Okay, this won't be quite as in-depth as my typical review, but I did finally get through a re-watch of the big win. I can't decide if it worked out or not that this game wound up being so emotional on a day that was crazy for me as is. About 10 minutes before kickoff I found myself having to lay down in our hospital room from sheer exhaustion, as my wife and I had been in the hospital since about 1:30 that morning, coming in half-expecting to be sent home only to be surprised that the show would go on. Given that I was in a maternity ward there was lots of muffled shouting and gesticulating, and by the final five minutes I was pacing in front of the small TV with a less-than-12-hours-old baby in my arms.
And yes her eyes were open the whole time.
Anyways, here are a couple of points:
- Allow me to represent LSU's gameplan in the language of the internet, the animated gif:
Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler mentioned that Cam Cameron spoke of "being who we are" in pre-game, and I think that's exactly what this offense is figuring out. Power/zone running, a little bit of spread with a passing game that's doing a better job of keeping its quarterback in plus situations. LSU went into this game with the belief that they could run on Ole Miss' smaller defensive front, and give the coaching staff credit -- they didn't waiver, even when the Rebels started to crack down inside in the third quarter.
- Give most of the credit to that LSU offensive line, particularly the guard-center triangle of Vadal Alexander, Elliot Porter and Ethan Pocic. They drove players off the ball, they steered them and they did not let up. Robert Nkemdiche was fairly contained for the most part. Both fullbacks found their targets at the second level as well. Pocic in particular was great on LSU's zone plays and pulling on the power O/G runs.
- This was clearly such an emotional game for Ole Miss. Bo Wallace, LaQuon Treadwell, the Ole Miss defense, all jawing constantly. And you could tell they were not prepared for an opponent that would do nothing but rain down body blows on them until they were doubled over. Given the reaction of Dr. Bo and Freezus Rice to the final sequence, it won't be surprising if LSU doesn't beat them a couple more times before the end of the year.
- Anthony Jennings' performance was uneven overall, but still showed some progress. Cameron helped him out with a couple of easier play-action throws on first down, and Jennings did a nice job hitting on a couple of deep crossing routes and finding his outlets, including on a third down on LSU's successful field-goal drive.
- His first interception I chalk up to a good play by a senior DB in Senquez Golson. When Jennings hit his drop, it looked like a perfect set up for Travin Dural to run right by the corner on the go-route, just like he usually does. But Golson gives Dural just a slight jam right as the ball comes out, cuts him off on the route and runs the ball down. Given that the play amounted to a punt, it was ultimately harmless.
- The second one however, was a straight misfire. Jennings had Trey Quinn on a deep out, but he put too much touch on the ball trying to get it over a defender in the flat. The ball pulls Quinn off the route, and the Ole Miss corner could easily come up and play it in the air. Bad throw.
- Jennings did just miss out on another touchdown pass in the second quarter on the fade throw to Malachi Dupre. The receiver hugged the sideline a little too much and didn't get quite as much depth on the route, and as a result as he jumped for the ball he came down out of bounds. Dupre needs to do a better job of jamming the corner in his body and using his arms to create space as he turns to play the ball.
- On defense, LSU used a lot of man-pressures on early downs to go with some zone looks on third down. This worked incredibly well in the first half because A) it took advantage of Ole Miss' weak offensive line while B) forcing Wallace to hang on to the ball trying to get through his progressions and C) keeping eyes on him in scramble situations.
- Give so much credit to the Tiger defensive line, particularly ends Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco. They kept the pressure on Wallace, set the edge when Ole Miss ran wide and did a great job of pursuing up and down the line of scrimmage.
- On the back end, LSU's DBs responded to the physical challenge of Treadwell & Co. incredibly well. They got jams at the line of scrimmage, played tight in man coverage, were physical at getting to the ball and put some hard, clean hits on receivers when given the opportunity. Tre'davious White's break-up on the deep post throw to Treadwell in the third quarter was incredibly reminiscent of his cousin Mo Claiborne on a Bama receiver late in the 2011 GOTC.
- Although Jalen Collins: please...jugs machine. Get in front of one. Catch some balls.
- Linebacker -- wow. Kendell Beckwith isn't just improving by the game, he's arguably doing it by the quarter. The shot he laid on the Rebel back to set up the fourth-and-one was perfect. And Kwon Alexander is allowing him to do the thing he does best -- playing downhill -- by moving well in the curl/flat areas outside in coverage and allowing Beckwith to handle the tackle box. It's an impact that goes beyond the 8 tackles and 2.5 tackles-for-loss Alexander filled up the box score with.
- Speaking of box score lines, I was somewhat incredulous at Davon Godchaux's 3 tackles and half-a-TFL. He just seemed to be everywhere up and down the line of scrimmage.
- The front's best play? Almost certainly the fourth-and-short hurry-up QB sneak attempt on Ole Miss' second-to-last possession. The entire defensive front recognized the Rebels' trick quickly and responded perfectly. Godchaux, Hunter and Christian LaCouture all fired out low and torpedoed the offensive line, while Beckwith, Alexander, Rasco and Jamal Adams all dove over the top. Rasco in particular did a great job of getting his arms on Wallace as he began to roll off the pile with his feet still under him. No chance.
- LSU's final drive put (more) hair on my baby's head. Kenny Hilliard had fresh legs and it showed when he ripped off those two big runs right out of the shoot. And, you know, threw that guy out of bounds. Cameron did a fantastic job of not overthinking things that were going well. Ole Miss had been begging for a bootleg play, but my thought on second-and-goal was more for Jennings to keep it more than try a pass. Credit Logan Stokes for carrying out his fake well and getting open. As fast as the Rebel defense is I'm not sure Jennings could have made the pylon.
- On the fourth-and-1 play on the drive, Connor Neighbors absolutely drills Ole Miss' Christian Russell and clears him out of the hole, plus about seven yards -- which is good, because he missed the guy that made the play on third down. Oddly enough, if Hilliard doesn't stutter a little bit in the backfield, he probably picks the play up a little easier to the right side behind Pocic.
- Jamie Keehn will be remembered for the horrible shank that somehow didn't cost LSU points, but he also hit a pair of nice ones that pinned Ole Miss inside the 10. That inconsistency is what's keeping him from being one of the country's better punters.
- I'm not sure I could be prouder of this team because let's face it -- after completely out-playing a pretty good Ole Miss team but committing SO MANY heart-breaking mistakes and having SO MANY plays just swing the other way. Not even counting the turnovers (or the ones LSU missed out on) there was Jalen Mills' pass interference call on Ronald Martin's first interception, which, he's deep on an underthrown ball, he can either throw himself out of the way and let the receiver get back to it or body block him. Ole Miss fumbled ONE TIME, and it bounced right back into Jaylen Walton's chest. Keehn's shank seemed to set up the Rebels perfectly for some sort of points. And then there was also Vadal Alexander's ever-so-slight flinch that turned a potential offsides penalty that would have put LSU in position to get a first down and kill the clock into a third-and-long situation. But this team fought through it all and came out on top. There's still plenty to play for, but three tough games to go as well. Focus on the next step, not on the final destination, and let's see where it all takes us.