Well, another week, another cupcake devoured in relative order. LSU's offense wasn't up to snuff against ULM, but we'll get to that in a bit. The defense, however, only broke a 73-year-old record, pitching the first back-to-back shutouts at home since 1941. It also happens to be the first time since 1985 that LSU's shut out two opponents consecutively at all.
Poseur outlined a couple of impressive numbers in his initial article:
The final numbers speak to the defense's total annihilation:
77 yards passing
16 yards rushing
The Warhawks had run 82 and 85 plays in their previous two games -- they ran 48 on Saturday. They had rushed for at least 150 yards in each of those games, but were held to just SIXTEEN. Of their 18 rushing attempts, an amazing 13 picked up two yards or less. It took ULM until midway through the second quarter just to pick up a first down, and their sole drive to cross the 50 started at the 43.
On to the bullet points:
- Starting with, of course, the offensive line. It was kind of the major story given that the offense clearly struggled to move the ball at times. It was a little disconcerting to see it happen against another odd-front team, but whereas the Wisconsin issues were a more about missed assignments and numbers, there were far more cases of the offensive line just getting beat at the point of attack.
Every lineman with the exception of La'el Collins had their moments, but Elliot Porter and Vadal Alexander were probably the largest two culprits, particularly in the first half. They each got torpedoed on the first two offensive plays, creating a third-and-10 situation. Porter also got blown up on LSU's first redzone possession, gave up a key sack, stepped on Jennings' foot and tripped him AND drew an illegal hands-to-the-face penalty. So all-in-all, nice 2014 debut for the formerly suspended center.
- It's no coincidence that ULM nose tackle Gerrand Johnson and defensive end Joey Gautney finished with a combined 11 tackles. On top of that, the Warhawks basically gave the Tiger passing game no respect and had nearly their entire defense within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage on all but third-and-long situations. Spreading the field probably would have helped, but LSU seemed remarkably committed to using 22 and 21 personnel.
- But the running game did settle in eventually and just lean on the Warhawks for 219 yards on the ground. On deeper throws, early on, there was a big focus on heavy protections and one- and two-man patterns, but when LSU did throw on early downs they did use the high-percentage throws, which are still going to be a huge part of this offense. I did find the lack of running from spread sets a bit confusing, but then the 3-3-5 defense is typically built specifically to stop that style of offense as well.
In the future, if the power game isn't working, LSU's going to have to spread the field and try to create some room and force better match-ups.
- As for Anthony Jennings, he seemed a bit harried early on, much like he was versus Wisconsin, but with further review he didn't take nearly as long to settle in. His first two throws were really hot -- high on a flat route to Connor Neighbors and a bit too soon on a stick route to Trey Quinn (and on the play in question he probably had a better throw to Dural on the next outside route). After missing on his first three passes, he completed six of his next eight in the first half. What was really the story of the passing game was that six out of the nine third-down situations Jennings saw in the half were distances of five yards or longer. Staying on schedule is just going to be so crucial for this team.
- But there were a number of things that worked -- Jennings threw some very nice hitch plays on "smoke" calls, or when the QB reads off coverage outside, pulls out and just fires a quick throw to a receiver at the line of scrimmage. He converted a really nice third-and-22 by breaking the pocket and finding John Diarse down the field, and hit a couple of nice plays down the field into some difficult windows. He also might have had another touchdown if Travin Dural had done a better job of high-pointing the ball and getting over the cornerback on a deep throw in the endzone.
- Jennings' interception was a very rough play though -- he tried to extend a play a bit too much and kind of put the ball up for grabs when he should have just thrown the ball away. That's a bit out of character for Jennings, who's been really careful with ball security overall. Honestly, 11-of-18's not a bad total really. Not great, but LSU can win with that completion rate.
- And if Brandon Harris is still turning the wrong way on handoffs, which he did twice, he's certainly not going to be an upgrade.
- Speaking of Travin Dural, workmanlike effort from him overall with six catches for 79 yards. It wasn't flashy, but it was nice to see that he can do some things besides get down the field.
- Running backs: loved the way Darrel Williams runs. He keeps his pad level low and never stops driving those feet. His first touchdown was from the fullback position out of the I. LSU ran that belly play that they've used a ton the last two weeks in short-yardage situations. Williams had the first down pretty easily on the initial surge, and once he bounced off a ULM tackler he had an easy path in for the score.
- Speaking of that belly play, LSU's been pretty consistently running something of a triple-option look behind it with the quarterback and tailback moving down the line. I doubt it's a true option play on the handoff, but don't be surprised if we see more of either the quarterback keeping it or making a quick pitch.
- Leonard Fournette's 24-yard score was a thing of beauty. LSU ran its patented power-O toss play, and all the blocks timed perfectly. Connor Neighbors kicked out the defensive end, Colin Jeter and La'el Collins blocked down to the next level and the backside guard led Fournette through a very big hole. From there the freshman turned on the jets and just booked it to the corner of the endzone. Won't be the last time you see that happen.
- In general, LSU had more success attacking the edge in the running game with, with a couple of nice toss-sweep plays. Very few stretches or zone-reads called though, which was curious.
- Back to the defense and HOLY SHIT DAVON GODCHAUX. His stat line of three tackles and a half-a-tackle for loss may not jump out at you, but if you're a line play junky you can see the impact he's having in the middle of the LSU defensive line (he started this game). I think I expected that, as a former defensive end and a bit of a thinner guy, he'd become more of a three-technique penetrator. Instead, he's looking like another Michael Brockers type -- a big body that controls a double team on almost every snap. Does a fantastic job of getting his arms on linemen and just gumming up the works. He's going to be a lot of fun to watch this season.
- Overall though, the story of this defense was the secondary. Fantastic job of flying to the ball and making tackles. ULM really tried to live on quick underneath throws to their inside receivers. Get the ball out quick into space, right? The Tigers were closing that space up really quick, with Jalen Mills, Ricky Jefferson, Dwayne Thomas, Ronald Martin and Jamal Adams all doing a great job of inhaling those five- and six-yard completions right away.
- Overall, ULM tried LSU's outside corners (Tre'davious White, Jalen Collins and Rashard Robinson) all of two times the whole night.
- Pete Thomas did not throw a single pass Tre'davious White's way in any of his 30 attempts, yet White led LSU with three solo tackles. Like I said, flying up in run support. There was even one play where ULM tried to set up a quick screen, but White ran up and drilled the blocker back into the ball-carrier to get him down.
- Duke Riley got the start at the SAM linebacker spot for a "nicked" Lamar Louis and made a pretty good play for the full-time gig with a team-leading eight tackles. He did a great job in concert with the safeties to get to those quick throws.
- Debo Jones didn't have as big a stat line, but played very under control in place of Kwon Alexander. That's been his biggest issue as a player to date, and if he can do that on a regular basis he's going to get on the field more and more.
- Jermauria Rasco also deserves some accolades as well. ULM chipped on Danielle Hunter a bunch to try and keep him out of the backfield and Rasco made the most of it, pursuing really well versus the run, forcing plays wide when he had to and getting some nice pressure on Thomas.
- Special teams had a pretty good night. Colby Delahoussaye was consistent on his kicks after pulling a few of them last week. Jamie Keehn and the punt coverage team were fantastic at flipping the field and downing the ball/making the tackle quickly. I would however, like to see White be a little more careful on the punts he chooses to field. He took some very bizarre chances at times.