And so the streak stretches to 13 games, as LSU takes down Mississippi State 37-`17, with a somewhat dull, occasionally uninspired, yet nonetheless business-like approach.
It is, of course, no surprise, that there was something of an emotional letdown for the Tigers. But it's good to know that this team can remain calm and methodically take down a ranked opponent without too much difficulty. Even when State went straight down the field for the game's first touchdown, there never seemed to be much of a concern or panic that things were in doubt. It was refreshing in this season, with so many do-or-die games in the last few weeks.
- Of course, we have to start at quarterback. The best compliment I could give to Zach Mettenberger's performance was that it looked effortless. Things ran, for the most part, so smoothly in the passing game that you rarely even saw the remnants of the former struggles, with the exception of a few drops.
The quarterback was calm, cool and collected, he distributed the ball correctly and never really seemed too get rattled, despite taking a couple of big hits again. I cannot emphasize enough how encouraging it was to see that carry over from last week. He looked like a quarterback that has been playing that well all year.
- The staff continues to show that trust in the passing game. From 12 first-down passes, to a 40-second end-of-the-half drive that began 70 yards from the endzone and with zero hesitation. LSU pulled out its vertical concept, which is very much the type of play that thrives on repetition and comfort. The receivers are all running vertical routes and adjusting to the coverage. All parties involved need to know what they're going to do based on how the defense reacts. Mettenberger adjusted well on a couple of plays -- looking off a safety on the big pass to James Wright, and extending the play to find Jarvis Landry outside of the pocket on the drive's first pass.
- The 20-yard touchdown throw to Spencer Ware was an NFL-caliber throw and a great adjustment. Pre-snap alignment suggested that Ware might have a favorable matchup, and once he took off up the sideline, he had a step on the MSU linebacker. The defender caught up well, but the throw was perfect and indefensible. It's the kind of play you expect out of a well-rehearsed passing attack, and if that's what we can continue to look forward to out of Mettenberger, the next 14-15 games (this season and next) are gonna be a lot of fun.
- If there's one complaint about the passing game, it's still the occasional drop, which cost Mettenberger a touchdown pass this week. At this point, this receiving corps is what it is. A solid, if unspectacular group that is lacking that one, true go-to target. But if Mettenberger can continue to distribute the ball this way, it'll work against the rest of the teams on this schedule.
- Bit of a step back for the running game. Despite working against a fairly clean front for most of the game, the Tiger offensive line never really seemed to get in a grove. They did a strong job in short-yardage situations, but the holes were never really there down-in and down-out.
- Vadal Alexander in particular struggled setting the edge, and also got worked over a few times in pass-pro. To be honest, he's done so well as a freshman thrust into this lineup, especially against some really tough competition in recent weeks, that a few struggles are understandable.
- I wonder what wild hair got into the coaching staff to give Russell Shepard eight carries. Not that I'm complaining -- any time LSU can get the ball more often to a potentially explosive player, it's a good thing. Now, how about some more passes to him out of that spot?
- Rough night for the defense. To an extent, that's also not totally surprising. State has a veteran group of receivers and a very efficient quarterback, and frankly they just ate up LSU's younger corners with good route running on a lot of underneath throws. Tyler Russell did a fantastic job of getting the ball out quickly and negating the Tiger pass rush. LSU usually found a way to get things done in the redzone, and allowed just three third-down conversions all night, but with two more solid passing games left this month, Tharold Simon and the Jalens need to tighten up a bit. Ole Miss next week, in particular, will try to eat LSU up on short throws out of a hurry up offensive look, similar to what Texas A&M had success with at the beginning of that game.
- Craig Loston's 100-yard pick six was a beautiful play by a veteran DB. He baited his receiver into breaking his route short, attacked and timed his jump perfectly. From there, he had a bee-line to take that ball coast to coast.
- Special teams: nice rebound by Drew Alleman, and Brad Wing continues to round back into his 2011 form. But the punt-return team...eesh. I'm starting to wonder if Odell Beckham Jr. has some issues finding the ball in the air, because he continues to struggle to see his coverage pre-catch. It might be time to consider another returner.
- Interestingly enough, the Lamar Louis "dive on the ball" play really isn't that big of a deal due to the obscure illegal touching rule. Because that ball touched a State player, it essentially is a free play for LSU to try and do anything. Even if they lose the ball, they'll have the option to take it back at the point of the touch. But as Thomas McGaughey mentioned in a post-game interview, Louis needs to avoid just diving on the ball and only go for it if he has a shot to get it and run.