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LSU 45, Auburn 21: Viewer's Guide to the Replay

Well, that was fun.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

I mean what more is there to say...LSU kicked Auburn's ass. 417 rushing yards at 8.6 yards per carry - the highest average the Tigers have rushed for since playing Furman in 2013. The 7.5 yards-per-play average was the highest team total since the New Mexico State game last season as well.

A beating that thorough deserves a thorough breakdown, so let's get to work:

  • On the first play of the game, LSU came out with your basic ISO, or inside zone run off Ethan Pocic's left side. Auburn had eight in the box and flowed HARD with the left, and Pocic, Maea Teuhema and John David Moore blocked three defenders while Vadal Alexander sealed the back side end. Fournette cut to his right behind Will Clapp, who picked off Cassanova McKinzy, and had a good 10 yards untouched (this will become a theme). No. 7 shook a safety and was off. Blake Countess tried to make the tackle at the 50 but fell to a stutter step. Had Travin Dural been a little more proactive in hitting Jonathan Jones a few steps sooner, he might not have been able to get the angle to run Fournette down inside the five. Still, as opening game statements go, it's tough to beat a 71-yard run, touchdown or not.

  • LSU broke out the ol' counter option, with Brandon Harris pivoting to his right under center before coming left with the ball. Colin Jeter and Dillon Gordon completely sealed the defensive left end, leaving only a corner for Harris to read, and a well-timed shoulder deke gave him enough room to get into the endzone. Very well executed.

  • After that first possession, Cam Cameron and the offensive staff did a great job of mixing up the play-calling and getting creative with personnel a little bit. Variety doesn't always mean throwing more -- LSU ran a couple of speed sweeps and then came back to a couple of plays off of that action. There was also a couple of well-timed, high-percentage throws on early downs as well. A few of the jet sweeps even featured that chest-pass that's become vogue for some spread teams. Auburn started thinking East/West and that really opened things up for a heavy dose of Fournette by drive No. 4. And by that point, the Other Tigers already looked tired of tackling Fournette.

  • Nice job on the play-action waggle pass for the touchdown. Jeter gives the defensive end a nice chip on his get off, Harris gets wide and throws a nice, catchable ball out in front of his tight end for six.

  • Very nice heads-up scramble from Harris to pick up a third down. Auburn dropped into a zone with a four-man rush. Pocic and Teuhema did a good job of picking up a stunt together and gave Harris a very nice lane. I don't think McKinzy was ready for No. 6's speed.

  • There were a couple of moments where Auburn had a chance to maybe grab some momentum and LSU responded consistently. After a punt pinned LSU inside the 10, a great call on the QB counter went for 33 yards. Harris faked it to Dural and then took off to his right behind Pocic and Clapp. The sweep action froze Kris Frost for a step and the two pulling linemen created a real nice seam. Harris accelerated perfectly.

  • Two plays later, LSU's trademark Power Toss resulted in Fournette's 40-yard touchdown. The Auburn defense was squeezed in so tight that Fournette essentially had a pair of lead blockers -- Moore didn't even have an end man on the line of scrimmage to block, so he just continued up the field to a defensive back. Fournette had a solid 15 yards of open space before completely dump-trucking Countess and sprinting to the endzone.

  • On the note of Fournette having tons of room -- per ESPN Stats and Info, relayed by David Ching, Fournette averaged 8.6 yards per carry BEFORE contact.

  • As for that contact...I'm not saying Fournette stole Countess's soul, but Shang Tsung is considering his options on a trademark infringement lawsuit.

  • Meanwhile, Rudy Ford may have his soul intact, but his ears aren't going to enjoy the film session with Will Muschamp...

  • The touchdown LSU's opening drive of the third quarter was so crucial. Auburn had just scored in rather impressive fashion, and while 24-7 is still a really nice lead, the 6-play, 64-yard response really slammed the door and let Auburn know there wasn't a comeback in the offering.

  • Creative play-call by Cameron to take the jet-sweep action and incorporate it into the "flip-90" misdirection pitch. Usually that play involves a fake dive to the fullback before a reverse pitch, instead Harris faked the handoff to Dural and then tossed it to Fournette, behind a pair of arc-blocking tight ends. After a big run on first down was called back on a clip, Cameron went right back to it the other way on the next play and picked up 20 and another first down. Auburn's Dontavius Russell even makes a smart play and stays at home instead of getting sucked in on the sweep action, but Fournette stuttered him a little and just broke to the corner. From there Jeter and DeSean Smith had already made their marks at the second level and Malachi Dupre had taken out the corner.

  • As for Fournette's second touchdown of the day, LSU ran a short toss with Hawkins looping around Jeter on a quick pull while the tight end blocked down with Pocic and Teuhema. Another great lead block by Moore had Fournette at the third level, where he juked one defender, broke out of Tray Matthews' attempted RKO OUTTA NOWHERE, juked a third defender and punched it in. At that point, despite some 26 minutes of gametime left, Auburn had no more life.

  • I know some probably wish LSU had thrown it a few more times, but keep in mind that when you break runs of 71, 40, 20, 9 and 8 on first downs, it actually kind of eats into your opportunities to pass at a certain point.

  • As for the actual passing -- Harris' 12-of-17, 74 yards and a touchdown stat line doesn't really capture how well he played. He displayed tremendous poise and calm in the pocket, even handling a bad snap on a jet sweep play incredibly well early on, tossing the ball from an awkward angle right to Dural, who was able to continue without much of a dip in stride. Factoring in the 66 yards rushing and two scores you have a 141 yards of total offense and three touchdowns. 

    And what's more, he easily could have completed a couple more passes. He was high/late on a couple of throws, including a potential touchdown to Dural in the second quarter, plus he had a drop from Malachi Dupre on third down. And of course, he kind of hung Jeter out to dry on that crossing route, when he probably had Dupre in solid position on the safety. But I don't think those are issues that will linger. They're certainly very correctable.
  • In particular, Harris did a fine job on LSU's last scoring drive, converting a pair of third downs with curl routes to Jeter and John Diarse.

  • And as for that last touchdown, the first words out of my mouth were " DIIIIIICK." Just a fantastic constraint off of the power toss action. Harris went right into the endzone untouched while the rest of the offense ran out the play perfectly.

  • While I'm handing out accolades, major kudos to Jeter, who was a stout blocker and made nice catches when asked.

  • Also loved the rotation of getting Derrius Guice and Nick Brossette in for a nice number of snaps in the second half. And now there's even more time to develop that depth for the rest of the SEC grind.

  • Formation Count: 23 snaps out of 21 personnel, followed closely by 22 out of 11. LSU ran six snaps each out of 22 or goal-line/specialty groupings, and three out of the 12 look.

  • On to the defense: a little sloppy at times, particularly on tackling, but overall still a strong effort that is tough to complain about. Auburn didn't cross midfield in the first half and finished the day 3-of-10 on third-down conversions. LSU also sacked Johnson five times. That marks eight total through two games, nearly half of last season's 19.

  • First and foremost, give a ton of credit to LSU's cornerbacks and safeties for completely stoning Auburn's wide running game. Jamal Adams, Rickey Jefferson, Tre'davious White, Kevin Toliver, Donte Jackson and Corey Thompson combined for 24 tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack, plus Adams' interception. The visitors were running buck sweeps, bubble screens, swing passes, and stretch plays that attacked the flats every which way early on. But the Tigers were consistently swarming and making the tackle quickly.

  • On said interception, Jeremy Johnson short armed a go-route and brought his receiver too far inside. Adams simply played the ball and picked it off. But he probably woke up on Sunday thinking about the pick and probable touchdown that he dropped. Still, six tackles, 1 TFL, 2 pass break-ups and an interception is a damn strong stat line for a safety.

  • Big reason why Auburn was running wide? The Tigers were gap sound in the middle and giving them nothing for most of the game, and when the opportunities to one-gap and get up the field were there, LSU took advantage. Tashawn Bower's first career sack showed some real discipline. He was unblocked but stayed with his containment responsibilities and eye-balled the fake sweep to one tailback before blowing up the blocking back right into Johnson. Davon Godchaux picked up two sacks, one on a pure bull-rush that split a double team.

  • As for Frank Herron's sack and strip to set up LSU's fifth touchdown, he timed the snap perfectly (I thought he was offsides for sure in real time) and sprinted right through the B-gap while the guard pulled to set up protection away. Johnson never had a chance.

  • Speaking of impressive plays -- Kendell Beckwith inhaled a sweep play to Jovon Robinson in the second quarter that looked near-perfectly executed. Just sprinted down the line and brought Robinson down after a one-yard gain, after Auburn had managed to get the edge with a lead blocker in front.

  • Tremendous discipline by the defensive line on Auburn's attempted stall-screen in the second half. Johnson took the snap and rolled out, with the offensive line practically acting like there was a false start, just standing right in place waiting for the QB to throw it back on a rollout. But instead, Johnson saw Arden Key standing right in front of his running back like "sup fam...wanna throw it to me?" and had to ground the ball.

  • As for Johnson's 65-yard jaunt, it was indicative of the unit's problems overall in the second half. Credit Gus Malzahn for a good call -- he caught LSU with a quarterback draw versus a two-deep shell with both linebackers split out wide. Johnson had a nice big hole behind his center, although Christian LaCouture did manage to at least grab an ankle. But Jamal Adams very foolishly waited to try and get around the lead blocker and make the tackle, and took out Jefferson in the process, giving Johnson a clear path. If he engages Austin Golson, Jefferson might have been able to get Johnson down short of the first.

  • After that, things just got sloppy. Bad angles, worse tackling, just a poor effort. Granted, LSU was up 38-7, but it was still annoying to see Auburn pad their stats with some nice returns on special teams and two more scoring drives. Debo Jones' targeting penalty on Johnson, which will keep him out the first half of the Syracuse game as well, was pretty indicative. Jones had a full two steps and left his feet to go high after Johnson had made the throw. That's going to draw the flag almost every time, and this defense can't afford to lose a player like Jones in a game that matters.

  • Although one of those touchdowns featured a "pop" pass on an option play in which Johnson ran wide and then threw the ball up right as the defense closed. Yes, it just barely met the standard of a legal pass, as Johnson's heel appeared to be over the line of scrimmage, which is enough. The bigger problem, which showed up to a smaller degree later that night in Ole Miss-Bama, is that these plays frequently feature offensive linemen down the field illegally. In Auburn's case, there were about three. My guess is that Steve Shaw will probably send around a memo highlighting those plays soon.

  • Box score roundup: five penalties for 43 yards is a very nice improvement on last week; ditto a 6-11 third-down rate; Trent Domingue did a nice job of putting the ball in the end zone on kickoffs, and made his first field goal attempt of the season; Jamie Keehn was slightly better with a 40.3 average and two punts downed inside the 20, although the 27-yard return he gave up with a low line drive threw things off.

  • One more special teams note: fantastic acting job by Tre White on the directional kicks. He managed to pull the coverage away from the ball a couple of times help create touchback opportunities.

  • A final note: Les Miles had a special visit from Mountain Brook, Alabama's Sid Ortis, an LSU fan that Miles has developed a relationship with. You may remember this article from the spring. Word is Ortis' doesn't have much time left, but LSU certainly gave him something to cheer about.(H/T to SEC Rant)