Billy: Well, did that look as ugly on TV as it did in person?
Richard: In a word, no. It really did not look that bad on television. I sure wish our offense was more explosive, but any complaints about the defense at this stage of t season are nitpicking. The offense needs better blocking and more polished passing. It's almost like the receivers and the quarterback are just a little out of sync with each other more than anything else.
While the team is not perfect, the degree of negativity on the message boards and in the media is excessive under the circumstances. Sure, we didn't hang 50 on ULL, but we steadily built a lead and won by 4 touchdowns. It was a convincing win over an overmatched team. We won by 4 touchdowns and the game was not "closer than the score." We won handily and outplayed them from beginning to end.
I would have liked to have built a big early lead so we could have gotten the backups some real snaps. It just didn't work out that way, and that means we really needed our starters to get more practice.
Next week we get another game against a team we should be able to beat without playing our best game. By the next week, we really need to have these problems resolved if we're going to challenge in the SEC.
Poseur: Well, at least we know why Jefferson doesn't throw it downfield. I mean, guh. He horribly overthrew Mitchell and then horribly underthrew Randle (though I'm a huge believer that a receiver has to catch the balls he can get his hands on -- Randle could have made that catch, even if it would have been a spectacular one). Jefferson capped off his deep balls with an interception. I'm actually happy JJ got the interception off his chest, he had to learn how to overcome interceptions, but it was a bad pass and an even worse effort by Mitchell, who just waited for the ball and let the DB get an uncontested jump ball. Bad, bad, bad.
The offense was pretty herky-jerky, and those first two drives were pretty awful. But once we got past the early game jitters or whatever the hell they were, the offense did exactly what you would want for the rest of the half: TD, TD, punt, FG. The second half started off with another TD and the game was essentially over right then. LSU would follow that up with one of the more bizarre statistical drives (10 plays for 32 yards), resulting in a punt. Of course, the drive started on LSU's own one yard line.
It's not that the offense doesn't look good, because LSU put together three drives over 50 yards and three drives of 10 plays or more. LSU converted 7/12 third downs and was a perfect 3 for 3 in the red zone. It's not that the offense isn't performing, it's that it doesn't look good. And that's because of an almost total absence of big plays. LSU's offense just ins't explosive right now. It's an efficeint, ball control machine designed to keep YOU from scoring by keeping the opposition off the field. And people look at a roster full of playmakers and they don't want ball control, they want a high-flying scoring attack.
I keep reading that this team lacks an identity. That's untrue. It's just not the identity many fans wanted. This is a conservative offense designed to methodically drive up the field. They've done it in every game so far. LSU doesn't swing for the fences, it strings together singles. Now, we can argue the wisdom of that (and as the resident big ball baseball guy, you can guess where I stand), but there is a logic to the offense. It has an identity - be conservative. The longest play from scrimmage was 21 yards (the top three: 21, 20, and 15). And that's what people don't like. Sorry, we don't have Albert Pujols, we have Ichiro.
Billy: In general the folks on message boards are always overly negative, and many because it backs their own agendas, but that's a big ol' other debate.
In person, this game wasn't pretty. What's most discouraging is the offensive line -- it just doesn't look like a very aggressive, mean outfit. Some players (*coughCironBlackcough*) got flat out bull-rushed over by ULL d-linemen at times, and it didn't really seem to bother them all that much. That part shocked me. I agree with both of y'all that at times the playcalling seemed to lack rhyme or reason -- I have to wonder if part of that is by design, because it's never been Crowton's MO to be this herky-jerky before. The best running plays all seemed to come on zone runs out of the pistol.
I think we as a fan base take it for granted at times (and I admit to being very guilty of this at times) that Jordan Jefferson is this established playmaker, when he's really a guy making his fifth start. Saturday his timing was terrible, even on some screen passes. It seemed like he was perennially waiting to see the receivers break open before he made his throws -- he has to anticipate that. He also had a bad tendency to stare down his targets, but that was the first time he's really done that so I doubt it'll become a habit. Many of his issues on Saturday seemed uncharacteristic.
Defensively, they benefited from a lot of dropped balls -- but many of those passes wouldn't have gone far if completed. Overall, that unit does seem to be getting better -- Rahim Alem, Chancey Aghayere and Lavar Edwards all made some nice plays. Patrick Peterson simply erases whoever he is covering from the playbook. But the tackling -- GUH -- it could be bad at times. Jacob Cutrera played the goat this week, and his misses all seem to lead to big plays. As a unit, this group can't continue to miss tackles like this. But at the same time, a goal-line stand from the 1 is impressive no matter who it is against.
It's getting glossed over, but special teams were pretty damn good. Helton's punts weren't all necessarily long distance, but they all hung up nice and long and helped eliminated returns. And it definitely looks like LSU has found a quality kicker in Josh Jasper.
Looking at some of the crazy scores from this weekend, I feel like almost every team seems to be playing up and down week to week -- when was the last time USC was held under 20 points in back-to-back weeks? I have the feelings we may be looking at another crazy season where everybody ping-pongs off one another like in 2007, and that LSU's outlook a month from now may be completely different than what it is today. I just don't know if that will be a good thing or a bad thing. What say y'all?
Richard: The thing is, I really didn't think our first drive looked that bad, like Poseur said. It seemed to be going well until a 15 yard penalty killed it but good. We missed tackles, but we also made some good plays. I remember Kelvin Sheppard making a very nice solo tackle to bust up a play at one point. Harry Coleman made the big play on the goal line stand.
Right now, I don't think any of the blame can be laid on the defense. I think they played exceptionally well for two weeks in a row now. The offense, like Poseur said, seems to be content to grind out drives. The problem with grinding out drives is that it is really hard to score if you are going to have to get 6 first downs on the way to the opposing end zone. It's not that often that you can convert 3rd downs again and again, especially with a quarterback who isn't particularly accurate or in sync with his receivers. That's why big plays are important. Every 20-30 yard play is another first down or two that you DON'T have to get.
If you watched the Tennessee vs. Florida game, though, it is clear that Tennessee employed a strategy of trying to grind out drives. You can't really say it "almost worked" because the game really wasn't all that close, but it was a lot closer than people expected, and Tennessee's quarterback problems are a lot bigger than ours.
Even with our offensive line problems, and I think Billy has made a good point that there doesn't seem to be much in the way of meanness there, I think we could really do well in a conservative, grind-it-out strategy if Jefferson's accuracy improved JUST A LITTLE. If he makes just a little leap forward (and I think it's coming, I just hope it's coming this year, preferably within two weeks), this could be the kind of team that is really good at grinding an opponent up once it gets a lead. We're tantalizingly close, but not there yet. It will also help if we don't get drops.
Billy: A grind-it-out offensive approach won't work so long as the offensive line continues to play with this lack of intensity. I'm hoping maybe this unit can end up like the 2006 line. That group was an outstanding pass-blocking unit, but struggled to come together and run-block as a whole until the last half of the season.
There are a lot of little things that can help -- such as Jordan Jefferson carrying out bootlegs and playfakes on running plays so that backside defenders can't just collapse in every time. That definitely contributed to the 4th and short stuff of Charles Scott in the second half -- weak-side defenders had no respect for Jefferson on the bootleg.
You have to wonder what to think about Mississippi State's defense -- they gave up over 500 yards to Auburn, but held Vanderbilt under 200 for the game. You get the sense that everybody in the conference seems to be looking for their equilibrium. I feel like everything seems very schizophrenic through these first three weeks.
Poseur: Meanness. Richard's right. This team, the line in particular, lacks meanness. What ever happened to punching teams in the mouth? Win or lose, the other team would regret playing LSU. This team is, so far, is softer than previous LSU teams. I think LSU fans will accept a grind it out offense provided that offense is mean and goes out and hits people. LSU has a finesse ball-control offense. And that is infuriating (more than it should be).
I have to back off of the first drive. It actually was one of the 10 play drives, but it was marred by the penalty and it completely went off the rails. It wasn't awful, but it was perhaps the most frustrating drive of the game. It just seemed like the season in minature. The offense drove down the field and then shot itself in the foot. The two straight deep balls were awful, and that's my memory of the drive.
Finally, I just don't get the negativity in the fanbase right now. None of the three wins were as big of a win as we would like, but none of them were all that close. They were Bill Parcells' win - glad you got the win, but also glad you have something to yell at the players about. If the team is satisfied with the effort, they will lose 3-5 games. If they use these games as a building block, they can win the SEC. Only time will tell which way the season will go. But it's not like there is a host of other teams who have played so much better than LSU. We need to back off from the ledge. The team is 3-0 and, from watching these early games, it seems the coaching staff IS trying to address the problems with the team: the defense radically improved after UW, the team has lined up in plenty of different sets including five wide, the offense incorporated the deep ball (ok, it didn't work - but they did it). This doesn't look like a team that is sitting on its laurels.
Billy: The fans in the stadium cared more about getting a nice wave going (during the ULL drive that ended with the goal-line stand, this was all anybody paid attention to), cheering for Louis Coleman when he was introduced and cheering the Washington-USC score. Everybody had a "meh" attitude towards this game, but they definitely care enough to complain. But the spoilage of the LSU fan base is, once again, a topic for another time.