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LSU 35, Auburn 21: Viewer's Guide to the Replay

Well…that was fun, sort of.

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

Like I said...weird things happen when LSU plays Auburn. I mean it isn't all that often that you'd call a 14-point win over a division rival weird, but it kind of fits here. The Tigers jumped out to a 21-point lead and kind of kept Auburn at a distance for most of the night, but there was never that final blow really. LSU kind of just waited for the game to end instead of ending it themselves. Yeah, Auburn was never really in striking distance, but they hung around a lot longer than they should have. What's that mean? Not sure yet.

  • Personally, I'm always very wary of big leads that come easy. Ideally, as the home team in a big game, if you jump out to a 21-point lead you want it to come on three strong offensive drives. Strong body blows that wear out the opponent and take a nice chunk out of the clock in the process. That didn't really feel like what happened here. LSU breaks a 49-yard run on their third offensive play, then gets a dropped punt snap (kind of even hard to call it a block) to set up a second touchdown. The third score came relatively easy as well, courtesy of Hill's 54-yarder to set up punch-in. It creates a situation where it can become really easy for the team in control to get complacent when they haven't had to really dominate the opponent play-to-play. Which makes it that much easier for said opponent to pick themselves up off the mat.

  • Factor in the crappy weather and a stadium that was half-empty at halftime, and it's not hard to see why LSU might have lost some intensity in the second half. I mean yeah, players and coaches have to compensate for those situations, and what kind of crowd they're in front of shouldn't matter. But let's not kid ourselves -- it all matters. That isn't to absolve LSU of blame or to put it on the fans, I just want to consider all of the factors in the situation. Because the numbers are not good: 21 first downs, 437 yards, 5.1 a play and 213 rushing yards. LSU hasn't allowed 200-plus yards on the ground in a game since the 2010 Ole Miss game. But again, the flow of the game has to be considered. Auburn had just 109 yards at halftime. They gained 328 in the second half. So what's that tell us? I guess we'll find out next weekend against Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley. It's important to remember, that at no point in this game was Auburn really in a position to win.
  • On to the game itself...heck of a stiff dew in the stadium. Wife was a trooper in the poncho with me. Proud of her for that. However, c'mon fans, it wasn't even coming down that hard. This was a divisional game. Suck it up.

  • The inside zone play with Jeremy Hill is money in the bank for LSU right now. The 49-yard touchdown was damn-near perfectly blocked. Elliot Porter walled off the nose, Trai Turner gets out to the second level, J.C. Copeland takes out the middle linebacker and Hill is in to the secondary untouched. After that, it was all talent. Hill is just so tough to stop at full speed, and when he does have to slow up to try and stutter or break a tackle, he's got great acceleration to get away from the rest of the defense.

  • Hill's second TD showed the advantage that zone blocking can provide. Auburn's left defensive tackle really fired off the ball and got inside of Vadal Alexander, but all he had to do was reach him, wall him off and ride him straight back. The rest of the line did their job and all the penetration did was create a bigger hole.

  • Auburn's night against the run really illustrated the feast/famine nature of constantly loading up to stop the run. Take out Hill's two big plays and he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. But, with nine or 10 defenders in the box, if the back can get past the second level there's usually a lot of running room. You have to be precise in your run fits and hold your gaps.

  • Nice to see Duke Riley make a play in special teams, though it always helps when the punter drops the snap.

  • Ego Ferguson held up Cameron Artis-Payne on the big 3rd-and-1 stop in the first quarter. Got great push, made the back hesitate and LSU was able to get enough bodies near the line to stone him.

  • I'm a huge fan of play-action throws to the fullback in the flat in short-yardage situations. You hope that Mettenberger will use his eyes to keep sucking defenders there in those situations. It could create a really fun match-up for a tight end down the field.

  • Speaking of Mettenberger, another strong day, aside from the interception. He's just in complete command back there, and he's consistently making strong decisions, even when he steps up in the pocket, eats the ball and takes the sack. What's more, is that his post-game quotes on the offense's performance are showing a fire and a perfectionist streak that can be exciting, if this team backs up the talk.

  • The interception was just a miss-thrown ball. Outside routes like that need to be high and outside, something Mettenberger generally does.

  • Despite the sacks, more often than not Mettenberger continues to have an amazing amount of time in the pocket. I hope he's learning to use the time constructively. Pick up a hobby or something. I wonder if he likes Sudoku.

  • Speaking of the offensive line, no word that I've seen yet on the Trai Turner injury, but hopefully he's back soon. He's become a damn good zone-blocking guard. Evan Washington did a solid job in pass-pro in his stead, but got pushed around a bit as a run-blocker.

  • Anybody else notice how much more often LSU is pulling Alexander on power- and trap-type plays out of shotgun looks? I like...

  • No excuses for Terrence Magee on that fumble. Yeah, wet ball, but he has to have that thing more secure as he's going down. Carelessness.

  • Playcalling: You had a sense that once LSU felt in command, things were buttoned up a bit again, though I suppose the weather might've been a factor as well. Only one screen pass that I can recall (a flanker screen that an Auburn corner made an excellent play on), and very little misdirection to try and take advantage of Auburn's pursuit. Although a lack of blitzing on Auburn's part was likely a factor as well. Makes me very curious as to what we'll see next week against Georgia's blitzing 3-4 style. I understand not trying to show much, but I'd just as soon not try too much for the first time in a live game.

  • The buttoning-up extended to personnel choices as well. Very few looks out of Travin Dural or any other significant backups.

  • A note on the receiving corps: yeah, things are still very ODB/Juice heavy, but you get the feeling that's more by design than anything. Defenses are all but ignoring the tight ends, and it means that Travis Dickson is getting wide open when he goes down the seam. He's going to start to get more looks.

  • Fun moment during Shaq's presentation on the field. While LSU's sidelines were glad-handing the big Aristotle you could see Quan Bray stand away from Auburn's huddle and look to the LSU sideline as if to say "...I wish Shaq would come hang out on our sideline..."

  • On to the defensive issues in the second half.

  • Up front, it just didn't feel like there was a lot of hustle out of the defensive line. Anthony Johnson was double-teamed for most of the night, and while Ego Ferguson was still fairly active with five tackles. But what to watch for was how much Auburn used their speed and upfield push against them with some traps and other misdirection blocks. Something other teams will likely see on film.

  • Not a lot of rotation either on the defensive line, which I find curious. Auburn ran 85 plays on offense, so fatigue might have been a factor in the fourth quarter struggles.

  • At linebacker, the 32 tackles that D.J. Welter, Lamin Barrow and Kwon Alexander combined for really didn't show how poorly they played. Barrow and Welter are simply too passive at times. They know where to be and they find their gap, but instead of exploding into it and running to the ball they often times just wait for the runner to come to them and catch him. Alexander is the far more active and explosive player, but you can tell that he's still not diagnosing what he sees in front of him that well.

  • But when Alexander knows what he's doing, he can be that kind of impact player.

  • Case-in-point with Barrow was Tre Mason's 17-yard run on third down to set up Auburn's first score. It was a zone-read play with Barrow as the read player. Some hesitation is understood but once it was clear that Mason had the ball he went right by Barrow, who was just standing there. He's either got to read that play faster or be more aggressive to the ball carrier. Welter is always in the right spot versus the inside run but just lets the ball come to him instead of delivering the blow.

  • Micah Eugene is an aggressive, hard-nosed player that does his best work in the box as a nickel or dime defender. But if he's back in a safety position he will take some very poor angles to the ball. And on both of the long pass plays to Sammie Coates, he was late helping out the cornerback in the under coverage.

  • Solid job by Jamie Keehn on punting. Prevented a return on nearly every punt and had three downed inside the 20.

  • The fake field goal call -- I didn't hate it. Yeah, in general, I would be against calling a fake in a 4th-and-long situation, but in this case, I can justify it the following ways. For one, it's such a tendency breaker, the chances of Auburn seeing it coming with a 28-7 lead are between slim and none. A touchdown there would have essentially put the game away, and if it doesn't work there's still a good chance you pin the offense inside the 10. If you trust your defense at all, I think it's a reasonable gamble. Yeah, 31-7 is pretty good too, but 35-7 just might have taken the wind out of Auburn's sails.

  • I will also say this about the fourth quarter -- the offensive pass interference call against ODB was a) a huge crock of shit, and b) a major drive-killer that might have robbed LSU of a chance to land the knockout punch.

  • Speaking of crocks, good to see that Tom Ritter was in midseason form. It takes a week-in, week-out commitment to suck out loud. You can't just blow a week off because there is bad weather and you want to beat the traffic out of the stadium.

  • The lack of a fuck given on Cameron Artis-Payne's last touchdown run was jarring. Auburn used their hurry up following a couple of big plays, and the defense almost looked disinterested once the play was snapped. Craig Loston, in particular, didn't even try to come up and stop Artis-Payne.

  • As smart as a player as Juice Landry is, on the Auburn onside kick he looked completely unprepared for the block coming from Jay Prosch. Credit Auburn for a different style of kick, given that you can't really use the ol' lead-blocker onside kick play the way you used to. LSU caught a huge break with the overturning of the play.

  • Mills' late interception, which should have been the back-breaker, illustrated the importance of safety rotation on those deep plays. Loston was over the top of the receiver, forcing Marshall to hang the ball up a bit to try and let his receiver adjust. Mills was able to cut him off and win the jump ball.

  • If Tre'davious White makes the catch on that flat route that he caught, how does the perception of this game change?

  • Either way, this one is in the books. There are still a lot of things to like about this team. Some question marks to have, but those weren't all going to be answered in a month. Last year's Auburn game kind of set a tone for this season in the aftermath, when LSU didn't really grow from the experience and right the ship the next week against Towson.

    Now, it's time to head to Athens for what we've known would be the game that sets up the rest of this season. Gameday will be on hand, and it's almost certainly going to be an emotional homecoming for Mettenberger. A win can set the tone for the rest of the SEC schedule until November's big twosome. I guess we'll begin to find out about this team's growth.