The game was tight for the first quarter and LSU put the bandwagon into neutral for most of the second half, so the dominant performance on Sunday night was really a function of one dominant quarter. That’s not to say it didn’t count, it most certainly did, but the game wasn’t quite as much of a mismatch as the scoreboard said.
That doesn’t mean this still wasn’t a domination. The stats might have been close, but a large portion of that is score effects. Teams logically employ different strategies in a blowout than they do in a close game, as LSU’s offense in the second half became more concerned with running clock than scoring points.
Yeah, that’s frustrating, but it’s probably the right strategy and hardly an uncommon one. When up by 30 points, your goal is to get that clock to zero and go home. Still, let’s look at the numbers that turned what was a close game into a rout.
342-296. Miami had more total yards than LSU. More yards usually lead to more points, but this again points to when those yards were accumulated. Miami had 185 yards in drives which ended in the fourth quarter, more than half of their total output. And at that point, the game was functionally over. Miami gained 185 yards and scored 14 points after they fell behind by 30 points. Yeah, you shouldn’t let teams up off the mat, but Miami never got within two scores.
36.4. Zach Feagles punting average. Aside from a 54-yard boomer near the end of the first half, Feagles had a miserable game. He shanked his first three punts, gifting LSU short fields. One of the reasons LSU didn’t gain so many yards is that they didn’t have to thanks to poor Miami special teams. His first three punts went for 20, 34, and 22 yards. LSU would turn those short fields into 13 points. Speaking of which.
4/4. Cole Tracy attempted four field goals and hit all of them. We have a kicker!! He opened the game with a 43-yard field goal and closed out his night with a 54-yarder off the crossbar. There is some concern that Tracy took two 21-yarders, but that’s on the red zone offense’s failure to cash in on touchdowns. But he at least salvaged three on those short kicks.
3.8. LSU’s rushing average. Again, part of this was running into the teeth of a good Miami defense for most of the second half, but… that’s not good. We’re all thrilled for Nick Brossette, who has more than waited his turn, for his 22-125-2 night. But this ws supposed to running back by committee, and the rest of the committee went 19 carries for 31 yards. Take out kneeldowns, it is still 15 carries for 37 yards. We need more than that from the run game, which had problems converting short yardage situations most of the night.
3 of 16. LSU’s third down conversions. LSU was 2 of 4 in the first quarter, and then went 1 for their next 12, failing to convert another third down until the fourth quarter. That’s a big concern and can’t continue if this team wants to have offensive success. Of those 13 failed conversion, four were from 1-3 yards. Another four were from 10+ yards. Getting behind the sticks is a problem, but the offense wasn’t converting when on schedule either.
+2. LSU’s turnover margin. For all of the talk of the turnover chain, Miami failed to force a turnover all game. They did force two fumbles, both correctly overruled on replay. But Joe Burrow did his best Danny Etling impression and didn’t throw a single interception.
5-81. Justin Jefferson’s catches and yards. The receivers had a less than impressive night, another big concern going forward, but Jefferson emerged as Burrow’s most favored target. He hauled down big catches and kept the chains moving. Burrow didn’t have the best statline (11-24-140), but he looked confident and composed under center, which is what we most wanted to see in his first start. 11 for 24 usually won’t get the job done, but the offense went into super conservative mode in the second half.
All in all, a good performance with some warning flags. It’s up to the staff to work on those issues and clean things up for the Auburn game. Also, to give some credit, Miami has an excellent defense which of course will depress the offensive numbers. It’s the fans’ job to celebrate this win. This one was fun, but it wasn’t perfect. This team can still get better.