Just a week off a heartbreaking loss to a great Georgia team we all wondered, "How would LSU respond?"
If first halves were entire football games, the response would easily be, "Not well." Fortunately for us football games are four quarters and LSU outlasted MSU in a big way. For the second week in a row, the LSU defense performed poorly in the 1st half only to meet a half-time ass chewing and respond accordingly.
First, let's talk positives. Tonight, the LSU offense mustered 59 points. Fifty. Nine. That's without a defensive touchdown. That's without a special teams score. A week ago, I stated that this LSU offense could score points. If you aren't a believer yet, then you've been sipping the bourbon a bit too hard. The fact is, there is very little standing between this offense being the best in LSU history. In 2011 we all celebrated as the LSU offense capitalized on monster defensive plays and timely field position.
Yet, in the 2013, our defensive unit looks worse by the week while our offense seems to keep on trucking. How many different ways can I say 59 points? I guess I'd be remiss to mention the 550+ yards. And, despite a turnover, it sure seemed like there was very little chance of stopping our offense all night. Jeremy Hill finished with 157 rushing yards and a pair of TDs, though a 69-yard TD run made it look more impressive than the box score would indicate. Hill is a dynamic back, but the difference between this week and Georgia is no doubt the ability to tackle at the second level. UGA consistently put Hill down after five yards while the Mississippi State defense saw him scamper for a long TD.
During the game, Ben Love tweeted the question of whether LSU fans would prefer the 2011 approach of struggling offense and dominant defense to the 2013 approach of struggling defense and offense. Most responded that they favored the 2011 approach, and while I understand being partial to a team with a National Championship appearance, I believe I'll take my chances with a great QB. Mettenberger can atone for many sins, including a sub-par defense, and so long as he doesn't completely shutdown, we should be competitive in every game down the stretch.
It's tough for most of us to adjust to the new "style" of play of the LSU Tigers. No longer is this a team that endures defensive slug fests, squeaking out 4th quarter wins by FG-margins or less. No longer do we need to count on the defense rescuing a game from the bowels of defeat. For the first time in ages our QB is capable of winning ball games all by his lonesome. There is no doubt that defenses' are anticipating the threat of Landry and Beckham week after week, yet, they've proven woefully incapable of stopping them. Tonight Beckham accounted for 290 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, while Landry quietly accounted for an additional 96 yards.
Defensively, much like last week, LSU seemed to adjust at half time and improve as they went on. In the 2nd half, LSU allowed just 201 yards and three points. 89 of those 201 yards came in the 4th quarter, when the game proved to be out of hand. Yet again, as much as Les Miles and company are mocked for coaching ineptitude, they entered half time with disappointment and emerged with domination. It's important to note that we spent a lot of the evening rotating young defensive players, including Christian LaCouture and Tashawn Bower. I'd love to blame the inept defensive performance on apathy, lack of talent and many other things, but the reality is that the Chief is still trying to figure out what combination works and what doesn't.
The defense is forced to endure growing pains. Up front, we lack the pass rush to propel our defense to dominance. John Chavis operates a system that often depends on the front getting pressure. When that fails to happen we witness opponents eating huge chucks of yardage.
At the end of the day, we strolled into Starkvegas, dropped 59 points and got the hell out. We may have played an entirely close 1st half. We may have flashed sloppy blocking in the run and pass game. Yet, despite all of the team's obvious weaknesses, the passing game seems unphased. Zach Mettenberger continues to prove, week after week, that no matter the circumstances of home or road, he will guide this offense to monster points. It's a strange feeling, having an offense and all, but it's one we should get used to, y'all.