For however long the Ed Orgeron Era lasts at LSU, the first three games have been as strong of a first impression as any of us could have asked for.
LSU rolled up more than 500 yards of offense at an 8 yards per play clip, and held Ole Miss to its lowest offensive output in two years in a dominant 38-21 win that could have easily featured a much more significant margin.
Leonard Fournette returned and looked like the running back he was in the first few games of 2015, with a school-record 284 rushing yards on all of 16 carries. And you can tack on 25 more receiving yards and the soul of another SEC safety.
Earlier in the week, as I researched and watched film, part of me kept thinking “yeah, a defense that can’t stop the run really doesn’t want to face LSU right now,” but in the end I figured that a desperate Ole Miss team would bring a sky-high effort, and the Rebels offense would be too difficult to hold down.
But that’s exactly what LSU did. On to the rewatch…
- LSU overcame a slow start again, and while it’s great to watch this team steady itself and kick things into cruise control, they can’t keep tempting fate and starting off in a hole, especially with games against some very capable offensive teams in the next month. And they damn sure won’t be able to waste possessions in two weeks against Alabama. The second drive was even worse, because it handed Ole Miss good field position that helped yield an easy three points.
- In the stadium, I was dismissive of LSU’s opening script as “too cute,” but rewatching it again, I do like some of the ideas Steve Ensminger tried out. The first play was a smart use of both Fournette and Derrius Guice, with the latter in the slot for a quick bubble screen – there are a lot of things LSU can do off of that look. And easy completions on first down are a key way to stay on schedule while still diversifying play-calling a bit. But on second and five, I think the better move would have been to use bigger personnel, either some extra tight ends or a fullback, and start to get more physical with the Rebel defense. Spreading the field against a 4-2-5 plays into the defense’s hands.
- On third and three, DeSean Smith was blown up by an Ole Miss defensive end, collapsing the hole and bottling up Guice.
- The Rebel offense broke into their tempo package early on and it definitely caught LSU flat-footed early on. Kevin Toliver got mixed up and allowed Damore’ea Stringfellow to get behind him for a big gain. Ole Miss hasn’t used tempo as much in recent weeks, but it makes sense that they would go back to it while looking for a spark.
- On the touchdown to Van Jefferson, it appears that Tre’davious White let the slot receiver go to jump on Evan Engram with Jamal Adams. Watching the play, he might have been following Chad Kelly’s eyes. Smart move on the QB’s part to look off a defender.
- Two possessions later, LSU found its rhythm. Danny Etling found Travin Dural for a nice gain off of play-action, and then the running game got cooking.
- The call is a twist on LSU’s typical zone toss, with a pull-and-pin block from right tackle Maea Teuhema and tight end Colin Jeter. Teuhema pulls outside of Jeter, while the tight end crashes down on the defensive tackle. Teuhema kicks out the defensive end, Bry’Keithon Mouton gets a good block and then No. 7 just turns on the jets. Will Clapp and Josh Boutte also did a good job of getting to the second level and cutting off pursuit.
- The next few series were interesting, and showed some emotional maturity on LSU’s part. There was the high of Fournette’s next big play – catching a play-action pass and leveling Ole Miss safety Deontay Anderson on a run (a wrinkle that I am a huge fan of for two-back looks). But a few plays later, the Rebels blow up a slow-developing end-around and pick up a fumble (they inhaled anything slow-developing all night, like screens, etc…), and on the very next play Donte Jackson picks off an under-thrown Kelly pass. High, low, but the Tigers kept an even keel and were ready when another opportunity presented itself.
- Next play, Fournette hits a nice hole created by Boutte like the wrath of God and gets LSU off its goal line with a 24-yard gain. A couple of nice runs from Guice and an 18-yard completion to Dural, and then play-action pays off perfectly with a 40-yard touchdown to D.J. Chark.
- Chark was matched up on one of Ole Miss’ bandit safeties. The defender gets caught flat-footed on the play-fake, as does the free safety, and Chark goes right by them. Easy.
- Fournette’s next touchdown was a thing of beauty.
- Pull-and-pin power play out of the one-back look. Teuhmea gets enough of the end to kick him out, Pocic pulls around and Jeter and Clapp both block down to the next level well. Fournette has a lot of room to work with and takes full advantage. Runs like this are what separate him. Moments where he makes it look like the rest of the game is in slow motion. And if he’s truly still not 100 percent, we should plan on enjoying these next four games.
- Big props to Chris Blair for a fun call on the play, too.
- Kind of thought Hugh Freeze should have considered going for it near midfield, but LSU wound up obliging anyway. The Rebels bring a well-timed corner blitz, and with Foster Moreau making a clean release from the tight end position, Teuhema is left with two rushers. Marquis Haynes flies in and makes the play. Luckily Etling wasn’t hurt.
- And of course Fournette still had more to show us. LSU runs its classic power-O toss, all the blocks hit perfectly and Fournette has a good 10 yards untouched. And then Deontay Anderson made the very foolish decision to try and touch No. 7. Good night.
- A pair of sacks on the next drive from Arden Key and Davon Godchaux seemed to totally shift the momentum of the game on Ole Miss’ next possession. The Rebels gained just 35 yards on their next five possessions before picking up 50 on their final one of the game. And Kelly would throw a foolish, desperate interception to Duke Riley (who played his best game as a Tiger with 14 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and the pick).
- Couple final box score notes: LSU held Engram to just three catches for 15 yards, largely with Adams and White doing the majority of the work in coverage. The Tiger offense finished just 4 of 11 on third down, something to watch in this next matchup. Beating Alabama will require some of the big plays we saw this weekend, but it also requires efficiency.