I am of the opinion that any time you win a conference game on the road, there's only so much you can complain about how you got the win.
Yeah, we didn't exactly play lights-out either offensive or defensively, except in the second half when the defense could not possibly have been more stifling. When we finally started teeing off on the pass rush and maintaining lane discipline to contain Garcia's scrambling, that was pretty much it for the USC offense. Then we just had to plug away when we had the ball and let the victory come to us. Our defense was like a boa constrictor squeezing the Gamecocks and waiting for them to exhale so we could squeeze a little tighter. Eventually, the South Carolina defense had to yield some points, and they did.
It wasn't pretty. It wasn't memorable. It won't go down as one of the signature victories of this era of LSU football, but it is a very important win for us. Finally, our defense came to play, and maybe found a bit of an identity. We rebounded from the awful performance of last week to get what is our second biggest win of the season.
At halftime, and throughout the 3rd quarter, I was not in any way confident we would pull this one out. It seemed like we were a step slow getting to the ball defensively, and our offense kept shooting itself in the foot with either a bad pass or a dropped ball. We were behind 17-10, but I thought we were just a hair short of being ahead 24-10. When you miss opportunities like we missed, it's hard to imagine you'll get them again.
But, as always, a Les Miles-coached team persevered. We made adjustments defensively and kept beating our heads against the wall offensively until the wall finally fell over.
In a few game notes, I want to point out that Curtis Taylor seemed to respond to the media criticism. The guy hadn't made many plays all year, but in this game he got a big sack, got a clinching interception, and probably got a touchdown-saving 4th down tackle, but the refs decided otherwise and replay was inconclusive.
Another beleaguered LSU player, Keiland Williams, had a good night. He had 95 total yards from scrimmage and a 23 yard kickoff return. For the first time all season, he was an integral part of the offense, and was genuinely our most effective player on that side of the ball.
Jarrett Lee had an unimpressive stat line, 16 for 26 for 189 yards and 1 interception, but he had a couple of bad drops that would have made his numbers look more impressive if they had been caught. Lafell and Byrd each dropped two catchable balls that would have been big gains. Of course, Lee also threw that costly interception that set up South Carolina's second touchdown right before the half.
If we are going to have a successful season (and at this point, I would define a successful season as making it to the SEC Championship Game), we are going to have to stop giving the other team points with our offense. We have committed bad turnovers in 3 SEC games now, and we are fortunate that it hasn't cost us a game yet. If we keep doing it, it will.
Defensively, the line played much better than they have all season, both stopping the run and getting pressure. We struggled keeping up with their receivers in the first half, but clamped down in the second. I will have to go back and review the personnel packages we used in the second half, but I really like the adjustment of moving Jackson to tackle on passing downs. Neither Favorite nor Alexander are pass rushers, and Jackson is a little too big and slow to be an effective rush end. By moving him to tackle and putting a quicker player at his end position, we improve both spots on obvious passing downs. We should keep it up.
I'll have some more thoughts on this game another day. For right now, let's just enjoy the fact that we won it. We're still in every race that counts, and we still control our destiny in the SEC. You can't ask for much more than that at the halfway point.