All analysis of this game should come with the caveat of "it was Northwestern State."
In general, I agree with my posturing colleague regarding any long-term conclusions drawn from this game. Still, games like this for LSU have been few and far between the last few years. The only other time in the last three seasons the Tigers ate a cupcake this effectively was last year's 51-0 munching of UL-Monroe.
It felt like the next step that the Tigers needed to take this season, but there are still 10 more to go.
- Now there's some progression Jarrett Lee. Strong performance, exactly what he needed this week. He completed two very nice deep balls to Rueben Randle; the first play could have been thrown slightly better, but that is incredibly nit-picky; and the second right before the end of the first half was perfect. I have to admit, I didn't know how much we would get to see Zach Mettenberger this week, and it's clear the coaching staff felt Lee showed them enough. An excellent performance. He didn't get to work on over-the-middle timing, something I still think he needs, but I chock that up to the coaching staff letting him stick to the routes he throws well. Besides, he completely exceeded my 60-percent/6.0 YPA benchmarks.
- As for the quarterback of the future, it was a very pleasant surprise to see him get a whole half of work. Mettenberger flashed a big arm and a quick release, exactly what we expected. I'm not sure how much critique I can offer of any specific throws, but the decision to keep him in with the first team offense was a good one, should he be needed at any point in the season.
- Fantastic game from Rueben Randle, who is still playing with a slight gimp. To be honest I kind of wished they'd played him a little less, knowing he's less than 100-percent. Great blocking on the edge on running plays as well.
- Loved the game-plan to get as many reps for Odell Beckham as possible. Look for his role to only increase. Those quick one-man screens are a great check-with-me plays for zone-blitz defenses.
- The only real offensive complaint was a less than explosive running game, with an effectiveness rate of a collective 49-percent from Michael Ford, Spencer Ware, Alfred Blue and Jakhari Gore combined, and a team per-carry average of 3.9. That plodding style will work more often than not though, if the passing game remains effective and the defense continues to dominate.
- Speaking of that defense, when I said I wanted to see some stat-padding, I was thinking more along the lines of individuals, but holding a team to negative rushing yards and 1.7 yards per play works just as fine as well.
- The defensive line and secondary really paced the effort, especially Sam Montgomery, who had five tackles and a tackle-for-loss. His hustle and exceptional technique make him a tough presence in run defense, and his abilities as a pass-rusher should only become more obvious as the season goes on. Barkevious Mingo also had an impact that went well beyond his box score stats. He is a constant presence from the edge and it seems as though the majority of NSU's pass plays were designed rollouts away from him.
- Ryan Baker missed the game for the ol' "violation of team rules," and you certainly hope that he'll be back this Thursday. The younger linebackers on this team like Tahj Jones and Luke Muncie got some quality playing time, and Stefoin Francois had one of his best games as a linebacker thus far, but overall I would say Baker was still missed. The ‘backers had a few issues with missed tackles, but good pursuit generally negated the problem. Still, it's something to tighten up, especially with Mississippi State's big, physical running game next in line.
- A couple of special team items of interest include Lavar Edwards joining the Tiger kickoff coverage team. I thought it was pretty ridiculous having one defensive end fast enough to run down on kickoffs. This week LSU had two. Jarvis Landry's first punt return was due to him dropping deep right before the snap as a second safety man. NSU very wisely countered it on their next punt by passing to the man he was covering when he dropped. Plays like those are one of the advantages of the spread-out punting formations. If a team overloads the middle they will have nobody in position to defend a pass fake. The Tigers also broke out the old swinging gate on an extra point. That might make for a fun gadget later in a close game.