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Behind the Box Score: Syracuse

Special teams matter, folks

Syracuse v LSU
Know who had a good game? This guy.
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

LSU came into the night needing an easy win, preferably one in which the backups could get more experience, so the team could get needed experience but also find a proper headspace going forward. Well, ixnay on the easy part, but part of that was Coach O going to the reserves a tad too early, letting Syracuse back into the game.

Still, even with that caveat, this wasn’t an impressive game, save for a brief stretch which spanned over the half (and the Tiger Band kicked ass, as per usual). This is a team that is still struggling to find its identity, and seems no closer to the answer than it was in spring practice.

425-281. LSU had a huge advantage in the run of play, manifesting itself in the large disparity in total yards… and, wait. Hold Up. I’m being informed that’s the stats from 2015. There’s been some effort to retcon the 2015 game to being similar to this year’s game, and there is truth to the statement as 2015 Syracuse was a frustrating game. LSU also had a near 150-yard advantage in yards gained, had two touchdowns and one turnover taken off the board by penalties (a real bugaboo in that game, LSU committed 14 penalties for 120 yards), and allowed 14 points in the fourth quarter, including a meaningless touchdown with less than two minutes left to make the score look closer than the game actually was.

414-381. That’s this year’s yardage. The offense is performing the same as it ever was, only the shape of the production is almost entirely backwards, as it is the passing game pulling along an anemic run game instead of vice versa. The problem here is the defense again struggled. 381 yards is a lot to give up, but more concerning is the way those yards were surrendered.

308. Syracuse’s passing yards. LSU allowed a 300-yard passer for the first time since playing Texas Tech in a bowl game in 2015. The last time LSU allowed over 300 yards passing in a regular season game was that same year, to a prolific Western Kentucky team. LSU didn’t allow a 300-yard passer all of last season and to this point of the season, had not allowed any QB to top 200 yards. 308 is an off the charts bad performance for the Tiger passing defense based upon their set standards. The good news is, Eric Dungey only threw for 265 yards of that total, and it took him 52 attempts to do so. This is a concern, but not a panic.

92. Darrel Williams’ yards rushing. For the second straight game, no LSU running back topped 100 yards, a disturbing trend. However, it is a bit mitigated by the fact that Williams came on in relief and looked outstanding. He lacks big play ability, though he did bust one for 24 yards. But Williams looked like everything he hinted at becoming since he first arrived on campus. He ran ferociously and violently, seeking out contact and blowing up defenders. Derrius Guice managed just 17 yards on 8 carries. He’s clearly not right, but Orgeron was able to keep him on the bench due to Williams’ emergence.

10-17-188. Danny Etling had another nice line. While we’re making callbacks to the 2015 Syracuse game, this is an obvious improvement. Brandon Harris completed just half of his passes for 157 yards on 16 attempts. Etling was more efficient, and he busted the game open with an 87-yard TD strike. This gave Orgeron the chance to put Myles Brennan in the game in the 3rd quarter. Brennan had a decent 4-6-75 line, but an interception killed him, and as Syracuse mounted a comeback, LSU went back to its starter. Brennan showed flashes, but he is not there yet.

5. Sterling Hofrichter had an amazing game, booting 5 of his 7 punts inside the 20 yard line. He had a long of 58 yards with three punts over 50 yards, averaging 46.7 yards overall. He was so long and accurate that he negated LSU’s return game, as LSU did not manage to have a single return all game. His best punt of the game was downed on the 1 foot line and resulted in a safety on the next play. We here at ATVS salute outstanding special teams play, and that’s twice now we’ve played Syracuse and been rocked by their punter. I’m not even being snide, their punt game was outsatdning and was almost the difference in the game. Josh Growden, by contrast, punted three times for a 34.7 average before he was benched for Zach Von Rosenberg.

S39. LSU’s average starting position in the fourth quarter. After spending most of the game pinned back deep in its own territory thanks to Syracuse’s special teams, LSU turned the game around in the fourth quarter thanks to field position. Syracuse’s unsuccessful and ill-advised onside kick allowed LSU to start with the ball on its own 44. 7 plays and 56 yards later, LSU was in the end zone. Syracuse would turn the ball over on downs on its next possession, and LSU would take over at the Syracuse 22, and run out the clock. Even with that help, LSU’s average starting filed position on the game was its own 28. Field position matters.