The Cotton Bowl: A Viewer's Guide to the Sunday Replay

ARLINGTON TX - JANUARY 07: (L-R) Kadron Boone #86 Chris Davenport #91 and Josh Williford #74 of the LSU Tigers hold the trophy while celebrating a 41-24 win against the Texas A&M Aggies during the AT&T Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium on January 7 2011 in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The final Sunday replay at least gives us some fond memories, as the Tigers essentially overwhelmed Texas A&M, to the tune of 21 straight points and nearly 300 rush yards. However things shake out these next few days, I'm damn proud of the 2010 LSU football team.

On to the notes:

  • I think we saw both sides to the Gary Crowton era on display in this game. On the one hand, the gameplan did an excellent job of handling A&M's fast but undersized defensive fronts. The sprint draw was a nice addition to the rushing attack, a play I can't remember seeing in the previous 12 games. The counters and short-tosses did a good job of getting the Aggy defenders going in one direction, walling them off and going right by them. Of course, there was still some of the bad Gary - at least two play-action passes in third-and-long situations. Otherwise known as downs in which the defense is most certainly not going to be looking for the run.

  • Speaking of those successful runs, major kudos to the Tiger offensive line, especially Alex Hurst, Joe Barksdale and Will Blackwell. Barksdale had his issues at times with Von Miller, but still managed to block him well enough to spring a few big runs. Blackwell and Hurst caved in their side on some of those counter plays.

  • The Tigers may have also found a big-league blocking fullback in J.C. Copeland, who absolutely leveled his guy on a couple of runs.

  • We also saw the double-edged sword of Jordan Jefferson. On the first interception, he took too long to get the ball out, allowing the Aggy defender to get in-stride with Rueben Randle. If that pass comes quicker it might have been a touchdown. However, that very trait helped make both of Terrance Toliver's long touchdowns happen. Jefferson stood strong in the pocket and waited for Toliver to clear the safety before delivering the ball with a defender bearing down.

  • I've been critical of Toliver at times, but it was great to see him end his Tiger career in style. He was amazing on his first TD, accelerating to a pass that looked a little too long at the last second and plucking the ball. Somebody mentioned it in the game thread and I think it's a good point - Toliver might have really benefitted from a redshirt year early on, to help him improve his bulk and continue working on his concentration and hands.

  • Another superb job by Frank Wilson with the running back rotation. From Spencer Ware's first big run, Wilson made a pronounced effort to keep working him in with Ridley, and the two complement each other well as big, physical backs. Ware just brings a little more burst and quickness to the table.

  • Tyrann Mathieu continues to show why he is one of the best and most versatile defensive backs in the league. Tough to beat a stat-line of 7 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles (one recovery) and an interception. Speaking of that play, it was shades of Lance Moore's two-point conversion catch in last year's Super Bowl, as Mathieu stretched out for the ball, clutched it and did everything he could to keep it off the ground as he fell. His classmates have a real chance to be special. Eric Reid is starting to look like a bigger version of Brandon Taylor, and Tharold Simon has a real chance to be a freak of a cornerback with some more coaching. Safety size with the athleticism to turn and run with receivers. Simon just needs to work on his technique (especially footwork) and recognition.

  • It felt like the defense was caught a little off guard early on by A&M's offense, but once the offense showed that they were going to put the ball in the endzone, things calmed down and stiffened up at the right times. Sort of a quietly strong day from the defensive line, which really struggled in the first half, but stepped up in key moments. They didn't rack up many big plays, but kept blockers on the first level and linebackers free. And once they smelled blood in the water, they took things to A&M, as evident by just three third down conversions in nine attempts.
  • Bit of a rough game for Patrick Peterson, who allowed Jeff Fuller way too much room underneath. Peterson played too far off him, and once the 220-pound Fuller got into his route that size is tough to overcome, even for a big corner. It's usually a stretch to say anything negative about Peterson, but Fuller may have had more success against him than any other receiver did this season.
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