Photo by Bill Feig, via media.2theadvocate.com
I watched the game again this morning, keeping a close eye on the line play, but I couldn't help watching the ball a little bit more.
I think in all the well-justified hoopla over the play of Jarrett Lee in the 2nd half, we need to be extra vigilant in praising the play of Charles Scott. Does everyone realize that Charles Scott is the first ever LSU runner to rush for 100 yards at Jordan-Hare Stadium?
Let's repeat that, with emphasis. Charles Scott is the first ever LSU runner to rush for 100 yards at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
He didn't get on the scoreboard, but we would not have gotten those touchdowns but for Auburn having to stack the box to slow down Scott. Even with 8 in the box, they had a hard time keeping him contained, as he ripped 10 yard run after 10 yard run throughout the 2nd half. Sometimes he was stopped cold, but more often than not he seemed to rush for between 7 and 12 yards.
That kind of production from Charles opened up the play-action passing game, which is what ultimately killed Auburn in this game. With them having to focus so much on Scott, our play action game was extremely productive in the second half, and was the reason Lee was so effective.
But back to line play. Our offensive line was dominant on run plays, but allowed a good pass rush entirely too often. I can't single out any one lineman for giving up a pass rush, and I think it may just be a matter of Auburn being good at it and us not being able to stop it every time no matter what we did.
Our defensive line was the opposite. Auburn could never open up a running lane on us, but we rarely got pressure without blitzing until the 4th quarter when our depth ensured that we had fresh bodies while Auburn's blockers were worn out.
Our depth was quite possibly the deciding factor in this game. We substituted liberally on the defensive line, with 8 linemen getting substantial playing time. No defensive lineman played the whole game. Auburn had 68 offensive plays, and I doubt any lineman on our side of the ball played more than 50 snaps. Ricky Jean-Francois played the most, and he played very well, but even he went out for a few series. I once looked up and saw that at least 3 backup defensive linemen were in the game, and they were doing well. Keeping those linemen fresh paid off in the 4th quarter.
Rahim Alem, Tremaine Johnson, Marlon Favorite, and Al Woods all did admirable jobs in filling in for the starters. As a senior, Tremaine Johnson is really getting his first meaningful playing time of his career and he is making the most of it. I don't think Pep Levingston or Drake Nevis got in the game, but I could be wrong.
For what it's worth, I think Rahim Alem should come into the game on ever 3rd and long situation. He gives us that speed rusher that we lack otherwise. Cousin Kirston is a good overall defensive end, but in Alem we have a passing down specialist.
Another area where we got some separation from Auburn was in special teams. Our punting and kickoffs were outstanding. We even got a touchback on a kickoff for only the 2nd time since the 2006 season. When we didn't get the ball to the end zone, we got nice, high kicks and our coverage units got down and made the play. This may be the best kickoff coverage team I've seen at LSU.
Back in 2006, we lost field position whenever LSU and Auburn traded punts, and Auburn's superior punting game may well have been the difference in the game. Last night, it was the other way around. We gained field position when we traded punts, and in a close game like that, every little advantage is magnified.
And one final thought on the game action. Let's give it up for Chris Mitchell getting his first touchdown as a Tiger. He couldn't have picked a better time.