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LSU-West Virginia: A Viewer's Guide to the Sunday Replay

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Kind of a funny win Saturday night. A 26-pointer that still managed to upset some with the defensive performance. But on closer examination, LSU dispatched West Virginia in a much more efficient fashion than one will notice at first glance.

  • We'll start with a major high point, and that's special teams. Kind of a bizarro flip-flop from last week. There were issues with kicking -- the obvious miss and botched extra point (complete with a cheap-shot at Drew Alleman by the Mountaineer defense) -- but the punting and coverage units were downright dominant. LSU's biggest advantage in the entire game. The Tigers' average starting field position was their own 48-yard line, compared to the ‘Eers starting at their own 15.
  • Freshman James Hairston got into the act on kick-offs and very quickly paid some dividends. Two touchbacks, 66 yards per-kickoff. The space-invaders/starburst formation from the kickoff team was a nice improvement as well.
  • And, of course, Brad Wing has a solid case for MVP this week. Six punts, all downed inside of the WVU 20, with an average of 48.7 yards per kick. I don't know what I can add that would be more impressive than that last sentence. That's a true weapon in close games.
  • Earlier this week I saw some people questioning Ron Brooks' place on the kickoff team, and you saw why he's there on Morris Claiborne's 99-yard kickoff return. He's a fantastic lead-blocker. Brooks and Alfred Blue both cleared the lane Mo to get to the sidelines, and Blue further helped make the cutback that got him home.
  • When I talk about efficiency, I'm talking about the offense. Yeah, 366 yards isn't a lot, but when you consider that the average drive started at midfield, the offense converted 50-percent of third downs and averaged over four yards per carry for the first time this season, that's not a bad day.

  • Most encouraging was that the offense took their first possessions of both halves and methodically drove down the field, scoring one touchdown and slightly missing on another. That shows a good offensive script that this team is executing well.
  • By and large another strong day for Jarrett Lee. You can see the coaching staff's confidence continue to grow in him with calls like the third-and-short post-pattern to ODB and the unusually high number of first-down throws. There's still the occasional back-foot toss that'll make you nervous, but nobody's perfect. And let's keep in mind he essentially threw another touchdown pass that Rueben Randle dropped.
  • The play-calling got a little pass-happy at times, but went back to the team's bread-&-butter in the fourth quarter. And the offensive line responded after a rough first half by paving the way for 86 clock-killing yards in the final period. Overall, KragStud are actually stringing plays together and setting them up. That's refreshing.
  • Chris Faulk is LSU's best offensive lineman. This is becoming clearer and clearer to me each week. He consistently gets his hands on defensive linemen and mauls them in the running game, and keeps the blindside well-protected. Greg Shaw was a solid fill-in at times as well, subbing in for both Faulk and Alex Hurst at different intervals.
  • On to the defense. To me, it was more reminiscent of the Oregon game than you probably think. West Virginia finished with 533 yards, but 243 of those came on their three scoring drives. Their other 12 possessions covered 290 yards and ended in either punts, turnovers or the end of the half.
  • The biggest issue was tackling. LSU has lived on forcing third-and-longs and swallowing up short passes with zone-coverage, and that only works if your linebackers and defensive backs swarm the ball and tackle. That didn't happen on Saturday. I won't get a good look at the replay tonight, as I'll be on the road, but I'd be willing to bet that at least four or five of their third-down conversions were a direct result of a missed tackle or two.
  • Give some of that credit to Geno Smith and West Virginia. Smith is easily the best pure passer the Tigers will see the rest of this season aside from Tyler Bray and Tyler Wilson (and it's a safe bet he'll finish with better numbers than either of those two), and he completed some damn good throws.
  • The defensive line didn't have much of a problem getting a push on the ‘Eers offensive front, but couldn't get off of blocks to close on the quarterback the way they have in other games. Look for that to get right next week against Kentucky.
  • On another note, true freshman Jermauria Rasco saw his first action on Saturday, and finished with two solo tackles and a tackle-for-loss.
  • The defensive backfield was the main culprit in the tackling issues, with waaaay too many arm-tackle attempts that the WVU wideouts ran through. T-Rex and Co. still came up with three big turnovers and nearly had another two or three more, but the little things can be just as important as the big things.