Jeremy Hill solidified his role as the team's starting running back by sitting on the bench. Given a chance to unseat the incumbent, sitting out with a suspension, none of the other backs could reliably gain yardage against TCU.
TCU's a terrific run defense, but they have always been vulnerable to the power run game. LSU used to specialize in that, as recently as the last time they played a game. But this team just could not establish the smashmouth power run game that has been the hallmark of the Miles era at LSU.
Now, that doesn't mean Terrence Magee didn't have the kind of game that will merit more playing time. He bailed out an anemic LSU run game and scored two huge touchdowns, particularly a red zone score when it seemed LSU could not buy a red zone touchdown. But he's not the classic "make ‘em quit" kind of power runner that we're used to.
What we're also not used to is a competent passing game. Zach Mettenberger's numbers don't jump off the page, and he flirted with a 50% completion percentage all night, but when the offense needed a big throw, he made it. The receivers got a case of the dropsies, and he didn't get frustrated or let his emotions show. He just kept feeding his guys, particularly on third downs.
His guys are pretty much just Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. Beckham made some big gains and had a huge return in the fourth quarter to seemingly salt away the game, but the guy who established himself as the guy you have to stop is Jarvis Landry. Landry caught just about everything thrown his way, and repeatedly made huge catches over the middle on third down to move the chains. His touchdown catch, on third down of course, was just an epic display of strength and concentration. He made a catch on his hip with a defender draped all over him.
It wasn't perfect and it wasn't pretty, but it didn't need to be. LSU got up early, stayed up all game, and then gave us our usual fourth quarter heart attack before finally putting TCU away. I don't quite want to say this was 2012 levels of letting a team off the mat, as it's hard to blame the defense for allowing a TD after a fumble inside the ten yard line.
But as soon as things got tense, the defense finally came through, holding TCU to a field goal when they were given a short field. After hanging the defense out to dry on two straight possessions, the offense showed up and scored the touchdown to make it a ten point lead. Ball game.
There are still some obvious concerns. The third down defense was terrible all night long. The defense still seems to have an issue with spread offenses and the read option. The receivers dropped too many passes. The offensive line was merely serviceable.
But this was a big win against a legit top 25 program. LSU didn't bring their A game, far from it, and they still won by double digits, and were up from the opening whistle to the final gun. That's what title contenders do. They get up, they stay up, and then they score late to put it away.
It wasn't beautiful, but it sure wasn't ugly.