One of the things that separate good teams and great teams is the ability to win left-handed. When circumstances, or an opponent, affects option A, can you win outside of your comfort zone — whether that’s offense, defense, special teams, whichever facet would classify as “not your game.”
LSU was able to do that on Saturday, with the defense holding Mississippi State to seven non-garbage time points and forcing five total turnovers in a 36-14 win that felt comfortably out of reach for the entire second half, while the offense had some fits and starts.
The Tiger defense forced three three-and-outs in the second half that allowed the offense to rip off some big plays and put the game comfortably out of reach. LSU finished with two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a pair of fourth-down stops on the day while holding State to just a single red-zone appearance. The Bulldogs converted only three of 12 third downs and had all of 250 yards of offense through three quarters, before picking up a 90-yard scoring drive in the final four minutes that was, essentially, garbage time.
The Tiger offense converted just three of 11 third-down chances, kicked three field goals in the red zone and had season lows in points and total offense. And still scored 36 and saw Joe Burrow officially break LSU’s single-season touchdown record with his 29th scoring strike of the year. And that is what constitutes an off game for this offense right now.
Enjoy all of this.
- LSU’s defensive line did a great job setting things up for the back eight on defense and we saw that on State’s opening drive. Third and one, Tyler Shelvin and Rashard Lawrence stand up the center and left tackle, and that allows Grant Delpit to fly in to torpedo Kylin Hill on third-and-one. Jacoby Stevens was similarly unmolested on the fourth-and-one stop. Reacted quickly to the fake and collapsed on Garrett Shrader. That was probably his key the whole way but still a nice job of closing.
- Something I noticed early on from LSU’s offense — heavy use of bunched up formations. It’s one of those tendencies that can create space when guys get a clean release. But it felt like State did a good job of clogging some passing lanes early on.
- Not a fan of them in the running game though, especially in short-yardage. You have more blockers, but you also bring in more defenders closer to the point of attack. See this on LSU’s opening drive on the second-and-three run for Clyde Edwards-Helaire that only gained two.
- The offense has been rock solid in the red zone but they struggled a little bit on Saturday. State’s defensive backs were physical with the receivers and broke up a few would-be touchdowns on the first few possessions. That’s going to be something to watch down the stretch, especially with Auburn’s grabby DBs this week. Sometimes a secondary is just going to dare the officials to throw a lot of flags and well...this is the SEC. State’s DBs weren’t necessarily full-on Legion-of-Boom-Era Seattle Seahawks physical, but they were a step early and got away with it a few times. Here’s an example that went uncalled on LSU’s opening drive.
- This is why the lack of confidence in SEC officials is a problem. And this will come up again this season, mark my words.
- I would also note that as good as Ja’Marr Chase has been at bodying defensive backs up, he’s about to see a different class of them. Cameron Dantzler definitely gave him some fits.
- Frustrating play on the goal line on LSU’s first possession:
- This should be an easy score for Edwards-Helaire. Great call to run right at the “bubble” in the defensive front to the weakside. But Lloyd Cushenberry can’t quite hold his block once Damien Lewis pull off to the second level, Edwards-Helaire has to dance for a bit and the pursuit gets home.
- Defensive front was able to get after Shrader early on, but with a lot more mobile QBs on the docket, Michael Divinity can’t lose his technique when he get’s a free rush. Let an easy sack turn into a first down on third-and-five.
- Another thing I really liked — a lot of Delpit up near the line of scrimmage, doing what he does best. That’s going to be huge next week against Auburn, who still relies on a lot of quick throws and east-west runs (or run actions). He damn near intercepted Hill’s pitch on the reverse-flea-flicker attempt on State’s second drive.
- As much as you don’t want to see the offense take too many threes in the red zone, getting Cade York more reps is far from a bad thing. It’s still hard to really know what to make of him yet. He nailed his three kicks, all short, one of which needed a lucky bounce. He made a huge kick on the road early against Texas. But he’s also missed two extra points, so there’s been good and bad. Even the best college kickers have their issues, but if he can at least be reliable on chip-shots, that’s all LSU needs. So hopefully he keeps his confidence up.
- Great play-design on the forced fumble — Kristian Fulton blitzes from the boundary and is able to take the quarterback and force the give read. Divinity was the read player, and he’s free to play the back all the way, so he scrapes right down and gets the ball loose. Lawrence is on the spot for the recovery.
- State had three sacks on the day, and they had a lot of success with some delayed pressures. “Green dogs” as Burrow called them in post-game. Rushes where the player reads a back or tight end and then rush if they stay in to block (LSU uses this tactic as well). The quarterback doesn’t necessarily have as much time as he thinks he does, and may not have enough blocking for the rush (or be overwhelmed to one side or the other). That’s definitely a tactic LSU’s going to see again this week against Auburn (to say nothing about the rest of the season).
- Kary Vincent’s had a rough season this year at the nickel spot, but he just had some plain bad luck here.
- Tigers brought Stingley from the boundary on a corner blitz and Vincent’s coverage here is pretty solid. He undercuts the route because he has help over the top, but the ball is just outside of his reach. Nice throw from Shrader.
- Speaking of Shrader’s touchdown, the defense completely loses containment. K’Lavon Chaisson gets a great first step, but he gets too far up field. It looks like Micah Baskerville might’ve been spying, but he gets misdirected by the tight end’s route. That’s another mistake that’ll be applicable over the next couple of weeks with quarterbacks like Bo Nix, Tua and John Rhys Plumlee.
- Give State credit — I thought we might see a team that was in the process of giving up on its coach. But they had a lot of energy and maintained it even as LSU pulled away. They just don’t have the horses right now.
- Of course, LSU responded to the State score. Edwards-Helaire has a nice kick return, further helped by the facemask call. Then a coverage bust yields a 60-yard touchdown to Racey McMath. Tigers run a “bench” concept into the boundary, with a short out underneath a corner route. Safety got confused on who had the deep leverage, McMath runs by him and was wide open.
- Stevens finally made the kind of plays we expected to see out of the five-star athlete with an excellent one-handed interception. Secondary appears to be in quarters, but Stevens is playing the “robber” position over the middle of the field, reading the quarterback and trying to take away any underneath crossing routes. Shrader appears to have Stephen Guidry on a dig underneath Derek Stingley, but he can’t get the ball over Stevens.
- Four-verts call on Burrow’s second TD to Chase. Because LSU runs four verts inside the 10-yard line in 2019.
- Really weird start to the second half with LSU forced to take a timeout to avoid the delay of game. The offense very rarely lines up with so little time on the clock. Makes me wonder if there was some sort of play-clock malfunction. Either way, going three-and-out felt like a possible momentum-shift back to State.
- But the defense holds in a big way. Delpit and Patrick Queen run down a sweep play to put State behind the chains, and on third down Aranda sends a six-man blitz and a really smart cage rush by Divinity gets him a sack when Shrader is forced to into him.
- Good to see Chase get his groove back on the next offensive play, taking a slant for 18 yards with a healthy amount of yards after contact. It set up Burrow’s bomb to Derrick Dillon:
- Four verts once again but it doesn’t typically develop like this. Dillon is the middle slot man in a trips set, and when Burrow scrambles it buys him the extra time to get by the safety to his side, while the next inside man occupies the other safety. This is a big-time throw from Burrow too. He’s off platform, running to his left and he gets his shoulders turned and throws a rainbow, but with enough zip on it for Dillon to get to it with room to keep his feet in. And given his history, it’s a nice job by Dillon to haul it in and have foot down. Just a back-breaker for the Bulldogs.
- Speaking of touchdowns, Tory Carter was COMPLETELY ROBBED of what would’ve been a beautiful leaping touchdown. Penalizing a fullback for pushing off is literally penalizing them for doing the thing they do. That referee is unAmerican and should be brought in front of Congress.
- State seemed pretty intimidated by Derek Stingley, but attacking Kristian Fulton didn’t go much better for them. Per Cody Worsham, he only allowed one completion on five targets, for 15 yards. In the third quarter he had a heck of a sequence: great recovery to break up a deep shot, then came back with the pick on the next play:
- As Cody Alexander detailed on Twitter: LSU was in Cover-Three “cloud,” with the boundary corner in one deep third, a middle safety and the other playing over the top of Fulton. He steers his man outside to the sideline, then at five yards, releases and matches to the slot receiver breaking towards him. Quarterback isn’t expecting Fulton to peel off, and he’s got an easy pick. Great example of well-executed zone coverage.
- LSU finished with just 86 total rushing yards (factoring in the sacks) and a lowly 3.4 yards per carry, but I don’t think that number really showed how well either Edwards-Helaire or Tyrion Davis-Price ran. If anything, I thought LSU could’ve leaned on it a little more early on to try and push the State defense around.
- Davis-Price, in particular, is starting to really find himself. Hits the hole like it stole something from him, and really takes the contact to the defense. He and Edwards-Helaire could become an impressive counter-punch tandem down the stretch.
- Bit of an uneven game for Ed Ingram in his second start. He got pushed around a little in the first half, while Adrian Magee continues to play really well to hold the starting spot. His play should improve with time though.
- Stevens was awarded SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts, and his development here might be the biggest takeaway for the defense. Finished with eight tackles and a sack in addition to his pick, and his presence seems to be allowing Delpit to get back to doing more of what he does best as well. Maybe that’s a catalyst for this defense to step forward in the coming weeks.
- In conclusion, Joe Burrow, Hinesman candidate. THANK YOU GOODNIGHT!