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Behind the Box Score: Vols Gets Washed Out

When statistics look like damn lies instead of lies.

LSU v Tennessee Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Yeah, yeah, yeah. There are three kinds of lies and all that. The things is, stats don’t lie, people who use stats do. Stats are merely a record of what happened, it’s not until we try to interpret that data does it turns into lies.

And a game like this one is a classic garbage-in, garbage-out scenario. Sure, the box score is a mere record of what happened, but everything in there has to be viewed through the prism of the weather report. We can pour through the numbers, but the one that matters is most is the one that represents the grain of salt:

30. Wind gusts reach 30 miles-per-hour during the game. Winds blew the football from the set position, tore a piece from the scoreboard, and even moved the goalposts. Throw in some cold weather and the rain, this is one in which the biggest factor of the game was the conditions, not the game itself.

0. Despite the weather, LSU didn’t turn the ball over once. In fact, it wasn’t even close. LSU never even fumbled the ball and came up with the recovery. A perfect example of ball security winning the game, as Tennessee fumbled the ball all over the place, particularly on special teams. The Vols fumbled five times, losing it twice.

200-38. The rushing totals of the two teams. The yardage battle was neck and neck (281-287), but in lousy weather, you need to be able to run the ball. The Tigers managed 200 yards total on the ground, while the Vols couldn’t even crack 40 yards. John Kelly, Tennessee’s leading rusher, averaged a scant 1.9 yards per carry. Still better than the team average of 1.1.

1. Despite all of the rushing, LSU receivers only had one carry, a negative-four-yard carry by Derrick Dillon. It’s not like LSU abandoned the jet sweep, Darrel Williams’ first touchdown run was off of the jet sweep, but Canada only trusted his running backs with the slick ball, and let his receivers have most of the night off. It was the right call.

249. Jarret Guarantano threw for 249 yards against the LSU defense on a 13-of-23 night. Most of those yards came on huge chunk plays. He connected with Marquez Callaway for gains of 46 and 26, Tim Jordan for 28 and 16, and Jeff George for 60 yards. DBU took the night off, apparently. LSU had not allowed over 200 yards passing in a game this season aside from the Syracuse game, when the Orange amassed 308 yards in the air. The 10.0 yards per attempt allowed was a season high by over two yards. The Vols didn’t complete a lot of passes, but when they did, it went for a long way. It was that sort of night.

5. Number of LSU players with a tackle for a loss. LSU ended up with seven TFLs, but the best part was seeing so many different guys contribute to that number. This team picked up the slack with Rashard Lawrence and Arden Key out (Ed. Note: Lawrence did play). Devin white, of course, led the way with 2.5 TFL of his own. He might be pretty good.

4. LSU drives which went three-and-out in the first half. Throw in a drive that went four plays for two yards, resulting in a field goal thanks to great starting field position, LSU had five first half drives in which the offense did not make a first down. Then, in the second half, LSU only went three and out once. When it mattered, the offense found itself and managed to control the ball and the clock, essentially erasing the fourth quarter with a 15-play, 80-yard drive which ate 9:11 of the clock. Connor Culp missed the field goal, by again… weather. What are you gonna do?