There was a bit of everything for what LSU fans have been wanting on Saturday. Gorgeous weather, a nice-sized crowd, an excited opponent and a real sense of excitement surrounding LSU with the beginning of the Ed Orgeron Era. And whether that era is 8 games or 80, the man made a nice first impression with a complete, unqualified, five-touchdown domination of Missouri that would have been six if not for the most garbage of garbage-time touchdowns on a trick play.
An emotional jumpstart was to be expected here, but it was accompanied by some dynamite execution to the tune of more than 600 yards of offense at a 7.7 yards-per-play clip and a whopping 30 first downs. Meanwhile, the defense held the SEC’s most prolific passing attack to all of 188 yards and a 92.35 rating, Missouri’s worst number of the year.
What does it mean? We should have another data point in this picture next weekend when LSU goes on the road to Florida. But for now? Orgeron is doing exactly what he said he was going to do.
Let’s re-watch how it unfolded…
- For all the talk of a school record for total offense versus a conference opponent, Poseur’s point from his recap -- LSU gained more than 600 yards against South Carolina last year and spent most of that fourth quarter bleeding clock. What’s more relevant is the 30 first downs, 82 plays run and more than 400 rushing yards without Leonard Fournette. The Tigers manhandled Mizzou in this game and absolutely refused to let them up off the mat in the second half, with 14 points coming on drives that featured big plays on the ground and in the air. Games like this can build confidence for a group that was sorely in need of it, even with Danny Etling’s improved passing.
- Overall, the difference in play-calling from Cam Cameron to Steve Ensminger was a more specific focus, especially on zone-blocking. I’m curious as to whether that was a matchup that they saw with Mizzou’s defensive line, or something that will carry forward. LSU ran its usual toss-power play in the second half some, but overall they were very heavy on the inside/outside zone plays.
- There was also more of a focus on one-back looks, especially with two tight ends. Even ran a few pin-and-pull power plays out of that look as well. All of these are things that LSU has done before, but not as heavily focused.
- First three plays all featured four-wide sets and passing. Which, hey, I can understand given the situation Orgeron is walking into. That said, I’m not all that sure I want to lean too heavy to that direction early on unless the passing game continues to improve.
- Etling, for his part, continues to excel with his feet – and moving the pocket was a clear focus of Ensminger – and that translates to a strong short and intermediate game. His deep balls continue to be a problem, and it definitely looks like there are still some communication issues there with the receivers. He would have been 0-8 on throws down the field had D.J. Chark not out-wrestled a Mizzou DB for a jump-ball.
- I will note that Ensminger did a very good job showing some restraint on forcing those passes. Etling was in a plus situation with man coverage on just about every “shot” play.
- On Derrius Guice’s opening 42-yard touchdown…
Inside zone play to the left out of a one-back look. Guice cuts it back right, mostly due to two outstanding blocks from Maea Teuhea, Josh Boutte and Colin Jeter, but also because Mizzou’s Terry Beckner lost his gap and Ethan Pocic was able to wall him off. It’s an easy five yards, but with some creative cuts and great blocks from Jazz Ferguson and Russell Gage, Guice gets to the sideline and just turns on the jets.
- Guice as channeling his inner Justin Vincent (2003 version) with some excellent jump cuts to go with his usual hard running. He’s the perfect complement to a power back because of his speed and quickness, despite being plenty strong enough to break tackles.
- How about Gage getting nearly half of the wide receiver snaps? I’m going to guess he had a great week of practice, and rewarding players like him help send a message to the rest of the team. It sounds like most of the other receivers were incredibly happy for him as well, which is nice to hear.
- The fourth-and-short stop for Mizzou:
Beckner (who is a hell of a talent) is aligned to Pocic’s left, so he tries to reach block him on a zone play, Beckner quickly loops against Pocic’s motion and gets around him, redirects the run and allows the defense to close. Great play from a very athletic tackle.
- Once again, I think Orgeron wanted to send a message with an aggressive call early on. It may have been a little too much, given that it wasn’t exactly that long of a field goal.
- Touchdown No. 3 for Mr. Guice:
Now here’s a change-up in formation– LSU lines up in the shotgun, but in their I-formation personnel with fullback J.D. Moore split out to the bottom of the screen. It’s a power play with Boutte pulling from the right. Will Clapp, K.J. Malone and Colin Jeter all drive their guys off the ball and Boutte gets a great kick-out on the pull. It’s a nice big seam and a block from Moore down the field cuts off the closest pursuit. Guice just has to accelerate and take off.
- Big kudos to Boutte, who played probably the best game of his career Saturday night. He also sprung Nick Brossette’s 60-yarder late with a huge block.
- On defense, Mizzou used a quick game with a ton of moving pockets to keep Drew Lock away from Arden Key. What made things work were LSU’s defensive backs. Dave Aranda used a lot of man coverage on early downs and his corners more than repaid his faith, especially Tre’davious White and Donte Jackson, whom Lock went after early. Mizzou’s wide receivers had very little room and the DBs were right on top of them when the ball arrived.
- Mizzou’s average third down distance was nearly 9 yards (8.8). Makes it very easy to mix some coverages a bit and throw a few pressures. And when an up-tempo offense gets in that kind of spot, it results in a meager 17:27 time of possession.