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ATVS Post-UGA Roundtable

Billy: Well, LSU fans got the win they were desperate for in a fashion that I would say fit the game's insane set up. Give us your thoughts on the game itself and what you think we may see from this LSU team going forward this season?

Poseur: LSU played like a team that was used to adversity. I hate to say all of the close games were a good thing, but LSU simply did not panic not only in a close game, but during the second to last drive when seemingly everything went wrong. On the second to last drive, both LaFell and Dickson dropped huge passes. The team didn't panic in the least, shook off the bad luck, and proceeded to drice down the field for a go ahead TD. It was an incredible drive and let's be clear, it was a testament to great coaching. These kids did not panic. Miles deserves a lot of credit for that.

I was in a media blackout due to a wedding. I watched the game in a hotel bar, so I didn't hear the announcers, and then I went to a wedding and reception, so I heard no commentary until today. And I was fairly shocked how negative the coverage was. Team Speed Kills ripped LSU and CFN's coverage could be charitably described as unimpressed. A quick search of Google News headlines taught me that LSU is clearly not one of the SEC's elite.

Really? Because I thought this was an incredibly impressive win. Apparently I watched a different game than everyone else. Yes, the third quarter was lousy, but LSU absolutely dominated the course of play in the first half and then won the fourth quarter through superior mental toughness. Both teams were equally victimized by bad sportsmanlike penalties. Only LSU took advantage. That's not the refs stealing it from UGa, that's LSU taking advantage and UGa throwing a pick.  

I'm pretty confident headed into the Florida game. If nothing else, I think LSU will play tough and above all else, will not quit.  I love this team's mental toughness. That's the one constant through the first five games: LSU does not panic.

Richard: I said before the game that there was no such thing as an ugly win over Georgia. People are saying this was an ugly win, but in retrospect I do not believe that to be true. We had 4 penalties for 40 yards, and 1 turnover. Those aren't "ugly win" numbers. Sure, our offense did not put points on the board when it had the chance, and that is something that has to be addressed.

On the other hand, there were some very encouraging signs in this game. The offensive line was, for the most part, quite good this game. The five sacks were mostly Jefferson's fault, as he got into trouble when he held the ball too long. Usually, the offensive line opened holes for Charles Scott, and while the pass protection was far from perfect, Jefferson usually had time to do something with the ball.

Which brings us to the bad news. This was Jefferson's worst game as a starter since the Arkansas game last year. He struggled to execute properly when running the option. He held the ball too long, particularly in the 3rd quarter, leading to unnecessary sacks. He had open receivers at times and could not pull the trigger. He got baited into an interception. Still, he also made some very good plays, and rarely made an inaccurate throw in this game. You can really see the "moments of brilliance" you hope to see from a young player, and we can't forget how young he is. If I remember correctly, he is still younger than Matt Barkley at USC. He's still learning. I just hope he learns quickly, because the second half of this season is going to determine whether this is a good season or a bad season for LSU.

On defense, what a great performance. The A.J. Green vs. Patrick Peterson matchup was everything it was hyped to be: two great players going head-to-head. I call the matchup a tie. Sometimes Green got the best of Peterson and sometimes Peterson got the best of Green. Green made 5 catches, 3 of which were when Peterson was not on him. One of the two on Peterson was a short pass on 3rd and 2, which was nearly impossible to defend unless you wanted to leave yourself exposed for the deep route. The other one was a borderline offensive pass interference that wasn't called, and Green got a nice gain.  Green had Peterson beat one other time but Cox couldn't make an accurate throw. That last catch by A.J. Green proves to me, if I didn't think it already, that A.J. Green is the best receiver in the conference. If Peterson can tie him up like that, he can tie up or beat anyone in the conference.

The linebackers had a great game, making tackle after tackle. Part of the credit for that, I think, goes to the defensive line for occupying blockers. The rest of the credit goes to the linebacking corps for making the plays they were in position to make. Kelvin Sheppard was a standout in the unit, but everyone played well. The flip side is that while the defensive line was occupying the blockers and freeing up the linebackers, they were not getting a pass rush. Rahim Alem has been surprisingly good against the rush, but has not gotten to the quarterback like he should, and we have no push from the middle unless Drake Nevis is in the game. Pep Levingston does not give us much rush from the other side either. Chancey Aghayere appears to be the better option for us at this point on the left side of the defensive line.

Kind of lost in the shuffle of all of this is how good the special teams were.  When we most needed them, we got two nice returns from Trindon Holliday, and we never gave the Bulldogs ANYTHING on returns.  Even after our 15 yard celebration penalty, Georgia only got the ball at around the 32 yard line.  We got two field goals and two extra points, and our punting game was OK as well.  

I think this is a team that COULD improve as the season goes on and be really good at the end of the season. Or we could end up 8-4. We won't know for a little while yet.

Billy: I can't say I didn't expect a lot of the negative comments. That was part of my reasoning with the poll I put up last week -- with all the talk about how important this game was, I was curious to see what really mattered to people. It's perception versus reality. Would you rather be seen as a team that "deserves its ranking," or one that is winning? Clearing the winning alone hasn't been enough for many.

I'm with Poseur. You can't say enough about the mental toughness of this team, and that is a quality that was in short supply last season. It would have been easy for the defense to get frustrated with the offense's inability to take advantage of that great first half. Or with Jordan Jefferson's slow reaction time -- which led to most of the sacks he took. He has to learn to get through his progressions quicker. Though I have to admit, I'd rather him remain calm and take a sack then get jumpy and throw interceptions. The receivers took their lumps but made the plays when it counted -- especially Rueben Randle and Terrance Toliver. The latter in particular is emerging as a real security blanket for Jefferson. And if the offensive line can continue to show that improvement, the running game will continue to round into shape. As it is I actually thought Gary Crowton should have run the ball MORE than he did, something I never would have said going in to this game.

The heart of the defense stood out again, with the linebackers having a fantastic game as a unit. The DB's did their best as well, even in light of the plays Georgia was still able to make. Anybody critical of Chris Hawkins for the A.J. Green touchdown needs to a) shut up, and b) come up with a really good example of anything any other cornerback could have done differently. He was on Green as close as possible without drawing a penalty, and the best receiver in the SEC made the play. He probably would have made that catch over anybody. Even Peterson, who met his biggest test of the season thus far and still showed why he's the league's best cover guy.

 Obviously, this has to be the starting point of some continued improvement. But you have to feel like the mental toughness is a hell of a starting point. And the fact remains that right now, nobody in the conference has looked unbeatable. This team is in fantastic shape to meet its expectations, and if things continue to fall into place, exceed them.

Richard: Peterson probably would have knocked that pass down, but it just underscores that you can't fault Hawkins.  He played it perfectly and had great coverage. The only thing he could have done better was to... be a better athlete.  I.e., be bigger and stronger. It's not like we can legitimately ask that of him. You just can't get mad at a guy who plays everything right mentally and does exactly what he's supposed to do, only to see a superior athlete get the better of him. That was, pure and simple, a great play by A.J. Green, and there aren't 5 other receivers in the country who could have made it.

Billy: I agree that it was a very singular play -- which is why I'm not even sure Peterson could have stopped it. But regardless, Hawkins, for the most part, did a great job on Saturday.

Poseur: I just want to close it on this:

Dear Les,

            The people who don't like you simply don't like you and will never like you.  They are a lost cause.  They are just going to invent reasons why you are bad at your job and keep moving the goalposts on you.  Screw ‘em.  We think you're doing a great job.  Keep it up.