We knew that the honeymoon period of Ed Orgeron’s run as LSU’s interim coach had to end. The emotional wave had to crest at some point. The question was, what type of team would remain, and how would they react to adversity.
Give Southern Miss a lot of credit – they came into Tiger Stadium completely unafraid, and inverted their usual up-tempo offense into a slowed down style to try and work the clock and put more pressure on LSU’s offense.
And it worked through a quarter. But the Tigers steadied themselves, found their composure at the half and dominated the second. The final score of 45-10 looked, more or less, what we would have expected out of this game, with the offense ripping off a number of big plays while the defense held USM to less than half of their usual offensive output.
Now we wait for next Saturday: an 8 p.m. kickoff with Ole Miss in what should be one helluva fais do do.
- Box score: LSU averaged a whopping 10 yards per play and had a success rate of 53 percent, a differential of 23 percent over USM, one of the highest totals of the day. The Tigers actually scored more points than they ran plays, something that hasn’t happened since the 2013 UAB game, and only happened four times in the past 60-plus years. That’s pretty good.
- Southern Miss and OC Shannon Dawson went away from their usual tempo in this game, which played a part in the play differential. It was an interesting strategy, but something that you could say makes sense against an opponent you expect to be in transition on offense. When you know you have an offensive scheme that your players can execute, focus on keeping the ball, nibbling away. If they don’t have the ball, they can’t score. It worked for about a half before LSU’s defense started sitting on everything short and trying to force more shots down the field, which the Golden Eagles couldn’t connect on against LSU’s corners. It was the kind of gameplan that depended on LSU not hitting the big plays, which, well...they did.
- USM picked up 75 of their 242 yards on that 15-play opening drive, which LSU could have stopped at least twice without points if not for a pair of very silly penalties, a personal foul on Donte Jackson and a substitution foul when the offense lined up to go for it on fourth down but wound up quick-kicking.
- I hate to dismiss it as LSU just not putting a ton of effort, but that’s really what I saw on review. Guys like Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley were just catching blockers instead of stacking and shedding, and defensive backs were just playing loose and using really poor technique on tackles. The difference in Beckwith and Jamal Adams from the first quarter to the third was shocking. They almost looked like two different players.
- Steve Ensminger’s play-calling was maybe a bit too fancy early on, with LSU coming out throwing against a poor run defense with a re-vamped offensive line. USM linebacker Elijah Parker guessed really well on LSU’s second play, shot the B-gap and wasn’t fooled on the playfake at all to get the sack.
- The second drive, however, featured a few plays that could help constrain Ole Miss well next week – a play-action bootleg with a backside wheel route to DeSean Smith, who made a really nice catch in traffic on the sideline, and a jet-sweep out of a different look that D.J. Chark took for a 19-yard touchdown:
By using an offset I-formation, J.D. Moore was able to act as a lead blocker for Chark, and his speed just did the rest.
- After being heavy on the one-back looks in the first half, Ensminger went to a more I-heavy look, which was smart. Get more physical with a defense that you should be able to wear down. But once LSU got out in front and had things in hand, he allowed Danny Etling and the Tiger passing game to keep working, which was also very smart, and necessary with the stretch run coming. USM was largely playing man-to-man and thinking run, so the easy pitch-and-catch might help continue to build confidence.
- Guice’s 61-yard touchdown burst was a thing of beauty:
LSU overloads to the field side in the I-formation, and Southern Miss looked like it was expecting a run to that side. The call was a basic inside zone, but the backside end slants inside of Maea Teuhema and loses his gap. Teuhema gets up to the linebacker and J.D. Moore has the safety and well…ain’t nobody else there.
- On Southern Miss’s next position you can really see Adams come out and setting the pace early, and he winds up making up for a similar missed play in the first quarter,with an absolute textbook stop that yields a turnover on a fumble.
This is such a fundamentally strong play that the fumble is just a bonus. Adams crashes down, breaks down on Southern Miss running back George Payne and wraps him up. His helmet gets right on the ball and knocks it loose for an easy recovery, but even without that he stuffs this play for a very short gain. Adams had flown in and completely whiffed on a similar play on USM’s first possession to allow a third-down conversion.
- LSU comes right back with a delayed counter out of the shotgun, and K.J. Malone’s block really helps set the action here:
Malone drives his guy so far off the ball that he also helps cut off some pursuit by forcing a few defenders to try and move around him. Guice did the rest.
- There really hasn’t been a Tiger quite like Guice since Kevin Faulk. He just has that swivel-hipped, stop and start style that can be hell to tackle in a phone booth, plus the size and the balance to keep his feet when tacklers don’t wrap up. If Leonard Fournette is indeed returning this week, Ensminger would be wise to start thinking about 15-20 touches for each of these backs, even with the strides Etling and the passing game are making.
- LSU’s next two possessions were both one play: a post-dig combo off of play-action. Etling finds Chark on the dig route, he makes one guy miss and the rest is that speed thing you can’t teach.
- And on the 63-yarder to Dupre, the entire USM defense is thinking run, including the corner. Dupre calls to the QB right away and Elting, smartly, just lays the ball out there. Dupre doesn’t bother running to the middle of the field, tracks the ball, makes the catch, does a nice job of keeping his feet and takes it the rest of the way.
- His post-touchdown celebration with damn near the entire team shows that Dupre had likely been feeling all of the pressure of this season. Maybe this, and his second touchdown, in which he high-pointed the ball well and got a foot down on a seam route, can serve as a jumping off point for these final five games, all of which will have huge implications. Confidence is contagious, and that’s something that its always seemed Dupre lacks at times.
- Speaking of wide receivers – his numbers aren’t jumping out of the box score but Travin Dural continues to do all of the little things well, and is so much more well-rounded than last year. If the lightbulb is on for Dupre LSU really does have three very dangerous receivers right now.
- In between LSU’s two big-play pass scores, the defense made a huge turnover-on-down stop with Kendell Beckwith just slicing into a hole for the tackle on fourth down. He finished with 15 tackles and two tackles for loss, and he’s going to be incredibly important next week against Ole Miss, who will absolutely try to target Beckwith in the passing game.