Apologies for the delay, here's some post TCU analysis. In the future, I'm hoping to get back into the long game reviews early in the week and then a shortened series every Friday of 5 Big Things from the previous game we can look forward to throughout the rest of the season.
I hate to use the word "dominated" for a 10 point victory, but this was one of those weird games where I never really felt like LSU was losing grip, despite TCU closing in in the 2nd half. When you look up and down the boxscore, it's kinda one of those, "Well how was this close?" reactions. LSU outgained TCU by nearly 200 yards. LSU turned it over less. LSU dominated ToP. LSU was better on 3rd down (68.4% vs. 53.8%). LSU doubled the number of TCU's first downs. LSU had 5 plays of 20+ yards, TCU had 3. LSU had fewer penalties.
Naysayers will critique Miles and say he routinely lets opponents off the mat. Others will say LSU grinds out victories. It's likely somewhere in the middle of those two realities. You can't take away plays in a football game, but you can look at plays in a context. Is it likely LSU yields another 100-yard TD return this year? Is it likely they fumble again inside the 10? Take away even one of those plays in this game, and LSU wins it going away. Take away both and LSU probably gets a monster boost in the polls for destroying a top 25 opponent.
Ultimately, we see mostly good here. Mettenberger was unquestionably impressive. If I can take a moment to pat myself on the back far too early, we saw exactly what I talked about here. I'd also like to note that Blackledge made the exact same observation (maybe he's a reader?!) regarding Mettenberger's base and balance and keeping his feet under him better this season. There were still a couple throws here and there where he lost it, but overall much more consistency. The low completion percentage was largely throwaways and drops. He only really missed a couple of throws all night.
I came out of the game feeling like the defense struggled, but then you look at the overall numbers and it's hard to really feel that way. TCU's offense was going nowhere with Paschall and Patterson knew it. They gained a little more traction with Boykin, but hardly enough to really put a scare into the Tigers. Various members of the DL took turns being awesome, the secondary looked pretty strong and while the LBs ranged from quiet (Barrow/Kwon) to bad (Welter), we held a good offense under 260 yards and what should have been more like 13 points.
Lastly, and I don't normally comment on this sort of stuff, but I thought TCU played a little chippy/dirty the whole game. They were ripping player's helmets off and generally being a little extra "physical." I'm all for setting the tone, being physical and trying to frustrate your opponent, but TCU seemed to cross that barrier into the unnecessary realm a couple too many times. Maybe I was just irritated by Gary Patterson constantly toweling off his fat, sweaty face. Seriously, who sweats that much?
With that quick summary, let's get to 5 Big Things to takeaway from this game and to look for in the coming weeks.
1) Jerald Hawkins as a Pass Protector
I'm going to go out on a limb after one game and say Hawkins is the best pass-protecting RT we've had in a long, long while. I'm not certain who TCU trotted out there for him to lock up, all I know is that they never came close to Mettenberger. It wasn't just a lack of opposing talent, though. Hawkins looked dominant. He kept his base fantastically and used his big, long bear arms to lock up opponents and completely drive them out of the play. Smart move by Miles and Studrawa to get him into the lineup.
When you think about his predecessors, you probably have to go back to Joe Barksdale to find a solid pass protector, and I'd hardly say he was dominant. Guys like Alex Hurst and even Vadal Alexander last year, were pure road graters more suited for inside power football. Fittingly, Alexander slides inside, Hawkins gets to anchor Mettenberger's front side.
Now, it's a give and take. Hawkins, though massive, didn't illustrate that same dominant run blocking we saw from Alexander and Hurst at times. He's not a pure mauler out there. He's a little more athletic than those two, though, so he gives you some options. He can do the job, but it's safe to say if we're looking to pick up 4th and 1 in a tight game, we'll be running behind the left side.
2) The Presence of Terrence Magee
I thought Magee, by a wide margin, was the best back to step on the field last Saturday. He's got a bowling ball stature similar to NFL greats Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew (no, I'm not saying he's nearly as good), with a lot of shifty quickness that can bail out an offensive line that struggled to get a push. There were multiple times when Magee turned average-to-poorly blocked plays into gains with his quick feet and vision.
I think he brings a dynamic that no other back on the LSU roster can speak to. Jeremy Hill is undoubtedly the best total package, but I'm not sure Magee isn't number two. Admittedly, I've long been excited about Magee's potential, since his HS days. I think he and Hill could be a pretty dynamic one-two punch. Then when you throw in the contributions of Blue and Hilliard, you are looking at a stable of LSU running backs that are as strong as recent seasons past.
3) Lack of Push Up Front
I'd say the one area that LSU consistently struggled in all night was getting a push up front. It just didn't really happen. They weren't blowing people off the ball. The three guards in particular never really had moments where they blasted the DL backward. It's a story to watch.
We know true freshman Ethan Pocic is waiting in the wings and seemed to be angling for serious playing time this fall. Elliott Porter did okay, but he was far from impressive. Could Pocic be the answer in the middle? I don't think any of the other starters are in real danger of losing their spots, but clearly there was a lack of punch up front. Perhaps it's just one game of shaking off rust. But it's still to be noticed.
LSU ran for nearly 200 yards on a 4.1 clip, which doesn't look so bad. Until you strip out Magee's 52 yard TD run and realize the rest of the carries were worth about 3.02 ypc. Yikes! I think this highlights two things: lack of push up front and the unquestioned need for Jeremy Hill.
4) What can Jordan Allen Do for You?
I was terribly impressed by the way Allen played in the 1st half of this game. I think he may have overhyped/overexerted himself and ran out of gas a bit at the end, but he showed a lot more explosiveness than I anticipated. He was manhandling the left side of TCU's line in the early going, both in the run and pass game. His only tackle of the night came from him chasing down a RB 5 yards downfield. He was a large reason for the Jalen Mills INT. He generally wreaked havoc, but then seemed to run out of steam.
My hope is that his conditioning improves over the course of the season, but even if it doesn't we saw enough from Danielle Hunter to know that those two can be a pretty salty tandem. In fact, I remain more impressed by what I saw from either of them than what Rasco or Maclin produced. It's just one game, obviously. I do think we'll see a heavier rotation than in past few years. Sam and Mingo rotated more than many like to remember, but primarily only with Lavar Edwards. This year we should see at least five different DEs on the field every game (I'm counting Kendell Beckwith here) and likely more. Use your talented depth to your advantage.
5) 3rd and Long is No Longer No Man's Land
You all know exactly what I'm talking about. In the days of Jefferson and Lee, 3rd and 5 or longer was pretty much a sure punt situation. It just wasn't going to happen. Which makes it feel oh so good that we've finally tunneled our way out of it. No more throwing short of the sticks, no more hopelessly running the option. We are a bonafide threat to convert on 3rd and long.
Not only were we 13 of 19 on third downs, Mettenberger himself was 8 for 13 on third down passing attempts, all of which went for 1st downs.
Here's the breakdown:
1Q - 3rd and 6 - 8-yard completion to Travin Dural
1Q - 3rd and 8 - 10-yard completion to Jarvis Landry
1Q - 3rd and GL at the 11 - Incomplete pass (dropped by Dural)
1Q - 3rd and 7 - 26-yard completion to Odell Beckham Jr.
2Q - 3rd and 8 - Incomplete pass (botched screen attempt)
2Q - 3rd and 5 - 12-yard completion to Jarvis Landry
2Q - 3rd and 18 - Incomplete pass to Travin Dural
3Q - 3rd and 6 - TCU holding penalty gives 1st down
3Q - 3rd and 8 - 13-yard completion to Kadron Boone
4Q - 3rd and 15 - Incomplete pass to Kadron Boone
4Q - 3rd and 5 - 26-yard completion to Odell Beckham Jr.
4Q - 3rd and 5 - 6-yard rush by Terrance Magee
Overall, tremendously effective. While you never want your team to be in 3rd and long, it's nice to know that when it inevitably occurs, we're not now at a total loss.
Some Other Quick Hitters
- True freshman DT Greg Gilmore come in on offense near the GL a few times
- The formation we ran Beckham's first end around out of included a trips formation to the left. The 3 WRs were Dillon Gordon, Connor Neighbors and Odell Beckham Jr.
- DeSean Smith played a lot and will be a weapon to this offense.
- Ego Ferguson outplayed Anthony Johnson.
- Anthony Jennings only played one snap and Miles specifically mentioned getting him more time going forward. Hmmmm....
- It's great to have LSU football back.