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Behind the Box Score: Troy Bedevils the Numbers

The box score doesn’t make a lick of sense, which makes its own sort of sense

Troy v LSU
Greedy is confused, too
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There are three types of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. It’s one of the most apocryphal quotes in history, attributed to the likes of Mark Twain, Benjamin Disraeli, the Duke of Wellington, Thomas Huxley, and President Bartlett. That’s an incomplete list, but you get the point, the quote has gotten around.

Just as it is nearly impossible to ascertain who said it first, it’s somehow possible to look at a box score with entirely open eyes and a clear head, and be lead astray to incorrect conclusions. Because taken a gander at the Troy-LSU box score, the first thing that hits me is… it’s not that bad.

Yet it was that bad. So let’s look at how we can get blinded by cold, hard facts.

428-363. We lead off with the yardage again, just to show how yardage stats can be misleading. LSU won the battle of yardage, also gaining 7.0 yards per play to Troy’s 5.2. LSU gained more yards, was more efficient, yet spent most of the game trailing on the scoreboard.

5-4. The teams combined for five fumbles, losing four. That’s some terrible fumble luck by the offenses, though it all balanced out. Both teams lost two fumbles in this game, while LSU committed one more. This is where I point out something that shows up in the box score, but you have to dig for it. Nick Brosette fumbled on his first carry of the game, and never touched the ball again, serving penance for his mistake. Meanwhile, both of Troy’s fumbles came from Jordan Chunn, who decidedly was not benched for his mistakes. In fact…

30-191. Jordan Chunn’s rushing line. LSU could not stop Chunn, and he gained 191 of Troy’s 206 yards. You hate to say one guy beat you, but without Chunn, Troy didn’t have much of an offense. Yes, he made mistakes. Both of his fumbles lead to LSU touchdowns. But he also did not have a coaching staff that only looked at the negative. They looked at the positives he brought, and didn’t wallow in the mistakes.

0-9. LSU was 0 for 9 on third down conversions. You really don’t need me to tell you that is horrible. LSU did convert two fourth downs in the fourth quarter, but failed on a big one on the first. Meanwhile, Troy went 10/18 overall on third downs, which is bad by the sheer number of attempts they had. The splits are also fascinating. Troy went 7/11 in the first half on 3rd downs, including 1/1 on fourth. LSU could not get them off the field. In the fourth quarter, Troy went 3/4 on 3rd downs. The one time they couldn’t convert a third down? The third quarter, going 0/3. It’s also when they built the lead to 17-0.

21-32-266. LSU’s quarterbacks combined for a pretty good line. That’s 8.3 yards per attempt. They even tossed for three touchdowns. They were getting yo-yo’ed by the staff, but the quarterbacks each kept their head and put together a good line. That is, if you don’t count that each guy threw a pick. That’s the downside to actually trying to gain yards and score points. You will turn the ball over sometimes. I’ll totally sport Etling the game ending pick, which was a desperation heave anyway. This is actually the passing line we want. The numbers look good, but the game didn’t.

12/2.5. Christian LaCouture’s tackles and TFL’s. LaCouture again showed up and played his ass off. We can complain about many things this year, but we cannot complain about #18. Only two were solo tackles, but that’s his job, hold the guy up for someone else to finish it up. He even threw in a pass breakup for good measure. Greg Gilmore added 9 tackles and 1 TFL. Gilmore and LaCouture combined for 3 sacks and 21 tackles. I hear lots of complaints about our defensive line, but our two senior defensive linemen were our two best defenders on the scoresheet. The other senior lineman dressed out for the game, Deondre Clark, contributed 4 tackles from his reserve role. Another senior, Donnie Alexander, contributed 8 tackles. The only underclassmen on the defense with five or more tackles was the incomparable Devin White (3-8-11). This was a night for the juniors and seniors which is bit of a mixed blessing.

170. LSU’s yards of offense in the fourth quarter. Too little, too late. They did suddenly realize the situation and play much better in desperation time, but the team just ran out of time, despite only holding the ball for 4:29 in the final frame. That’s because Troy was able to gain 102 yards on 17 plays, including a 10-play 64-yard drive that ran 6:30 off the clock. The defense could not get the critical stop.