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First Impressions: LSU 42, Missouri 7

First impressions of a new era

Missouri v LSU
I am awesome.
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It started inauspiciously, with Cameron Gamble sending yet another kickoff out of bounds. That was about the last thing to go wrong on the evening. LSU would force a three-and-out, then drive for a touchdown on the ensuing possession.

LSU never looked back.

Derrius Guice almost single-handedly destroyed the will of the Mizzou defense. He scored LSU’s first touchdown in the first quarter all season when he weaved through the defense for a 42-yard score. By the half, he had rushed for over 130 yards and three touchdowns. He’d finish the game 17-163, which doesn’t even begin to describe his dominance.

The offense, honestly, looked pretty much like the LSU offense from all season. Orgeron and Ensminger called up a heavy dose of runs coupled with the intermediate passing game. The difference tonight was that the execution was so much better and crisper. And of course, Guice kept breaking off big runs, which helps a lot.

But the results don’t lie. LSU moved the ball like they hadn’t all year, with that great running game setting up the pass. LSU ended up with 638 yards of total offense, a total not seen against an SEC opponent since… um… we gained over 500 yards last year against Ole Miss. Or when the team cleared 600 yards and 40 points against South Carolina. But still, you get the point. The offense hasn’t looked anything like this all year.

One of Miles’ greatest sins this seasons was not running a conservative offense, but not resting Leonard Fournette and his injured ankle. I understand the desire to lean heavily on your best player, but when you’ve got Derrius Guice on the roster, perhaps you can trust the backup. Orgeron left Fournette in street clothes, and Guice rewarded him with big run after big run.

The passing game was, well, still the LSU passing game. Danny Etling was only 10 of 18 for 94 yards in the first half. He couldn’t connect on the deep ball, nor was he terribly efficient, but he showed flashes of quality, while also displaying great toughness and leadership. Even better, at no point did any member of my family threaten an LSU wide receiver with physical harm due to their poor play.

Etling would eventually hit on a jump ball to Chark, and his efficiency would improve as the lead got bigger in the second half. He’d finish the night 19/30 for 216 yards.

The reason LSU could put in the bleed-the-clock offense was the hidden big story of the night: LSU’s defense was flat awesome.

I’ve been critical of the defense all season, primarily because of their penchant for allowing long, clock-killing, and yardage-chewing drives. They have been relying on an unsustainable red zone defense by bending a bit too much. Tonight, there was no bending. There were no long drives, there were no red zone chances.

LSU’s defense flat out snuffed out Mizzou’s offense, particularly in the first quarter. Mizzou would not earn a first down until their FOURTH drive, and they would respond by throwing an interception a few plays later. They could not get anything going when the game was still in doubt. They would manage just 265 yards of offense on the game.

Yes, this is the best the offense has looked all year, by leaps and bounds. But it was set up by the defense coming to play like an LSU defense. They came in amped up, shut down the Mizzou offense early, and gave the offense the opportunity to bust out.

Heck, Mizzou would have to resort to a double reverse pass back to the quarterback to score its only touchdown, late in the fourth and down by five touchdowns. It was hard to even be mildly upset by the play.

It was a night during which everything worked, and everything went right. OK, maybe LSU would have liked to have gotten the call that the receiver touched a punt return. And Delahoussaye missed a field goal. That’s about it on the negative side.

It’s hard to imagine week one of the Ed Orgeron era going any better. It began with a shanked kick, and ended with a Gatorade bath.