A look back at LSU's harrowing win Saturday evening.
**Ed. Note: Apologies for being MIA for the last week or so. My family buried my grandfather, Roland Millet, on Friday, and as you can imagine, most of this week was spent with my folks, aunts, uncles, etc...Still, I was able to make the game, sans tailgating, and even brought my seven-year-old nephew Jacob to his first ever Tiger football game. Kid even lasted all four quarters and cheered his little butt off. So remember that next time you watch somebody leaving a tied football game with five minutes left.**
What is it about Ole Miss on Senior Day that just seems to bring out the worst in the Tigers? Is it the mascot confusion? Senioritis? A dramatic aversion to the sound of gnats buzzing around the face? The Runts didn't just out-gain and out-rush LSU, they completely dominated the line of scrimmage at times, hanging a season-high in offensive yards and the highest point total anybody has put up on the Tiger since...yep, the last time Ole Miss came to Baton Rouge. Frankly, the Rebels looked like they wanted this game more for most of the afternoon, and persevered in spite of what should have been some back-breaking mistakes early on. But again, no moral victories, no moral losses, and this one still counts. 9-2, and maybe now a better shot at squeaking into the BCS with a win next week in Arkansas. As frustrating as the effort was Saturday afternoon, I'm still proud of the Tigers for fighting back and getting the job done.
- I guess we should start with the defense, since they were more or less the story of this game, and not in a good way. I chalk it up to a combination of things, but mostly, a complete lack of give-a-fuck. Just shitty effort at times. Kevin Minter all but giving up on Bo Wallace's 58-yard run. The defensive backfield lined up at half-speed most of the time, as though Ole Miss' hurry up offense was some annoyance. Eric Reid appeared to be attempting to tackle with his eyes closed for most of the night -- honestly, it might have been the worst game I've seen from him in purple and gold.
- By the time players seem to wake up in the fourth quarter, Ole Miss had all of the momentum and, quite frankly, were making plays with the handful of legit talents that they do have. Guys like Jeff Scott, Donte Moncrief and Ja-Mes Logan would contribute for just about any team in this league, including LSU. Wallace, meanwhile, was dialed in at this point, and made more than a few spectacular throws, even when the coverage was on point. And when it wasn't, he was rarely hassled by a pass-rush.
- Tough time for the Tiger d-ends. This marks the second week in a row that a QB has negated Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo with quick throws. So you can bet on more of it next week with Tyler Wilson. Of course, it's always nice when tackles can get an early jump without having to worry about those pesky false-start penalties. This is a trend I'm seeing nation-wide. Referees are struggling with their pre-snap diligence with hurry up offenses. Saw it when LSU played Texas A&M, and I've seen it out of other fast-paced teams like Clemson and Oregon.
- Anthony Johnson can be absolutely unblockable at times, but he still hasn't learned to do it on every play. It's what keeps him out of the starting lineup, and it's something that needs to change by next season. It was very frustrating to watch him, Bennie Logan and Josh Downs get pushed around for three quarters only to turn it on in the fourth and dominate.
- Rough, rough night for Jalen Collins, who was often picked on when matched up on Moncrief. Truthfully, some of the plays involved some damn good throws, and the safeties were out of position all night, but these young corners have taken it on the chin in the last three games. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised it's taken so long for QBs to attack them like this, but hopefully they will grow from the experience.
- Offensively, the issues this week fall largely on the offensive line, which really struggled to create room for the running game. Particularly on the interior, where LSU never really seemed to create much push on a consistent basis. Trai Turner, a guy that has been so good for the last couple of games, just got absolutely blown off of the ball a couple of times, and never seemed to be able to really get to the next level on the zone plays.
- The good news is that again, Zach Mettenberger came through with some strong play. Sure, the two interceptions were very inopportune, but by and large he continues to be a calm and efficient triggerman, and in the case of this game, under a ton of fire. He took some brutal shots in this game, and I think everybody in that stadium held their breath when he went down with that brief injury. Well, everybody except for those classy Ole Miss fans that cheered while he was crumpled on the turf. Class bunch there.
- Red zone issues this week seem to center on playcalling, and it seemed once again that the issue was panic. When things got off of schedule, the staff seemed to throw up its hands and say "great, now what" rather than just sticking with a theme, be it run or pass. Granted, had Jarvis Landry caught that second-quarter TD pass, the game might've been very different.
- Interception one was a bad decision. It was a quick play-action throw, and the defense wasn't fooled. Mettenberger looked like he might have been trying to squeeze a ball in to Travis Dickson on the back line, but the better play would've been to just toss it out of the endzone. The second was an overthrow in a one-on-one situation down the field. Too much air, and Odell Beckham Jr. couldn't quite get to the ball.
- Still, you know this offense has found its stride when Travis Dickson can come out of nowhere to lead the team in receptions and yards with very little effort. It was just as simple as Mettenberger finding the open man, even when that man happened to be his tight end. Though LSU definitely missed Chase Clement in pass protection at times (he was struggling with some sort of injury, apparently).
- In the last two weeks, this offense has become a unit that, when it clicks, can pick up big chunks of yards and score very quickly. A big part of that has been the use of the vertical concept, aka Four Verticals and its variants that we discussed this spring. It's the ultimate "just get open" type of play, and it works on two things -- repetitions and trust. Mettenberger and these receivers are on the same page, and the coaching staff trusts them enough to let ‘em rip it. Dickson's big play appeared to be a variant of the concept from a two-WR look, running the quick-breaking seem route that put him right behind the linebackers and between the safeties.
- Still, I've said it before, and I'll say it again. What this offense is missing is that true No. 1, go-to playmaker. Jarvis Landry consistently gets open, but he's still prone to mistakes like drops or that huge fumble in the fourth quarter.
- Still, how about that ODB punt return? The odd thing about it was that LSU sold out for the block on the play, and Ole Miss' punter had largely done a good job of keeping things high and giving his guys time to get down there. His last two were line drives, and on this one Beckham had just enough time to make that first wave miss. From then and once he cut left, you could see the blocking set up for him. At that point, yours truly was just watching for flags. 89 yards, 53 years later.
- On special teams, Brad Wing is back y'all. Nailing some absolutely beautiful punts in a wind that was clearly affecting both teams' kickoffs for better and worse. Hate to think that this might be his last home game, though. Still, when that snap was botched on that last extra point, I was suddenly very, very nervous.