I just finished watching the condensed replay of Saturday's Auburn-LSU game and feel I have a much better grasp on how the game actually went down. For one, it came with a better view, the camera as opposed to my corner end zone seat. And on top of that, I didn't drink before or during the game today. Although I felt like it during Onterrio McCalebb's touchdown run. I feel like most of the recapping on ATVS has been, "they were better, let's move on." Hopefully I can come up with a little something more.
- Derek Helton gave LSU a chance to win this game. He didn't get SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for the lone reason that the Tigers lost. I've never seen anything like his performance, downing four punts inside the 10 and forcing Auburn to earn its points. Mad props also go out to Ron Brooks for making two plays inside the two.
- As alarming as it is to allow 440 yards rushing, I didn't feel like the defense played all that bad. It helped that Helton pinned Auburn back all day, but for the most part, LSU's defense did what it was supposed to do and got the ball back for the offense, and in good field position to boot. Outside of the Heisman run by Newton and the backbreaker, LSU forced Auburn to pick its way down the field a few yards at a time. And when it eventually got Auburn in third-and-long, it made the stop.
- Something that I didn't think I would say on Saturday night was that the offensive game plan and play calling were better than average. Of course, by average I mean based on the standards we've seen in the past three years. It seemed as though the plays being called for Jefferson fit what he does well, which is basically being a wildcat quarterback with the ability to make a few throws. LSU tried to run the ball with Ridley and was effective at it, particularly early on. Even the clock management at the end of the first half was good.
- As has been pointed out on this site on a few occasions, the tackling was atrocious. And Auburn's players had a lot to do with that. Obviously, Cam Newton is a beast. It was the first time I had seen Michael Dyer and he is going to be special. That said, if you want to win big games, you have to win your share of 50/50 match ups and in the area of tackling, the defense didn't.
- It's time to say it. Terrance Tolliver isn't a very good football player. He's got physical tools that scouts everywhere drool over and will still get a shot in the NFL because of it. But he can't seem to do anything with them. It's maddeningly frustrating to watch him continue to drop passes. The most obvious drop came in the second quarter and would have been a touchdown. Luckily, LSU still managed to score that drive. The real killer came on 3rd-and-6 on the Tigers final drive. I lay blame on Jarrett Lee for throwing high, but if Tolliver is an All-SEC receiver like he should be, that's a catch you have to make.
Maybe he is a guy who you have to keep involved in the game for him to make plays. I don't know. A lot of the times he was targeted, the ball wasn't even close. After the second-quarter drop, he made a catch and drew the pass interference in the end zone. But before the second big drop, he was only targeted once the entire second half.
- Jarrett Lee's habits in the pocket are awful and it showed on Saturday. It was harped on after the Tennessee game despite his numbers and mostly glossed over since. But facing any type of rush, he throws off his back foot. He doesn't get into his throws and it throws off his accuracy at times. It's almost as if he's thinking too much and not just playing. He's been at his best in two-minute situations where it's hurry, hurry, hurry and there's no time to think. You just have to play. I didn't think he played badly, he just didn't play well. The interior of the offensive line didn't help much.
- It's plainly obvious at this point that Jordan Jefferson is not a passer. His accuracy throwing is about as good as mine at hitting the toilet 12 beers in. Even on his completions, he doesn't hit the receiver in stride. It's always either high, out front, behind, something. Most of his incompletions aren't anywhere close. His lack of accuracy killed LSU's first drive with an interception. I've seen a lot of people dogging Reuben Randle for not making a play right there, but I'm not sure he could have. Randle was about as wide open as you can be and Jefferson threw it four feet above his head. In another situation, he overthrew Russell Shepard on a swing pass, which is virtually impossible. If you can't hit a swing pass and put yourself behind in the down-and-distance, and you can't make passes downfield after that, you're in a world of hurt getting first downs.
- How can a team be that confused on a fourth down play after a timeout? The sad thing is, that appears to be an improvement from the Tennessee game because at least Lee got a play off on time. It's impossible to know exactly what happened or why it keeps happening, but it's incredulous. There are 119 other teams that can run a play after a timeout.
- I think everyone will agree that we don't have a quarterback that does enough things well (at least within Gary Crowton's playcalling) to win games and both can give LSU's offense a spark in different ways. So, I'm of the opinion that the quarterback rotation, as is, needs to be retooled. Sticking to the rigidity of two for Jefferson, then alternating afterwards hurt LSU on Saturday. Jefferson was doing a great job of running the zone read and making plays with his feet. More of that on early downs would have been great with some passes sprinkled in. But if it's 3rd-and-13 or even 3rd-and-8, Lee obviously gives the offense a better chance to convert.
I'm not sure how the rhythm of each quarterback would be affected, but it seems logical enough. I know it's apples to oranges, but if it's an obvious passing down on third down, you change running backs to one who can catch or block better. Why not change quarterbacks to one who can throw better. If you get to 2nd-and-4, you'd probably go with the running back who gives you the most flexibility running and can still catch a pass. Why not go with the quarterback who gives you the most flexibility running (especially if it's worked all day) and can still keep the defense honest too.
So, that's the good, the bad and the ugly of Saturday's loss. Hopefully it'll better next week.