It wasn’t the prettiest of nights, or the most appealing football, but LSU was able to hold a ranked Mississippi State team to just three points with all of 59 yards passing and come away with a 19-3 win.
The offense didn’t do much, but didn’t really have to either, as the 19 points felt like 49 points with the way State struggled to move the football.
And unfortunately a targeting penalty on Devin White that was, at best, questionable. Certainly not the kind of dangerous hit that the targeting rule was intended to curb, and definitely not the kind of act that should keep the SEC’s best linebacker out of what will be a top-five match-up with Alabama in two weeks.
The SEC will most assuredly honor the mistaken call. They’ve never shown anything resembling the spine to admit mistakes in the past. And it will cast questions of legitimacy upon the contest, which will likely determine the SEC West winner and thus the SEC champion and a College Football Playoff berth. It’s that simple. The conference will have the opportunity to do the right thing, both for business (making what will be the league’s marquee match-up compelling television) and for competition.
I have sincere doubts that the league will do it. (UPDATE: They did not.)
Anyway, LSU is now 7-1 and 4-1 in conference play, matching the win total most projected for this team last summer and assuring at least a .500 record or better in conference play for the second straight season under Ed Orgeron. They’ve beaten four top-25 opponents on the season (three in the top 10), the best total in the country. And, at minimum, there’s at least one more gimme win on the schedule in Rice plus another heavily favored matchup with a bad Arkansas team.
How this team continues to improve and close out the final month of this season will tell the ultimate story of the 2018 Tigers. But to date, they’ve proved a lot of doubters wrong.
Let’s break down how win No. 7 happened:
- Well, that’s how you start a game alright. LSU lines up in the “peso” nickel package, but brings Devin White and Jacob Phillips through the A-gaps while dropping Michael Divinity and Andre Anthony into the middle. Nick Fitzgerald bails out on the throw, just trying to avoid the hit and get the ball out to a crossing route, he’s well behind the receiver and Divinity has an easy pick.
- Divinity finished with just four tackles in this one, but set the edge on a couple of running plays, helping to hold State to a field goal on the next drive once they got inside the 10. For somebody who was kind of an afterthought this summer, he’s turned in a strong season to date with 34 tackles and seven tackles for loss, including four sacks.
- LSU was able to take advantage of the Bulldogs’ early yips, but they came right back with their only scoring drive of the night on their second possession. Whereas LSU didn’t start gaining much traffic on offense until much later in the game, State gained 73 of their 260 yards on that one possession, including a 40-yard run from Fitzgerald. The Tigers, meanwhile, gained 64 of their 239 yards on the final possession of the first half.
- Grant Delpit finished this night with 10 tackles, a sack and two interceptions. He’s now up to 54 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and five interceptions on the season. Those aren’t just All-American/Thorpe-Award-caliber numbers, that might very well be the best individual season any pure safety has had at LSU. And it didn’t take long for him to make an impact on the night here with his first pick. State tries a basic stick concept on third down, but Delpit had very tight coverage on the receiver. Fitzgerald tries to throw the ball low and away, but he’s a hair too late and too far inside. Delpit cuts the ball off with an athletic diving catch.
- Although sadly, Joe Burrow returned the favor on the ensuing drive. After a really nice stretch play gets LSU at first and 10 at the 11-yard line, the offense tries to go tempo and throw a fade to Dee Anderson. But the throw is a hair late and too short, and Cameron Dantzler was in zone coverage and was able to track the ball the whole way. Had Burrow maybe thrown it to the back pylon, Anderson might have had a better chance.
- Burrow’s night was obviously underwhelming, but when you consider that he started two for his first seven throws, he finished 14 for his last 21, which isn’t bad. That isn’t to put too much lipstick on the pig here, but I do think it’s a positive when a quarterback can overcome a slow start.
- His receivers weren’t helpful either: Ja’Marr Chase blew a third-down conversion having to double-clutch an easy catch that allowed a defender to tackle him short, and Justin Jefferson dropped a pair of passes, one that could have moved the chains and another that would have given LSU the ball inside the five with time for one or two offensive plays before the half.
- Steve Ensminger seemed to find some rhythm right before the half for Burrow and the offense. Nice quick hitch to Stephen Sullivan for the first down, and a great slant throw to Derrick Dillon to pick up a third-and-nine later on in the drive. The offense was able to at least score some points on its next three drives and gained at least one first down on every drive for the rest of the game up until the final kneel down.
- State’s probably got a long way to go over the rest of the season, at least on offense, but this was the best defensive front LSU’s faced to date. Simmons and Sweat are impressive enough, but Johnathan Abram, Erroll Thompson, Chauncey Rivers and Geri Green are all quality players.
- Fitzgerald, however, is just not a fit for what Moorhead wants to do on offense, and they don’t have the targets to bail out his inaccuracy.
- Delpit makes one hell of a hustle play to pick up his sack on the second half’s first drive. Came completely free on a blitz from the edge; Fitzgerald does a nice job of side-stepping him, but he recovers quickly and gets back to his man.
- Couple other standouts from the night: LSU’s defensive line, despite State’s success running the football, helped get them off the field on a handful of third-down, short-yardage plays; Rashard Lawrence had a season-high eight tackles, and Glenn Logan, Neil Farrell and Tyler Shelvin were all able to provide quality rotational minutes with Breiden Fehoko out with injury; special teams, which, in addition to the field goals, dropped three punts inside the 20 and helped LSU enjoy a 16-yard advantage in average field position.