Domination is what you want, domination is what you got. Sam Houston State is hardly a bad football team, even if they are a few talent tiers below what LSU features. Though they pair their high-powered offense with a bit of a sieve on defense, they should be an FCS playoff team. They've made two trips to the FCS National Championship in the past three seasons. Their HC has won a National Title at Delaware. From any indication this is a quality, well coached opponent. And LSU made them look like the Sam Houston School for the Blind's junior varsity squad.
The Bearkats managed 75 yards in the 1st quarter and only 131 the rest of the way. By the mid 3rd their starters were noticeably gassed. By the 4th, they were playing all backups. This after talking big game about how this game wasn't merely a "money game" for them. There was decent enough reason to think this one could be more interesting than it turned out to be. LSU coming off a hard fought victory against an opponent that doesn't exactly get the heart pounding on paper.
Yet, LSU's young team took another step forward, dissecting Sam Houston State in a business-like manner. As I proposed on Twitter, here's your LSU football mantra for 2014:
LSU looked dominant in all phases, filling up the boxscore and spreading the wealth to a great number of youngsters. In the past, they struggled to put away lesser foes (ahem, Towson), which, in turn, didn't allow for their young players to get much needed reps. This proved the opposite. Nearly everyone played. Both QBs got quality reps. We cycled in backs, receivers, backers, tackles, ends, corners, Safeties, you name it.
Who stood out? Let's take a look.
A fairly vanilla approach. LSU didn't turn to their shotgun, 3-WR formations quite as much this week, particularly in the 2nd half where they pretty much stayed in IForm and ran the same three plays over and over again. Les Miles version of mercy is bludgeoning you into a bloody pulp.
The encouraging thing is that both QBs looked pretty sharp, Fournette got going, the line looked stronger, Williams showed he can easily fit as a rotational fourth back and Malachi Dupre debuted. LSU needs to continue to identify how to utilize their playmakers, while working toward developing more in the short-to-intermediate passing game. LSU averaged more yards per carry on the ground than SHSU averaged yards per play, if that tells you anything.
As Miles continually notes, this team isn't where it needs to be, but if they keep improving at this rate, they will be.
Jennings shows great feel and command of the deep ball, though Cameron will need to curb his mad bomber mentality a bit. The big plays are great, and great fun, but teams like Auburn, Alabama and the like, have the athletes to cover down field and will force LSU into either managing the game through underneath passing or making crucial mistakes on the long ball.
A couple new wrinkles this week, expressly lining up one of our tailbacks at the FB spot in the I-formation. Numerous times we ran the belly play in this look, both to Hilliard and Williams. Fournette even took a turn at FB while Neighbors dotted the I. Tinkering with the personnel in this way gives LSU some strong looks.
Developing receiver screen game. We didn't go to it, even once that I can recall, but several times Dural/Quinn would set up in the screen game on our running plays. Nice to have that outside threat and future potential PA possibility.
Tinkering with four-WR sets. It's clear by now the staff thinks Dural/Quinn are our two best wideouts. Diarse is a more than capable No. 3 and Dupre looks to be a threat in his own right. The previously unproven receiver corps is beginning to look like a team strength. These guys are all sure handed, and provide a diverse range of threats.
Continued use of no huddle. Not always the hurry up variety, but we seem to like to use it when the running game gets going to just pile on to the other team.
Jennings: 7/13 looks worse than it actually was. A throw away here and there, and a couple of deep balls that were narrowly defended lowered his percentage a bit. Still, he looked sharp as a passer and continues to illustrate great chemistry and timing with Dural. This is the first truly lesser opponent Jennings faced, so it's nice to see him take care of business. His confidence seems to be growing. He's got a good grasp on the offense and there's rarely breakdowns in getting the plays in, keeping players in and out of the huddle and making good reads. He flubbed an option read or two, but I won't complain at all about 240-plus yards of production and 3 touchdowns. He found Quinn a couple times as well. I want to see more development on that short game, which could really propel him into a serious threat as one of the top QBs in the conference.
Harris: The promise shines through. After a disastrous first game, good to see Harris didn't hang his head and pout. The first drive he lead on Saturday resulted in a TD, made by himself on a strong run off the veer. He made a good read and kept his legs churning. Shows strength for a guy still a bit slight in frame. A couple runs he would bubble and try and get the outside. That works okay vs. Sam Houston State, probably won't vs. better Ds. His first pass of the night was far off mark, but he hit on his next four, including a beautiful over the shoulder fade to Chi for six. Like Palmer said, the ball comes off so effortlessly for him. He threw a deep comeback to Diarse that came with some serious heat, so much so that Diarse double caught it, almost as if he wasn't expecting that hard of a throw. Did fumble late. Needs to take better care of the football. The potential is there. The QB battle isn't over.
Fournette: Any time you average 7.1 per carry, you are doing something right. Busted runs of 40 and 27. On those two he looked decisive and explosive, making strong cuts and getting downhill. Other times, he looked more timid and questioning. Want to see him run with more confidence and authority. It's scary that he can pump out nearly 100 yards and still not look fully comfortable. Made an insane back shoulder grab that most receivers would struggle with. Oh yeah, struck the Heisman pose. +2.
Hilliard: Fairly "quiet" after leading the team in rushing last week. Still went 11 for 55 and scored on the aforementioned FB belly play. Gave Fournette a little talking to after the Heisman deal. Kenny understands his role well.
Magee: Only 6 carries and his role in the offense seems to be as the spare back and supreme pass protector. Got a great block on one of Jennings' deep balls to Dural. His 4.5 YPC looks okay, but he doesn't seem quite as explosive. He did miss a chance when Jennings misread an option that probably could have been a big gainer for him.
Williams: Saw his first action and scored on the FB belly from a yard out. He runs tough. Not much wiggle, but he's a load coming downhill. In many ways, he ran in ways we've yet to see from Fournette, in terms of being decisive and just getting north/south. That said, he also lacks those extra dimensions Fournette has, so he has no other option than to get downhill. He should be a good GL/short yardage back for us when we need it.
Neighbors: Played with a big club cast, which is so Bonesaw. Got one nice kick. Didn't notice much on him good or bad.
Jones: Mostly played late. They tried to get a short dump to him on PA, but the ball wasn't thrown well. Made a couple of nice blocks late in the game. Didn't notice much else.
John David Moore: The roster lists him at TE, but he seemed to mostly work as an Hback/FB. Really impressed with his blocking. Had a handful of really strong blocks, picked up some tough blitzes. One thing I noticed was a lead play where he picked up the end that Collins was also comboing too. Wondering if he bounced to 2nd level and took on Safety if it had sprung Williams for a long TD rather than 5-7 that he got. He played more than Jones.
Gordon: Typical blocker-only self. Did a fine job.
Stokes: A couple nice kick out blocks to spring runs.
Jeter: This shocked me. Jeter became the third TE to enter the game. I figured him a prime redshirt candidate. I can see why he played though. Impressive as a blocker. Les said as much yesterday. He'll probably see more snaps going forward.
Dickson: Hardly played. Drops and fumbles are a good way to the bench.
Smith: I didn't see him until the most garbage of all garbage times. Staff sending a message?
Dural: Dural so hard mother fuckahs wanna fine me. Dural's stat line for 2014 is simply insane. His connection with Jennings has yielded something like 6 catches, 350 yards and 5TDs. He looks every bit the number one and opponents struggle with his speed and length.
Quinn: Caught a couple of nice balls, including a tough one low and outside on a Jennings rollout. Nice hands catch. He's a factor.
Diarse: Nice 22-yarder on a comeback where he created about 10 yards of separation. Also made a strong catch on a dig route.
Dupre: The big debut. Two catches, one a nice one from Harris on a comeback route, the other a beautiful diving grab in the EZ for 6. He was really open on another one that Jennings bombed to Dural instead. He's the real deal, folks.
Chark: Played late, got a block in the back. Nothing else of note, really.
Spears: Played late, nothing of note.
Collins: Pretty much every note I had related to him described him moving someone, collapsing someone, or holding someone up. So a good night.
Vadal: Pretty much ditto to Collins. On one weird stunt the two of them wound up blocking three guys... successfully. He tripped on a pull, but recovered to at least get something on the blitzing player. Looked good.
Pocic: Got a really nice block on Fournette's TD. Only other note I had was positive. Then he got hurt.
Dodd: Three errant snaps, so something to work on there. He wasn't great, but wasn't so bad as to gnash teeth over.
Hoko: Wondering if he's losing his job. Not a great game. Still struggles on pulls. It's really up and down with him. At times, some dominant drive blocks, even impressive pulls to pick off 2nd level people. Other times? He looks sluggish, whiffs, gets driven into the backfield. Grimes noticed, because Washington was rotating in at RG as early as the 1st quarter.
Washington: Good game. Very powerful drive blocker. He can move folks in the run game. On the one pull I remember, he struggled to get out to get his man, but that was a blitzing CB, so tough assignment. Want to see more. Think he'll continue to split snaps early with Hoko.
Hawkins: He pretty much manhandled the right side all night.
LSU is built to stop teams like this. What's sacrificed in overall bulk, is made up for in athleticism and pursuit. In the past few seasons we've seen LSU continue to struggle against more powerful rushing attacks (Exhibit: Wisconsin), while, oftentimes, quite easily snuffing out spread attacks.
Even still, Sam Houston, on paper, looked like a team capable of moving the football and generating some positive plays on that side of the ball, even against a superior opponent. The Bearkats scored 86 points across their first two games, racking up over 1,200 yards of total offense in the process. Their uptempo, spread attack gave opponents fits, as they cranked out plays at a high volume. On Saturday, not so much. Not only were the Bearkats shut out, they managed barely over 200 yards and never developed any sort of offensive consistency. By my count they only managed 65-ish plays.
LSU used the night to experiment with personnel and unique looks. Starters such as Kwon Alexander and D.J. Welter played scarcely, while LSU sought to get much needed reps for Debo Jones and Kendell Beckwith. Further, the SHSU spread attack, kept LSU in variations of nickel all night, meaning Dwayne Thomas rarely left the field. LSU continued to rotate heavily at safety, and also dabbled with some new DL rotations. It's quite clear they aren't necessarily searching for their best 11 so much as their best 15-20. Depth proved troubling last season, so developing players that can seamlessly rotate as the season wears on will continue to be important in 2014.
While this may not be the high quality opponents we weekly see in the SEC West, it's a good test case for some of the spread attacks like MSU, Auburn, Ole Miss, A&M, even Kentucky.
Ultimately LSU proved to be bigger, badder and faster than anything Sam Houston had seen to date.
Chavis continues to toy with using his speedy LBs in a 4-point stance coming off the edge. Last week, Kwon Alexander took several snaps in this look. This week, Debo Jones got to unleash his pass rushing prowess and looked impressive doing so.
Danielle Hunter shifted inside to DT in speed rush sets, using his quickness to wreak havoc in the middle.
Twist stunts galore, which proved troublesome for Sam Houston to handle. Hunter twisting inside of Lacouture/Thomas yielded positive results repeatedly.
Rotating corners. Tre White saw the most snaps, but there were sets when Rashard Robinson and Jalen Collins played the two CB spots. Collins continued his stellar play from last week. It's looking more and more like LSU possesses three legit threats at CB.
Godchaux continues to be the no. 3 DT. Kid is impressive as a freshman.
Rasco: Manhandled the RT on his way to getting a sack. His pass rush is fairly limited to a bullrush, but he does that well. Had a stupid penalty when he flipped the ball at a SHSU player.
Hunter: Much better showing than last week. This is a scheme more fitting for his skillset, that said, he looked much strong and more physical at the point of attack. Made a particularly impressive play early when he nearly jumped offside, got back right before the snap, then still able to explode through line, blowing past OT and getting a TFL. He's an interesting case. At times he plays too high. At times he's only a straight-line player. But when he pieces it all together he's dominant. Still, exceptional effort all night. Drew a holding while playing DT. Would like to see more bend and turn to his pass rush. As quick as he is, he doesn't seem to close on QBs well.
Bower: Played quite a bit. Not too much of a note. On a twist stunt he came around into a lane perfectly cleared by Herron, but missed the RB. Got cut on a swing screen, would like to see him use his hands better. Would like to see more aggression in the way he plays.
Clark: Got an early injury but was ok. Had a couple of decent pressures. Held up in the run game, which is positive. Great speed rush on the last play of the game to force an early throw an incomplete.
Teuhema: Saw late snaps. Super impressive pass rush resulted in a sack. Sure he came unblocked, but remember what I mentioned about Hunter lacking bend and turn? Teuhema brought that hot on his sack. Watch how easily he flattens out and closes a two-yard gap for a huge sack. Came back with another sack that was ugly as sin in technique but tremendous effort and again, ridiculous closing speed. More snaps, please.
Patterson: Got some late snaps, didn't see much.
Thomas: Does a nice job stacking up the line in the run game, though he offers little as a pass rusher. Cleared a major lane for Hunter on one twist stunt. Always plays with a lot of effort.
Lacouture: Showed more push tonight, which is good. Routinely able to drive men into backfield, as he should against an opponent of this quality. Not a dominant game, but solid signs of improvement after a somewhat meh outing last week. Still hoping for more signs of a playmaker, but this may be we what get this year.
Godchaux: First play I noticed him, he got up under a guys pads and drove him backward. Plays with such great leverage. Later, he did get smoked on a run play, driven completely out of the hole. He's got such a strong initial punch and first step. More reps, please.
Neal: Had one great play blowing by the center for a nice TFL. Nothing else of note.
Herron: The only thing I noticed from him was clearing off a lane for Hunter on a stunt. On one play he was easily moved off the line. But I did see him stand tall against the run a couple plays. Didn't see any signs of dominance. Makes you wonder if Miles' praises were a motivational tactic.
Bain: Played late, nothing of note.
Kwon: Always at his best attacking upfield, he made a few nice plays in that way. Didn't play a ton, but the moments where he attacked he looked good. Did get blocked up too easily on one play. Jared Johnson broke him down in the open field. Good game to get him some rest.
Welter: Got a sack near the GL on a play where Hunter flushed Johnson in his direction. He still looks stronger and more aggressive than we saw in 2014. Attacks blockers better. Forced a throw away on a good blitz, as well.
Louis: Saw him out there, no notes, though.
Debo: Much improved. Debo flies all over the field, but he's regularly struggled with going everywhere fast, just never where he needs to be. Still missed some tackles, but much like Kwon, when he's crashing downhill on plays, he looks electric. Impressive as a pass rusher off the end. His speed is so difficult for OL to handle. Came on a blitz and forced an over throw doing just that. He played a ton. Is he our preferred backer in the nickel? I wouldn't think so, but interesting he played so much more than Kwon, despite other starters remaining.
Feist: Saw him in there, but nothing really stood out.
Riley: Same as Feist.
Not much challenge for the second straight week.
White: Got beat on a slant but nice recovery to force a PBU. Nice open field tackle. Also forced a throw away by peeling off coverage and crashing on QB.
Robinson: Had a poor backpedal on a slant route, which allowed the receiver an easy catch. Looked like his usual physical self, otherwise.
Collins: Had a note about one open field tackle.
Thomas: Played a ton in nickel. Got a pick on what was basically an arm punt. He always seems to be around the football. Great hustle player. Not the electric threat we had in Mathieu, but Thomas creates problems in his own right. Also batted down a pass at the LOS, forced a throw away with a good rush and nabbed a sack.
Gage: Played late. Made a tackle while playing off, not much else.
Paris: Came in late. Made a decent play fighting back outside after nearly getting trapped inside. Made a PI on a deep ball where he was beaten. Smart play to prevent the TD.
Martin: Got beat badly in coverage, looked completely lost. Next play he did make a nice form tackle in the open field to make up for it.
Mills: Made a couple of tackles down field. Not as active as last week. Played a swing screen hesitantly. It was late in the blowout, so likely focus wasn't 100%.
Jefferson: Got the pick near in the EZ, which was thrown right to him. Came on a hard blitz very physically against the LT. Great push.
Adams: Played a lot, mixed in early, as well as most of the rest of the way when starters were pulled. Got a nice ST tackle. Made a solid play on the option where he came up, and forced the pitch, unfortunately, no outside contain, but he stuck with the play and got himself a tackle. Made a stupid penalty on a way late hit. Overly aggressive, but that's his mentality.
Voorhies: Got a tackle late, but didn't see much else.
White: Mostly fair catches, but had an 8-yard return that flashed his quickness, and then a 33-yarder that showed how dangerous he can be with the ball in his hands. I don't get his need to pounce on late rolling punts around the coverage unit, so hopefully coaches condition that out of him. But if he's given room, he's show a penchant for being explosive. Right now, I'd say he's probably an upgrade over Beckham from last year.
Quinn: Returned one punt. Fair catch. Good to see dependable hands back there.
Keehn: Punts were mostly good. Still a bit low on several, and one looked headed for disaster on return, due to out kicking coverage, fortunately the returner put his knee down when fielding it. Would like to see him truly bury teams on his punts. He puts them nicely around the 10, but putting people near the 5 would really be strong for us.
Fournette: One lowly return went for 22 yards.
Domingue: Took most of the KOs. Only two kicks returned, only one not in the EZ. That said, most of his kicks out of the EZ are lower and line drives. Not a terrible thing, but an illustration of leg strength.
Gamble: Only a couple kicks, but the leg power is just outstanding. Kid can get it high AND deep. Once he reigns it all in, he's going to be a real threat on KOs. He buried one beautiful kick about 2 yards into the EZ, right near the pylon. Returned, but inside the 25. Great kick. His other kick landed on the 5 and resulted in SHSU's best return of the night.