Well, I'm a day late on this due in part to Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Disappointment Karen. My friends' wedding was severely interrupted and delayed until Sunday. But hey, they are still married, on honeymoon in St. Lucia and will have a nice story to tell for decades to come. And because of said delay, yours truly was able to watch nearly all of the game live, although much delayed in my review.
Overall, I'd say that LSU did what they've done to Mississippi State many a time. Wear them down with depth and talent. The Bulldogs scored just three points after halftime, while LSU scored 31, including 28 in the fourth quarter. It wasn't exactly pretty, but much like they did in the opener versus TCU, when it came down to it the Tigers dropped the hammer and put this game away.
We'll get into the specifics in a bit, but in terms of the defense, I think the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I mean there wasn't much of it, but as I tried to convey in the game preview, this isn't a defense that's going to get fixed in one week.
If you want to look at the positives:
- The Tigers forced four turnovers, either by fumble, interception or on downs.
- State scored just one touchdown in three red-zone appearances.
- State converted just 4-11 third-down tries and was 0-2 on fourth down.
- LSU also had a combined 14 tackles-for-loss and pass break-ups, a week after combining for just five against Georgia.
- And again, just three points in the second half.
If you want to look at the negatives:
- 23 first downs allowed;
- 468 yards of total offense -- the third straight game in which an opponent topped the 400-yard mark and the second time this season an opponent has gone over 200 on the ground;
- 7 yards per play allowed for just the third time in John Chavis' tenure at LSU;
- And a second consecutive over 8 yards per pass attempt, something that has never happened here under the Chief.
So there's some good, some bad. It definitely wasn't a good day by any measure, but it could be one that this defense can build on. On to the re-watch...
- Receiving the ball first might have been the best thing that could have happened to LSU. The Tigers are outscoring teams 90-26 in the first quarter right now. Les Miles has always been a big stickler for deferring on the kick. Taking the ball and establishing a tone might be something he needs to start considering on a weekly basis.
- Credit State's defense for coming up with a heck of a defensive gameplan. Their Amoeba look really played hell with LSU's blocking -- that's something LSU might see more of. It's not necessarily in Alabama or Florida's playbooks, but it's not necessarily a radical adjustment.
- The facemask on Mettenberger on that first drive was such a drive-saver.
- For the second straight game, Kenny Hilliard appears to have found his groove again. He doesn't have to be a dominant runner; he just needs to be an effective counter to Jeremy Hill. A hammer that can pound out short-yardage situations and pick up four yards consistently down the stretch. Really nice burst on that 90-pitch for his first touchdown. Not sure that it's a play I'd ever expect to see run with him.
- Depressing first drive for the defense though, with more of the same on two 28-yard runs. Containment gets eaten up at the point of attack, while alley defenders either take a poor angle or fail to make the play one-on-one. Lamin Barrow gets blocked by a slot receiver on LaDarius Perkins' long run, and then D.J. Welter takes a bad angle on Dak Prescott on the TD play.
- On the Prescott run, it looks like another bust by Ronald Martin, as Welter takes the wide receiver cutting in while the motion man comes deep. Martin throws his hands up, but he might have been trying to signal the rest of the defense that Prescott was already stepping up to run. And then of course, the receiver passed off was in a perfect position to block him on the run. Either way, it appears that Welter and Martin were supposed to swap men on the route combination.
- Jerald Hawkins has been one heck of a right tackle, but he was just brutal on this game. Just got blown off of the ball consistently. Very little push, and looked like he had his feet in quicksand on pass plays. Give a lot of credit to Chris Jones for that. That's a freshman that looks damn-near NFL ready. Really got the better of Hawkins consistently.
- Jones finished with just one sack, but it really didn't tell the story of the impact he had. He just absolutely ran over Hawkins at times.
- Can I just say that I love that toss-power has returned to the playbook? The Humanoids' least-favorite play, broken for a 69-yard touchdown by Jeremy Hill in a situation where LSU had not looked that great for a few plays on offense. Just a huge run at a moment that looked really big at the time.
- Overall, I think the lineup change in the secondary worked out, whether it was due to Craig Loston's injury or not. Corey Thompson really forced State's quarterbacks to hit some tight windows over the middle. Even though they completed some passes, that won't happen often with a big athlete like that squatting on those routes. Jalen Mills is definitely an upgrade at nickel over Micah Eugene, and Rashard Robinson acquitted himself relatively well. Yeah, he did get beat on a long touchdown play to De'Runnya Wilson (little help from a push, but you can't expect to get that call), but he also made a possible touchdown-saving tackle on a backside screen play to Joe Morrow. Great heads up play to avoid the block and make the tackle. There's a cost of doing business with a freshman like that, especially one that was only cleared to practice about a week before the season opener. But Robinson may have the instincts, and the talent, to be worth it. It will be interesting to see what happens going forward, especially if Loston is back this week.
- Cam Cameron continues to rely heavily on 21 and 22 personnel, and I think I understand his reasoning. With two backs and two tight ends in the game, a defense is almost always going to stack the box and leave Jarvis Landry or Odell Beckham Jr. in man-to-man coverage. That's a win-win situation for LSU, because even if the defense does try to keep the safeties back, the offensive front should have numbers in the running game.
- Speaking of ODB and the Juice, they remain near-indefensible on the comeback route, and Mettenberger remains completely fearless in the face of a defense. State's corners were no match, but it's going to be Ali-Frazier this week against Florida's corners.
- The interception was just a ball that you could see got away from Mettenberger. But if there's something I'd really like to nitpick, it's that he showed a bit of a tendency to really stare his target down at times. Yeah, it's one thing to know that "if it's one-on-one to Juice or ODB, that's where I'm going," but Florida's cornerbacks will pattern-read, and they will most certainly be watching his eyes. Can't let it become too regular of a habit.
- Honestly, overall, I felt like the defense, particularly in the back seven, did a better job mentally. Communication appeared better, there were fewer receivers running free. Most of the big plays came in one-on-one situations where the receiver just one, or were the result of this game's single biggest problem: AWFUL tackling.
- I mean awful, middle-school level tackling. Just playing grab-ass out there, especially on State's first touchdown run of the second quarter. Barrow might have been the biggest culprit, allowing Josh Robinson and even Tyler Russell to get through him if not just straight bowl him over. Honestly, I'm not even sure what the fix is here. You can only do so much live tackling during the week at this point in the season without risking injuries or dead legs come Saturday. Yeah, you can feed the walk-ons to the defense in more live drills, but that doesn't necessarily work either. And frankly, a lot of it comes from attitude. It's disappointing that you don't see it from one of your team leaders like Barrow.
- More on Barrow -- if Chavis is going to continue to use him in coverage, look for more and more offenses to attack him with option routes. If he did one thing well, it was applying some pressure at times as a blitzer.
- Thompson was burned on Russell's 20-yard TD to Jameon Lewis, but give Russell credit for a great throw. If there could be a lesson for Thompson there, it's not to avoid the contact the way he did. Better to get flagged for pass interference than to give up the six.
- Really brutal day for Martin tackling, especially one-on-one with Jameon Lewis. However, Martin did a much better job of rotating over in coverage, breaking up two big fourth-down plays. Although he needs to remember that if it is fourth down, think bat-down, not interception.
- Poseur wasn't kidding on the Bulldogs winning the second quarter. Roughly a third of their total yardage came in that period, counting the two they lost on kneel downs to go into the half.
- Love the response drive from the offense in the final four minutes of the half. Quick throws, check-downs to avoid State's pressure, then big throws to Juice and ODB in single coverage. Look, part of living with a defense like this, is that when they do make a stop, the offense has got to respond. This has been something Saints fans have lived with for years. LSU fans will just have to get used to it for now.
- The response theme comes up again on LSU's first drive in the third. State went and got three, and while you'd like to match that with six, LSU put together a 13-play drive that ate half of the quarter and just broke the Bulldogs' hearts at several turns. A HUGE 3rd-and-19 conversion, followed by a fourth-down and then the fumble on the goal-line that Mettenberger very smartly cradled. Yeah, it was three points, but it was a tough body blow.
- Love the little half-roll play by Cameron to move the pocket and get Mettenberger away from the pressure. But woof, did Hawkins get submarined and nearly ruin the play.
- How hard did State break on the run on that fourth-down play? Mettenberger had the easy throw to
Travis DicksonConnor Neighbors in the flat for the first down. But he took the shot down the field when he realized he could just lead Beckham to the ball behind the defense.
- Alfred Blue continues to make the most of some limited opportunities as well. Broke a tackle to pick up a nice first down, and really ran to contact well on his fourth-quarter touchdown.
- Defensive line: active day for defensive ends. Ten combined tackles for Jermauria Rasco, Danielle Hunter and Jordan Allen. They were getting movement and disrupting plays at the edges at times, but getting off blocks, particularly in pass-rush situations, remains a problem. Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson looked remarkably better with Quentin Thomas and Christian LaCouture giving them a breather a little more often. LaCouture picked up his first career sack as well.
- As the fourth quarter started, you really have a sense that LSU is wearing down the Bulldogs. Hill had broken a few nice runs in traffic, and then bam. Five route to ODB. Shimmy shimmy-ya and touchdown. Paul has said plenty on Beckham's great night and great season, but let me add this. So long as Beckham & Landry are playing this well, it does not matter who the "third wideout" is on this team. Just give Mett enough time to find this third option on a given play. For a defense to take away both of the top two, they'll have to give up something.
- Tre'Davious White's interception was the dagger in this game, but let's be real. He busted coverage and was bailed out by Prescott's awful throw. LSU appeared to be in a cover-two zone. State stacked two receivers to his side, and White stayed with the deep man rather than staying in the flat/curl area. Luckily, he peaked back in time to see Jameon Lewis wide open for the first and began to run back. Prescott missed Lewis by a mile and White was Johnny-on-the-spot and made a nice return. Overall, it was a solid night for White though. He stayed tight to his man and managed to break up a few plays. Once again, it's one thing for a young guy like him to make these kinds of mistakes, provided he learns from them.
- Penalties cleaned up a little with just five for 27 yards. Still of the sloppy variety though.
- Look, yeah, it's Mississippi State, but give the Tigers credit for dusting themselves off after last week's heart-breaker and battling in a very tough, raucous environment. To me, the biggest takeaway is that this team, in the face of an intense environment, kept fighting, kept working, and dropped 59 points on a conference opponent. Now it's time to flush this win, just like they flushed the loss to Georgia, and get ready for a big showdown with a Florida team that is playing its best football right now.