LSU breezed past the 8th-ranked Hurricanes by 16 points — and it really wasn’t that close.
Yes, there’s still plenty to work on, because it’s a season opener and no team has found their final form in week one (and why would you want that in the first place?). This is still a young team that, hopefully, will continue to gel and improve over the next few weeks.
That’s the big reason why this game was so important, and why my biggest takeaway is that, quite frankly, LSU showed up, bowed right the hell up to Miami.
Tempers flaring early for LSU and Miami... pic.twitter.com/RR7VcirZfc— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) September 2, 2018
And took it right to them. Yes, the box score wasn’t pretty overall, but LSU scored points on four of their six first-half offensive possessions, and that’s counting a final drive that was kneeling out the half.
Factor in the pick-six, and the second half was, essentially, garbage time. But we’ll get into that a bit more here. We’ll stick to a few high points, and with a short week I’ll save some of the notes for improvement for Friday’s game preview.
- Special teams were a huge factor here. Miami averaged just 36.4 yards per punt to LSU’s 40.6. Times five punts that’s 20 extra yards. Overall, the Tigers were plus-14 yards on Miami’s average starting field position (own 38-yard-line compared to Miami on their own 24). And that’s before we get to the outstanding kicking game with both Cole Tracy and Avery Atkins on kickoffs.
- Joe Burrow, overall, was more or less what was advertised. He was smart with the ball, made good decisions — including several throw-aways — and generally plays with an ease about him that I think rubs off. And of course it probably helps win your teammates over when you’re right in the thick of the pre-game fracas. He was probably denied a touchdown on the long completion to Ja’Marr Chase, which was also his best throw of the night. A couple of really nice scrambles as well.
- Although he did seem a little antsy on some of the early possessions, possibly contributing to the early timeout usage. Really focused on his checks and getting into the right play. Although that paid off with checks to set up Nick Brossette’s 50-yard touchdown and the big fourth-and-one conversion.
- On to that aforementioned 50-yarder:
- Burrow checks the play to wide zone to the field, away from a back-side blitz, and you really can’t block this thing any better. Lloyd Cushenberry turns the play-side tackle in and Saahdiq Charles turns the end out. Damien Lewis gets to the middle linebacker and cuts him perfectly. Garrett Brumfield basically had nobody to block, and very smartly just kept on chugging downfield until he found a safety (it’s a common mistake to look for a defender closer to you, which can just create more traffic) Note: as a defense, it’s never a good thing if the play-side guard gets to your safety. Brossette has a huge hole and just hits it and takes off.
- In general, Brossette was as advertised from camp reports. He read his blocks and was decisive. Very much what you want in this type of blocking scheme.
- As great as this was blocked, it was a very uneven performance from the line overall. Charles and Cushenberry were relatively consistent. Brumfield and Lewis had some struggles with assignments, and Brumfield in particular had his struggles with Gerald Willis III, who as very impressive in his first career start.
- Although he clearly never learned not to start fights he can’t finish, after instigating the pre-game fracas.
- On the right side, Lewis and Badara Traore both seemed to miss some assignments at times. Traore is definitely a people-mover when he’s on the right track though. His power stands out, as it should for a man his size.
- Also, on touchdown No. 2 for Brossette, Charles essentially caught two defenders with his arms and walled them off. Thought that was worth mentioning.
Miami had 2 defenders going at LSU’s LT and neither one got past him #LSUvsMIA pic.twitter.com/FcnzXwUBYD— Someone's An Idiot (@SomeonesAnIdiot) September 3, 2018
- Overall, I liked Steve Ensminger’s early approach, with a lot of the pass concepts I would have expected to see based off his previous work: Y-stick, Spot/Snag and some Three-Level stretches. LSU made a couple of big plays, including the 37-yarder to Justin Jefferson, on the “Dagger” concept, which can be a popular play-action shot play, especially against single-high/three-deep coverages:
- Inside receiver runs a go or post route to push back the deep safety, and the outside receiver undercuts it on a dig route. Jefferson ran it perfectly, and a strong play-fake by Burrow held the linebackers for an easy throw with yards after the catch.
- On the pick-six, Malik Rozier was expecting Jacob Phillips to get pulled inside by the tight end on a crossing route, and throw the slant right behind him. Phillips stays home and passes the crosser off to White, reads the quarterback’s eyes and Rozier stared down the slant pretty hard. Easy play.
- Schematically, Dave Aranda gave Miami two different nickel looks from the first drive, namely this grouping with three down linemen, two inside linebackers, K’Lavon Chaisson at the Bench position and Grant Delpit down as the Field linebacker, with the actual nickel corner off the line of scrimmage:
- It definitely plays to Delpit’s strength as a player, and gives you a little more versatility in terms of run support versus coverage. LSU also used the “Peso” look with two linemen, four linebackers (with Michael Divinity in at the Field position) and the nickel corner rolled up with Delpit back deep as well. That also gave Jacoby Stevens an opportunity to get on the field in place of Delpit. Something to watch going forward.
- With the news that Chaisson will be out for the year, that’s a tough pill to swallow because he really was all over the field in this game, dropping into coverage and exploding up the field. Definitely looked the part of a complete and dominant linebacker.
- On a level, I understand why LSU went conservative late in the game — the one thing that could have really turned things on for Miami was a turnover. It’s the biggest thing they feed off of, and the best chance they had for getting any juice back. But you can still mix up formations to try and spread the field, or maybe mix something up with a quarterback run or two. If anything, I might have at least tried to convert one of those last fourth-and-goal opportunities that became field goals. But with the score getting out of hand so quickly, it’s really hard to draw any long-term conclusions.
Overall, if you can’t enjoy this win, what can you really enjoy? There will be plenty to clean up — inopportune penalties, bad tackling and inconsistent offensive line play — but in the end, LSU roughed up a top-10 team by more than two touchdowns. That’s how you start the year out. We’ll get more into what’s next on Friday as we prep for the home opener against Southeastern.