LSU 45, Kent State 13: Viewer's Guide to the Replay

Stacy Revere

Can a cupcake actually be nutritious?

Well, once again LSU did exactly what they should've done against Kent State, devouring that sugary cupcake in fairly efficient, business-like fashion. Some questions were answered, others still remain, but overall I think the Tigers made some more progress through week three.

On to the observations:

  • Y'all...for real...Zach Mettenberger and this passing game. Things remain impressively vanilla, because this offense is going out of its way to show as little as possible. Buttoned-down formations with a lot of 22 personnel, and "man-in-the-box" football. If Mettenberger counts more than seven or eight guys near the line, this offense is taking to the air and there's not a damn thing opponents can do about it.

  • He's so dialed in to Jarvis Landry and ODB that I almost wonder if he maybe trusts them a little too much at times. That touchdown pass to Landry on the out route might be intercepted against an SEC defense. However, the timing on the comeback route is damn near perfect and indefensible. The ball is halfway there before ODB even makes his cut.

  • On another note -- playfakes from Mettenberger were much improved as well. That's a relatively minor detail, but something I've noticed through two weeks that could definitely be improved on. Especially with Jeremy Hill back.

  • The big play to Travis Dickson was "989," a play we discussed back in the spring, and one that I think LSU will be running a lot more often when Jeremy Hill is in the backfield. Desean Smith will be tough to defend on it as well.

  • I gotta say -- I wanted ODB on the bench after that jammed finger in the first quarter. Nice to see him come back from it, but it felt like a bit of a risk.

  • How about Connor Neighbors on the big catch and run? Obviously, he's not going to turn that into a big play often, but it's good to show opponents that he's not a one-dimensional player in LSU's backfield.

  • A lot more reps for Travin Dural this week on offense and special teams. He didn't really raise his game though. As a wideout, he has got to do a better job of attacking the ball and getting his hands on it. He also looks a little tentative in the middle of the field. On punt returns, he just made some really bad decisions. Even the punt he fielded successfully was over his back shoulder, which is pretty much always a huge no-no, even if the return works out.

  • All that said, the play of Beckham and Landry will only help give Dural more room and more time to grow into a bigger role on his own.

  • On to the running game: yeah, Jeremy Hill is real, real good y'all. In addition to being a big back with great burst through the hole, he's an outstanding one-cut zone back. That first long touchdown was a classic inside-zone run. Hill picked his way through the first level and then just shifted into his next gear to get away from the linebackers and defensive backs.

  • Great night for Magee and even some solid running out of Blue as well. Kenny Hilliard, however, looks to be the odd man out.

  • Overall, the offensive line did a much better job of getting push for the backs. Specifically, setting the edge in the second half for some of Terrence Magee's longer runs. I was a little surprised when I realized that LSU had two 100-yard backs last season in the opener against North Texas. But that's a testament to some much-improved run blocking this week.

  • Most of the problems were on the interior, not entirely surprising, given that Kent State's Roosevelt Nix is actually considered a pretty good NFL prospect. Vadal Alexander seems to struggle the most at times. He's playing at a new spot, and didn't exactly have a full camp with some conditioning issues, so I think he'll improve as he gets more experience. Jerald Hawkins can get better in the running game as well. He is, however, a brick wall in pass-protection.

  • Trai Turner and La'El Collins, however, were about as dominant as dominant gets.

  • Defense: not a perfect night at all, but I still think I saw improvement. They held Kent State to less than 250 yards of offense despite a comfortable lead all night, tackled a little better than last week and did a great job of getting off the field on third down (allowed just 4-14 conversions on the night).

  • If there was a main culprit to the defense's struggles, in my opinion, it was a very bland, very vanilla gameplan. LSU stayed in base defense with three linebackers on almost every down. Not a lot of nickel and not a lot of mustang. My best guess is that John Chavis wanted to get back to the basics some, especially with Tre'davious White and Micah Eugene both making their first starts. Very little blitzing and a lot of linebackers covering wide receivers. That's something I don't think you're going to see too often against better opponents.

  • Kent State's quarterback finished with a pretty good statline (20-29 for 190 yards), but it was almost exclusively on quick passes to backs and slot receivers that were matched up on linebackers. The Golden Flashes' top two wideouts and starting tight ends finished with just 54 yards on six combined catches -- a good reflection on the job done by White and Jalen Mills.

  • Still going to be some more shuffling at the linebacker position. Lamin Barrow's injury (allegedly not serious) didn't help, but there still aren't a lot of guys at the second level that look really sure of themselves or what they're doing on a given play. The d-line is covering for a lot of it, but right now there just aren't a lot of guys that can stick their nose into a pile and make the offense go backwards the way Kevin Minter did last year. Kendell Beckwith has that kind of potential against the run, but he doesn't look like he knows what he's doing in pass defense.

  • Speaking of pass defense, Kwon Alexander, in particular, was pretty brutal working in space. On the long play he helped give up the slot and outside receiver crossed up, and it looked like Alexander was unsure whether he was in man and needed to stay with his guy outside or pick up the inside man. Jalen Mills followed his guy inside, so that leads me to believe it was probably a man-to-man call.

  • Alexander is another guy that really flies around against the run. He just plays a little out of control at times and misses some tackles.

  • Overall, this back seven still has a ways to go if they're going to follow in previous defenses' footsteps. There are just not a lot of guys making big plays right now. But if they can continue to do their job, stay in position and make tackles that will be enough, provided the offense keeps up a similar pace. The best thing about young players is that they have a lot of room to improve over the course of a season, so long as they don't hit a wall come November.

  • The good news is that the d-line continues to be an active, playmaking group from the inside out. Ego Ferguson had his best game in purple and gold with a whopping eight tackles and a sack, and Freak Johnson looks to be rounding into form. Freago might be a thing y'all.

  • At end, Jermauria Rasco and Jordan Allen aren't making a ton of big plays but they're pesky and active as hell in ways that will give any offense trouble. And with some more complex coverages behind them, you'll see that translate to more sacks. Kent State was able to make a lot of hay throwing quick and short with the receiver-linebacker mismatch. Other opponents won't have that luxury very often. If there's a quibble it's that Rasco has got to be a better tackler.

  • One special teams note that bears mentioning : James Wright is doing one heck of a job on kickoff coverage. He's absolutely fearless running down the field.

  • It almost goes without saying that 11 penalties is an unacceptable number. Of course, if the offense is going to average 10.4 yards per play, it isn't going to matter too often. Onward and Auburn, y'all.
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