Well that was unbelievable.
Given the sheer amount of attrition LSU has experienced not only in the offseason and the course of the regular season, but in the lead up to/during the actual game. Micah Baskerville didn’t travel with an apparent illness, Derek Stingley sat with injury (good, he’s been hurt all year, please just rest), and the top two running backs went down. All of that in addition to already apocalyptic and well documented attrition. LSU was certainly lucky to win, but they played with an unbelievable amount of heart and effort, that’s all you could ask.
The game started rough, with Florida driving down to the goal line with complete ease. In a first show of unbelievable fortitude, LSU stopped them at the one on downs. Backed up, LSU went three and out and punted.
Florida took it from midfield into the end zone pretty easily to make it 7-0. LSU answered with a gorgeous, 11-play touchdown drive on a Jaray Jenkins reception to make it 7-7. The teams traded punts before Kyle Trask threw a brutal pick-six to Eli Ricks. On their next possession, he threw another INT, this one a funhouse, pinball masterpiece, go watch it. LSU went 3 and out and Florida went down for a field goal to make it 14-10.
LSU punted again and Florida carved right down the field for a TD that made it 17-14. LSU was undaunted, and drove 75 yards for a Kayshon Boutte TD on a busted coverage. On the next possession with time low in the first half, Ray Thornton forced a fumble and LSU kicked a field goal, putting the halftime score at 24-17 LSU.
The second half started with a 17-play LSU drive that ended with a Tiger field goal. Florida followed by absolutely walking down the field for a touchdown. LSU punted it back, and Florida scored quickly again, erasing LSU’s lead and going ahead 31-27. At that point, it felt like LSU had run out of gas. LSU went three and out, and Florida had its chance to land the knockout punch. But from that point on, Florida scored only 3 points the rest of the game.
On that possession, LSU forced a three and out. They answered with a touchdown to freshman Tre Bradford after a 41 yard deep ball to Kayshon Boutte to make it 34-31. The teams traded a pair of punts each, for four consecutive total in the expanding fog. Florida went down to kick a game tying field goal with a couple minutes left. Then, LSU went three and out..............until Marco Wilson threw Kole Taylor’s shoe for an unsportsmanlike conduct call. They managed to scrap a few more yards and set up a whale of a field goal for Cade York. 57 yards, in the noir fog. He made it comfortably, probably without even seeing the goalposts. It wasn’t over, and Florida drove down, but missed a 51 yard kick as time expired. 37-34, LSU wins incredibly.
I’m not going to include much from the LSU defense. Did it play with heart and make some key stops? Yes, but it had many of the same problems it did all year, we learned nothing about it schematically or in terms of personnel. They were still limited to straight man to man and got burned for it and allowed a lot of big plays. And remember: fire Pelini. I will train my focus to the two quarterbacks, both of whom had interesting games.
The first third down of the game showed a recurring issue with Johnson’s first start, which was unbelievably gutsy and commendable. He wasn’t great but given what he was asked to do and did, I’m extremely impressed. Here, LSU is running a sprint rollout bench concept, which is similar to smash, bench is just a flat and a corner. The read here is the boundary corner, number 3. He breaks on the flat pretty quickly, so Johnson needs to move to Moore’s corner, which is open enough, and hit it. He really didn’t make the full process here.
I’m not super familiar with this concept for LSU, so I’m not totally sure what the read is. It looks to be the DB lined up over Boutte, he stays shallow which opens the window behind him. I’m kinda just guessing here though. Either way, Johnson knows number 2 is gonna try to get back on this, so he beautifully lofts it overhead for the TD, great adaptive placement by Johnson.
This is Max Johnson’s best play of the night. LSU is running flood to the field with a backside dig. To the field, Florida has two quarter defenders, one is poised to carry the vert and the other to cut off the sail. Johnson sees this, processes it all quickly, and works backside to hit the dig. This is really good processing, and the kind of stuff I find extremely encouraging. The alternative is that he was going to Boutte the whole time and was just looking off defenders, I don’t know, I don’t have access to his mind, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. In terms of raw processing, it was a bit of an outlier though, understandably given his circumstances as a true freshman.
Calling a double corner blitz out of single high is......something. I honestly suspect that there was either supposed to be another high safety or the boundary corner wasn’t supposed to come. Whichever bust happened, oops. Another bust touchdown* for Kayshon Boutte on a corner blitz. Good job to not panic against the blitz and recognize it.
*Touchdown against Bama went to Jontre Kirklin because Boutte pulled a Tyrann Mathieu in the 2011 SEC Championship
This is flat out impressive and he did this AGAIN in an eerily similar fashion later in the game. The concept is doubles, or 3 verticals, which LSU runs to death. LSU’s offensive line got baited (has been happening all year btw) into sliding/leaving the running back to the backside of the slide, opening them up to a potential...well, this. Normally, John Emery’s first read in the protection would be this backer, the highest danger rusher with the most direct path to Johsnon. Anyway, with a free rusher in his face, Max Johnson delivers a far hash dart to Jenkins, who stopped his route due to Marco Wilson maintaining deep leverage. It’s single high so he couldn’t afford to let Jenkins behind him, he also may have been pushed off, don’t know without the All-22. Balls of steel throw.
This one actually bothers me. LSU runs 4 verts from trips against what looks like Tampa 2, which ends with a linebacker trying to carry a receiver vertically. Johnson needs to pull the trigger and make this throw to the No. 3 receiver (Koy Moore). This was a great call, and a better quarterback makes the throw and completes it. Maybe he will become that.
This is a really, really nice ball on, but Boutte is the star on this. Corner blitz, so the safety has to pick up Boutte and Boutte just cooks him on the double move. Safety cannot bite on that though, there’s no help behind him. A better ball is a touchdown, but this was a really solid throw. I think Johnson started to panic against the blitz, but regains composure with that hero desperation pickup by Dare Rosenthal and lets it fly. Kayshon Boutte is really becoming an impressive receiver rather quickly.
Now, Kyle Trask we didn’t learn anything about, so this’ll be quick.
As I’ve said on Twitter all year, Kyle Trask is really best against static coverages that pan out like he expects pre-snap. His raw processing ability is extremely suspect, resulting in a ton of turnover worthy plays last year. He’s been better this year, but he still has a few hair brained plays a game and is pretty lucky to have as few interceptions as he does. This could be a big problem for him in the NFL, as coverages are far less static there than here. This is an example. Given LSU’s obsession with straight man to man, Trask assumes Pick Ricks is going to carry the inside guy vertically and open the slant window. Wrong answer. A lot of sketchy reads from Trask in this one, despite a generally prolific day against an extraordinarily limited defense, in scheme and personnel. I mean, they were missing two starting corners. Trask put up a big yard total against a skeleton defense, but was overall shockingly inefficient, posting 0 Expected Points Added per play.
If he’s such a bad processor Max, how is he good?
Easy, he is generally more than fine if the coverage plays out as he expects, and he is a fantastic thrower. He is beyond accurate and has a pretty underrated arm. The processing issues he has are really more likely to flare up sparsely in college and explode in the NFL (see Jameis Winston, Drew Lock). This is an absolute dime. It is also a consequence of LSU’s dependance on straight man to man and their bizarre affinity for playing their safeties too damn shallow. There were a lot of throws like this the other night though, hence the infinity yards he put up. They just failed to turn it all into the sufficient points.