In much of the same vein of how Wrestling isn’t wrestling, a Spring Game isn’t a game. It’s a scrimmage. The head coach can overrule and referee's whistle and can simply make up situations as they well please. Because of the television cameras, they also don’t care to tip their hand too much in terms of play calls and looks.
The first drive of the game went to the white team (first team offense) and while Matt Canada didn’t get into too exotic of plays, we did see some new looks for LSU on the jump. Mainly sweeps and motions. A motif on the first drive was establishing a threat of a jet sweep after running it several times and continuing motion.
The first play of the game was a sweep to Chark, but the defense snuffed it out well. After a quick out pass to Chark, Etling hit Chark again downfield on a well-placed ball, good for a 35 yard gain.
LSU and Canada went to the Guice well, but the defense held firm against the talented running back. In a spring game, they’re the types of runs you wanted to see on both sides: Guice got to the second level well with solid blocking, but the second level of defenders played Guice well in space and wrapped up.
After some marginal gains on some Guice runs, LSU went to the sweep well again to Chark. This time he cut up field for some yardage, but the defense was waiting for him. LSU worked down to a fourth and one, where they unveiled a play that to that point was my favorite wrinkle in the new Matt Canada offense:
I’ll let Billy hit you with the official name designation, but for now I’ll stick with calling it a power sweep. The blocking (blue) is straight B.O.B with the far side TEs sealing. That, combined with the fact that Derrius Guice is in the backfield on fourth and one signify that hey, this is probably going to be a power to the nearside.
But there’s that motion from Williams that you have to account for, because here he gets the ball and immediately cuts up field. The second level of defense doesn’t bite on the Guice run to the near side and funnels Williams up field into the arms of Michael Divinity.
But it doesn’t matter, the offset action virtually guaranteed a first down against a defense that didn’t blitz. It’s the meanest play in football and because of that, it’s my favorite.
Here it is live. It’s defended extremely well but that doesn’t matter because by the time they can react, it’s a first down.
LSU followed that with a pretty standard PA rollout waggle pass to Guice in the flat to get down to the one yard line, which set up a rollout spot play that was busted with excellent defense:
Billy has explained the play here, and as you can see below, it’s a pretty simple spot rollout with a shovel option.
Something that I noticed off the bat is that the backside tight end came across off the block and in real time it looked like that was a slant option up the middle. But upon second viewing it looks like that’s just him working up and Canada probably is not keen on making Etling through across his body. But the idea remains. LSU had to settle for a chip shot field goal from Culp, which was good.
After that opening drive, the rest of the game was...very vanilla. Lanard Fournette started getting spammed with runs and while that was a fun pop for the crowd, it was a sign that the aggressive play calls were slowly getting cut from the call sheet and it became more about getting looks for players.
The game in the stadium was cut short just before halftime, but the team promptly went across Nicholson to play in the IFF. Media was told upon gathering for Orgeron’s press conference and sprinted across to watch the second half of the football like substance. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much. This was the lone highlight of the game once it was moved to the IFF:
The good: on 4th down, Fournette simply did not go down— Adam Henderson (@AdamATVS) April 23, 2017
The bad: Frank Herron was down after the play. pic.twitter.com/0G7CZk2rf4
(That was Williams on the run, not Fournette)
Some general notes and observations from both halves of the game:
- If there was MVP of the game, it would have to be either Grant Delpit or Kevin Toliver. Delpit had a couple PBUs and Toliver was a lockdown player for the most part.
- As a whole, the defensive secondary was impressive as always. Donte Jackson’s speed is just a game changer as he eats space. May not be a plus tackler but he rarely needs to be.
- Devin White is a bad man. Sever times throughout both iterations of the game he set the edge and punished ball carriers for trying to go outside.
- Lanard Fournette got spammed with carries, but he had a few impressive runs. Not as powerful as his brother but if he has one positive attribute it’s his patience.
- Darrell Williams may have lost some weight, but he’s the same as he ever was. He is still very much a north/south runner. I think wrinkles like we discussed above will be a great way to use this talent.
- The offensive and defensive line was pretty much a stalemate throughout the night. Neither side really established dominance and both looked like they were running at 75% for most of the night. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
- WRs looked solid, but there wasn’t a lot to talk about with them outside the sweep action because well...
- We’ve been hearing all spring that it was an open competition that Etling was winning, and that remained true for the game, through no work of his own. Etling didn’t have a great day, but neither did McMillan, Narcisse, or Scott. None of them had showings to displace Etling, but when Orgeron says “open competition” in terms of the quarterback, I start to think it’s a competition between Etling and a player who is not yet on campus.
Orgeron spoke briefly to the media following the conclusion of the game, and he was pretty candid. Here is what he had to say:
- “The offense did a tremendous job all spring, but tonight was the defense’s night. I don’t think that we played very well on offense. I know Coach Canada is a little disappointed in the performance but I have confidence that we are going to get better. The quarterback competition is open, and it is going to stay open until somebody proves they are our number one quarterback.”
- “Here is the deal. Nobody has earned the starting spot and you saw that tonight. If we had to name a starter tonight it is not a clear-cut winner. Most of the spring Danny has been better. Underneath the pressure, the guys did not perform the way we wanted them to, so they are going to have to show me who is able to perform under pressure to be the LSU quarterback.”
- “We didn’t show anything on the kicking game. We have a new kicking scheme and I didn’t want to show anything that others don’t know about. That’s the reason we didn’t line up with a kickoff team, a kickoff return team, or a punt formation.”