Unlike Spears’ 20-yard pick-six
against Heisman Trophy winner Jason White that proved to be the difference in
LSU winning the national championship, his 35-yarder last Saturday off of Omarr Conner served only to widen a gulf Mississippi State never had a chance of
crossing in the first place.
With 12:26 remaining in the second
quarter, Spears helped extend the Fighting Tigers’ lead to 27-0 on a day where
LSU would record four interceptions.
“Not quite the Sugar Bowl, but it
was a great one…the same feeling,” Spears said with a smile. “For a big guy to score man, it’s just
something special about that. We’re
not fast, we’re not very athletic, we’re just – you make a play like that it
kind of makes a statement.”
Many statements were made by LSU’s
defense against the Bulldogs, and honestly the first one was to coach Nick Saban.
“It was a big emphasis because
coach Saban challenged us this week and I think that’s a tribute to his coaching
style,” Spears said of the Fighting Tigers creating turnovers. “He got us going. Monday when we came in he got us going
and he got everybody’s mind focused on getting back to square one and playing
football the way we play around here.
And we had kind of lost that for these first three games. And us as seniors we had to step up and
show these younger guys that how we play around here is something that is our
trademark and we have to have that identity every time we step on the
field. And it was important for
them to see us as leaders and us as playmakers come out and do that
Against Auburn, LSU failed to
generate a single turnover. And
while the defense held the Tigers to a meager three points until the waning
moments of the game, breakdowns on a fourth and long and a third and long proved
to be the difference.
In the wake of their first defeat
of this campaign, Spears remarked for LSU the season had to continue.
“I think you always want to get
back on the field as soon as possible when you suffer a loss like that,” Spears
said. “It kind of takes away the
bitter taste you have in your mouth.
You know that the season is going to go forward no matter what happens in
each game, but you kind of take that with you.”
Despite not giving up a touchdown
to Auburn until
the Tigers’ second to last possession of the contest, Spear acknowledged that a
lack of turnovers allowed their hosts to put LSU’s offense in tight spots and
didn’t give the Fighting Tigers the same type of field position they were privy
to against the Bulldogs.
“We did not do a good job of that
and I think that’s something that coach stressed,” Spears said. “And for this whole team to be
successful, defense has to play well.
And we understand that. And
if we continue to do that and give those guys balls on the 40 and 50 yard line,
or on our own side of the ball we’ll be okay ‘cause there’s some pretty good
guys playing over there on that offense.”
On that defense there are obviously
some pretty good players too, and Spears is of course one of them.
When picking off White in the Sugar
Bowl, Spears did so by dropping back into coverage and getting lost in the
shuffle. Against Mississippi State, it was a case of being in the right
place at the right time when a near sack by Cameron Vaughn convinced Conner
flicking the ball away was his best option.
“I’ve been there one time before,”
Spears said of getting to the end zone with the ball. “It’s exciting to get in there man. When a big guy gets into the end zone
it’s kind of extra special because you don’t expect that man. To get one this game feels great. It was not about the touchdown, it was
about doing things right. And when
you come to the sideline and you see that sparkle in those young guys’ eyes that
‘I want to do those types of things when I get into the game.’ That’s how you know you’re setting the
tone for a football team.”
As for the fact that LSU’s
production in turnovers spiked tremendously against the Bulldogs, Spears
attributed it to execution.
“We executed very well,” Spears
said. “We didn’t make a lot of
mistakes; guys were in the position they were supposed to be in and getting
pressure on them and forcing them to make some bad throws. All those things go with getting
turnovers and knocking balls loose and just playing well, just playing well all
across the board, everybody doing their job. And I told the team before we went on
the field, ‘Everybody is out here for everybody. Don’t let that guy you’re playing
against down, or you’re playing aside of.’
And that’s the mentality that we took into the game today.”
Known for his skills on the court
and for his talents at the tight end position coming out of high school, Spears
assured that defensive coordinator Will Muschamp won’t have to worry about
quashing any dreams the defensive end has about being an offensive threat for
the Fighting Tigers.
“I haven’t heard the word ‘tight
end’ in probably two years,” Spears said following a chuckle. “So I ain’t thinking about it. I’m trying to get mine on the other
end. And you know I’ve gotten into
the end zone, that was a dream for me coming in as a recruit, and I’ve been
there so it’s exciting.”
Even so, there is still some
carryover from his high school days Spears can’t let go of.
“My eyes get very big,” Spears said
of when he sees the ball coming to him, “ ‘cause when I played basketball I was
a ball hog and I wanted it all the time and I thought if I had the ball my team
was going to be okay. So I think
when I catch interceptions I want to try to get it as close as to the end zone
as possible. And it helps the whole
team out. So, get huge. They get huge. You see a ball coming at you as a
D-lineman, they get huge.”
In addition to allowing Mississippi
State to convert just 2-of-10 third downs, Spears and the rest of the defensive
unit gave up just seven first downs to the Bulldogs all game long, and kept
their opponent from crossing midfield for all 60 minutes.
“I think it’s a good statement,”
Spears said of the latter feat.
“It’s something that shows – It’s more for this team to understand if we
play the way we’re supposed to play we can be successful against
No doubt the Fighting Tigers will
be looking to play the way they are supposed to when they travel to
Georgia Saturday. Now it appears they will be traveling
for the first time in 2004 with a certainty about them they didn’t really have
until after beating Mississippi State.
“We stepped up man,” Spears
said. “Coach Saban has challenged
us, and we’re taking his challenge personal.”
Forget the Bulldogs – any Bulldogs
– the Fighting Tigers are out to prove the only team that really has any
obstacles requiring conquering is the one they see in practice every