A reminder that Hilliard is still good. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
It was a football game. So, that's pretty good. Other than that, this was an underwhelming game in which the best thing about the game was the fact that LSU football is back.
OK, that's a bit harsh. LSU did jump out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and there are all sorts of individual accolades to get into, but really... once LSU got up by 21, the air went out of the stadium and people started putting more effort into thinking about their postgame plans than their post first quarter plans.
If there is a word to describe this game, it is: Flat. The team came out flat, played flat, and got a fairly easy win without too much effort or enthusiasm. On the one hand, that could show that this team knows what's up: they aren't going to be judged on what they do against their warm up game against North Texas, it's Bama or bust. On the other hand, part of what fueled LSU's run last year was intense effort and it was disconcerting to see LSU's effort, especially in contrast to Bama's opening performance.
Zack Mettenberger looked good at times, but mainly he looked like a guy making his first collegiate start. The offense sputtered at times, and just never looked like it was clicking on all cylinders. Mett threw a lot of quick, short passes designed to pick up only a few yards. It was nice to see some precision passing, but it also would have been nice to see a bit of an attacking mentality. Instead, he dinked and dunked, as if he was just trying to get his feet wet.
This didn't feel like Opening Night, it felt like a soft open or the dress rehearsal. There's still time to work out the kinks, but there were a lot of kinks. More than I think most LSU fans would like. After four years of some pretty horrid offense, we would've like to see more than encouraging signs of progress. We wanted actual progress.
Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard both went for over 100 yards, and both look like they are dominant backs. Michael Ford came in for the fourth quarter and slammed the door shut. Spencer Ware was notable in his absence, but the running game looked outstanding again, so this was a night to work on the passing game. And while the passing game showed flashes that it could be something special, it also spent some time stuck in the mud. If this team is going to win a title, it needs to play with some urgency. Warm ups are over.
-- The defensive line didn't record a sack, but they spent most of the game camped in the North Texas backfield, so let's not worry too much about that.
-- The freshmen corners looked really good, and the 80-yard breakdown was due to Eric Reid blowing the coverage and let's face it... I'm not worried about Reid. The secondary looks like it is in good hands.
-- North Texas did get a late TD when the umpire picked Mingo out of the play. Proof that the refs hate LSU.
-- Debo Jones saw some action and on his first play, he stormed into the backfield and made a huge tackle. What a great opening statement.
-- Jarvis Landry looks like he is going to be very, very good. Huge block on one of Hilliard's run and a nice catch on a deep ball in the fourth. We've been missing a physical receiver.
-- Brad Wing didn't play due to a hamstring injury. Get well soon, Crocodile Puntee. We miss you.
-- Special teams didn't miss a beat, particularly Beckham returning one for a touchdown. Two actually, but one got called back. LSU had TWO touchdowns in this game wiped out be penalty, so this score could have been much, much worse.
-- The red zone offense looked terrible at times. Just terrible. Mettenberger's pick at the 2 was bad for lots of reasons, but throwing the ball short of the end zone on 3rd down was one of those decisions doomed to fail. Even if it was complete, we're kicking a field goal. Throw the ball to the end zone, Zack.
-- The Mettensavior got absolutely popped early in the game due to an unblocked defensive back getting a free shot. He missed a series, but seemed to suffer no ill effects. I do think that's one of the reasons LSU called so many quick throws from that point on. It seemed like they didn't want Mett standing in the pocket so he could take another big shot. Stretching the field horizontally is not inherently bad, but I have a sinking feeling the quick out may become the LSU fan's new shortside option.
-- One win down. Thirteen to go.