week as Battle’s understudy, and he was called upon early. Battle went out on Alabama’s first drive, but Harris didn’t miss a beat, racking up 12 stops.

He also became the first player to intercept Tua Tagovailoa all season. On first and 10 from the Alabama 40, Jacob Phillips pressured Tagavailoa into a deep throw. Harris read his keys and settled under it for the turnover.

“I back pedaled, and I saw Tua,” Harris said. “He likes to scramble around. He threw the ball up in the air, and I thought, ‘This is my chance to get an interception.’ I just ran deep like I was supposed to and got the interception.”

Phillips said his faith never wavered, whether it was White and Battle or Queen and Harris.

“Todd had a good game,” he said. “Last game he played was Ole Miss, and he balled out that game, too.”

For Queen, it was all about being ready for the moment mentally, a factor his teammates played a big part in.

“We played confident,” he said. “Everybody rallied behind me, got me ready. Everybody else hyped themselves, got themselves ready. We had a great mindset going into the game.”

“We’re Resilient”

Losing a matchup of Saturday’s magnitude – No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings vs. No. 3, with SEC West and playoff hopes in the balance – could cripple any number of programs.

But LSU is determined to move forward from the loss by making sure it’s a learning opportunity, not a deflating defeat.

“I’ve been around past teams before where you lose to Alabama, and it’s a sour taste in your mouth,” Lawrence said. “It is, but we’ve got to move on. This team is different. We’re resilient. We’ve got to attack next week, go to Arkansas, and take care of business.”

Orgeron emphasized all that LSU has left to play for, though he asserted improvement will be necessary to achieve those goals.

“We’ve got to move forward,” he said. “We have a chance to have a hell of a season, go to a big bowl. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

That process starts Monday, when the Tigers will, in Orgeron’s words, “digest” the defeat and figure out what needs to be fixed before Saturday’s trip to Arkansas.

Senior tight end Foster Moreau was cut and dry about the most important thing to do Monday to ensure one loss doesn’t turn into two.

“Looking at yourself in the mirror,” he said. “Looking man to man. Accepting responsibility for the faults and the losses, and being able to move on and have integrity and be accountable, for yourself and your teammates.

“And have a hell of a practice.”

It’s All About Protection

Orgeron couldn’t have been clearer about what plagued an LSU offense that managed only 196 yards against the Tide.

“Our offensive line was getting beat one-on-one,” he said. “We had max protection. Those guys were beating us. We tried everything we possibly could, four wide, max protection. We just got beat.”

Justin Jefferson, who finished with 81 receiving yards on six grabs, felt the Tigers had a good game plan, but let themselves down with inconsistent execution.

“We did make some plays, but we weren’t able to keep them going,” he said.

Quarterback Joe Burrow finished 18-of-35 passing for 184 yards, but Alabama tacked up five sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Orgeron said his problems weren’t with the playcalling of offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, who he said was handcuffed by poor protection.

“Listen, man, he was trying all he had,” Orgeron said. “We wanted to take shots, but shoot, Joe didn’t have any time. Then, Joe started looking at the rush. It just wasn’t a good night.”

For Burrow’s part, he echoed the sentiments of his coach and teammates. The loss hurts, but the Tigers can’t let it affect the rest of the season.

“Obviously whenever you lose like we did tonight, it stings,” he said. “But we can’t afford for it to be deflating for us, because we still have a long season ahead of us. We’re going to have to get back up, dust ourselves off, and get back to work.”

Number to Know

129.5: Tua Tagovaloa’s passer rating against LSU. Entering the game, his passer rating for the season was 238.85, and his game log was as follows:

That’s not to sugarcoat the medicine. He still threw for 295 yards and two scores, and he added another on the ground. But LSU was able to have some success against a quarterback about whom no other defense can say the same.

“We played good coverage on the back end, sometimes,” said Lawrence. “We got after him a little bit – not enough, obviously.”