Saturday’s home-opening win for LSU was a solid Rorschach test type of game, with a bit of something for everybody.
If you want, you can focus on the penalties and mistakes, most of which were of the unforced variety — and cruising the LSU interwebz, some will certainly set their sights squarely on this.
But at the same time, LSU held an (admittedly very overmatched) opponent to just 4.1 yards per play, put up more than 450 yards of offense and put the game away in relative short order with a number of impressive plays. This game was 28-3 at the half, and the backups were in for, more or less, the entire fourth quarter. From a raw numbers standpoint, there really isn’t much to complain about.
That said, there’s still a strong feeling that we just don’t know where this team is at yet. The upcoming trip to Starkville will give us a nice clue, right as we start the grind of these final 10 games.
And with that, we move on to the review:
- We’ll start with the major points of emphasis from last week — penalties, big plays and red-zone efficiency. The mental errors shifted from pre-snap on offense to some exceptionally silly ones on defense, such as Greg Gilmore jumping offsides despite literally playing right on top of the football. Just silly and stupid, and something that has to get corrected. In fact, it’s going to be an interesting challenge for Orgeron’s practice model this week, to focus on correcting those mistakes without over-practicing.
- If you want an upside, 10 of the 11 penalties all came in the first half, so at least a halftime talk from Coach O made some progress.
- Plays of longer than 20 yards — tripled from last week, almost all passes. Good, a step in the right direction, but something that has to continue to progress.
- Defense came through on that point as well, with eight tackles behind the line and the two interceptions. Some of that is probably opportunity related — Chattanooga ran 59 plays to BYU’s 37.
- Red Zone: four touchdowns in five appearances. Marked improvement, albeit against an FCS team that wasn’t going to be able to hold up a the line of scrimmage. We did get a feel for some of Canada’s preferred short-yardage calls, which we’ll detail later on in film study.
- Devin White’s nine tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss statline is the kind of production I expect to see from him week-in/week-out from here. What’s really pleasing to see is that he’s clearly taken over as the heart of the Tiger front, moving players around and calling out assignments. Early on you could see him forcibly shoving Donnie Alexander to get him into position.
- Offense was just 5 of 12 on third down conversions, but at an average distance of about eight yards per opportunity. That’s something Canada will have to try and manage better in future games — something else we’ll address when we discuss play calling.
- Aside from the kicking issues, solid overall day for special teams: no punts returned, one downed inside the 20. Kickoffs saw three touchbacks, and a paltry 21 yards per return attempt on those that did get run back.
- Tons of new players involved on the day: David Ducre and Tory Carter at F-Back; Jacoby Stevens got in early and often at receiver; Neil Farrell got a ton of rotation snaps on the defensive line; even former Tiger baseball recruit Zach Von Rosenberg got in a punt.
- I’ll say this — this referee crew were sticklers for a few things. Offsides on a kickoff is one of those things that happens once or twice a game and is NEVER called. Likewise, they were pretty strict on intentional grounding too. Although I’d say it went both ways at least. There was also that celebration call for Guice and Darrel Williams’ personal thing they do, which has happened after every touchdown they’ve ever scored.
- Give Chattanooga and Tom Arth credit for a nice gameplan to start this game out. Using lots of motion and shifts to help expose what LSU is doing a little bit. It’s a smart idea for Aranda’s defense, given how much he tries to hide what his fronts are doing. Likewise, the Mocs used a ton of clearouts, picks and quick throws to exploit man-to-man coverage. Don’t be surprised if this gameplan gets replicated a few times down the road.
- That said, Aranda did a nice job of adjusting to some shorter zone coverage that played off but squatted on the short stuff. And LSU’s corners made tackles on those quick throws. A good 25 percent of Chattanooga’s yardage came on that first drive. Although the stupid penalties helped as well.
- LSU would give Chattanooga a taste of their own medicine, with a quick clear-out flat pass to Russell Gage to pick up a fourth and three.
- Donnie Alexander seemed to be pressing and a bit out of his element in his first game back. Fifth play, a Moc motions out of the backfield and White forcefully shoves Alexander out to cover him.
- Speaking of formerly suspended players, Kevin Toliver may yet see himself Wally Pipped by Greedy Williams. The sophomore from Shreveport is LSU’s best cornerback right now. Just sees things so well as they’re happening, particularly with the ball in the air. Williams separated one pass from a receiver on the opening drive, and then very nearly intercepted the ball in the endzone.
- Chattonooga had an emphasis to crowd the box and LSU took advantage with the deep passing game. The first touchdown is an obvious example:
- LSU shifts a bunch set with a receiver, tight end and F-back from one side of the formation to the other and then runs a double play-fake with an inside zone play and an orbit sweep/end around to D.J. Chark. Chattanooga brings nine men down into the box on the shift. Just the corner on Drake Davis and a safety at the apex between he and the formation. Safety bites on the orbit fake, post right behind him. Easy.
- Call it a gadget, but now that play is on film, and teams will have to be aware of it every time LSU shows that look.
- Aranda shows those adjustments on Chattanooga’s very next possession when the Mocs go back to those short clear-out throws. Keep the corners on the receivers at the line, roll the safeties down on in-breaking routes. Grant Delpit would later make a freshman mistake and give up a big play on a double-move, but overall, this worked really well to swallow things up. Counting Williams’ interception, Chattanooga would go three-and-out or worse on three of the next four possessions.
- Said interception was a great illustration: Chattanooga motioned a back out wide. Rather than keeping a linebacker on him, Williams just shifts to the outside man, while a linebacker and safety bracket the inside receiver. Horizontal stretch with two out-routes, Tiano sees the bracket at the snap and goes to his outside man, but his eyes gave things away and Williams made a great break on the ball.
- From the Canada perspective, I can respect trying to put an emphasis on the deep throws, but I do have to admit it would have been nice to see Etling lead a few more drives focused on the short passing game. Although he had a few of those in week one.
- Etling definitely served his inner Rex Grossman, particularly on the second offensive drive and the 46-yard bomb to Stephen Sullivan. Play-call was a play-action flood concept with a flat, intermediate out and Sullivan running the clear-out. The right read was probably the out-cut to Chark, but it was also the longer, more difficult throw. Etling gave his 6-5 target a chance to make a play and was rewarded.
- Drive three saw the best ball of the night — Etling throws a 46-yard dime right over Chark’s outside shoulder down the sideline. Just dropped it right in the bucket. Even if the defender is in position, there’s no stopping that.
- Etling’s third big play to Chark was a much uglier throw. Not a bad decision — he had layup options, but Chark was solidly behind the deep safety. Granted, at the distance it would have taken a really great throw to let Chark get underneath it, but it still came down to Chark catching the ball in a crowd. Not sure how often LSU can count on that.
- Football nerdery — LSU’s new one-back short-yardage set, with an interesting take on the power-run:
- Power-O, with a backside guard pulling to lead and the F-back on a slice-motion across the formation to make the kick-out block. Garrett Brumfield gets held up as Chattanooga squeezes the B-gap, but Tory Carter does a nice job of occupying two defenders to let Guice break outside and get the touchdown.
- Chark’s touchdown punt-return was really set up at the line of scrimmage. LSU’s return team got great jams on the gunners and locked on quickly. By the time Chark had the ball he had lots of room. Only needed two blocks at the point of reception to get a big running lane, and from there it’s just speed.
- At the risk of under-playing the kicker issues, but Connor Culp’s misses were from 40 and 47 yards. Not exactly chip-shots. Still, something to monitor.
- Once the reserves came in, I thought the speed of the game looked a little fast for Myles Brennan, particularly on his roll-out play early on, which had an early throw into the flat. He did snap off a very nice curl route to Gage.
- And of course, a very nice skinny post throw that Sullivan should have turned into a touchdown.
- Nick Brossette with some very determined running. May not mean much for this season, but his time will come.