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Post-Game Review: Mississippi State

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I tried to warn you about Osirus Mitchell

So that happened. Pictured above is our collective reaction to the sudden reality shock the LSU program experienced. We all knew players and coaches were gone, we all knew there was an offseason destroying pandemic.

We didn’t know LSU would be brought down to Earth like the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. So, what happened? A lot of not pretty things. Let’s take a trip down recent, horrible memory lane.

RECAP

So early on, both offenses really struggled, with the first handful of series resulting in only a Miss State field goal. LSU got completely blanked offensively in the first quarter, with the line struggling to protect, and an obviously gun-shy Myles Brennan hesitating and panicking left and right.

Then, Jabril Cox decided to make himself an entrance, stepping in front of an underneath route and housing it for six. Next, Miss State answered with a TD on a great sideline vert to Tyrell Shavers; then LSU scored a touchdown on a freak prayer heave from a falling Myles Brennan to future All-American Arik Gilbert and Miss State responded with an infuriating 43- yard touchdown. The teams then traded punts before the half.

To start the third quarter, LSU found a bit of a rhythm in the pass and run game, but the drive stalled and the Tigers had to settle for a Cade York field goal. Mississippi State answered with a field goal of their own. LSU countered right back with a brief drive ending in a 37-yard bomb from Brennan to elite receiver Terrace Marshall. Miss State responded immediately, with a 75-yard touchdown on a wheel route by stud running back Kylin Hill. LSU then turned it over, with Brennan’s arm being hit during delivery and the ball floating directly to a defender. Mississippi State scored again on a corner route.

LSU, after a punt, got a gift in a leaping interception by Elias Ricks on a slightly underthrown ball by the otherwise surgical K.J. Costello. LSU then scored a TD on a one-handed grab by Terrace Marshall. Miss State promptly fumbled in a seeming attempt to hand LSU the game, but LSU couldn’t cash in and settled for a field goal to tie things. Miss State drove down for one of their own, but the LSU offense was done for the day, and scored no more points. After a punt, Miss State sealed it with another gorgeous touchdown from K.J. Costello.

FILM REVIEW

There’s A TON that went wrong on Saturday, this was unbelievably frustrating on both sides of the ball. The story was the defense, with LSU’s depleted, Stingley-less secondary (please never go near whatever thing caused that allergic reaction Derek, ever) getting absolutely torched by Mike Leach’s spectacular air raid. The air raid’s defining concept, mesh, and its many variants are perhaps the best man coverage beating schemes you can dial up. Seriously, if you are playing straight man-to-man, mesh will force you out of it unless you’re downright intransigent.

Enter Bo Pelini, who called a downright intransigent game. I won’t mince words here, he spent the entire game in tight man coverage, with his corners playing a ton of MEG (man anywhere he goes) technique. The thing about mesh is that the converging crossing routes create traffic that force defenders to alter their paths to follow their assignments when in straight man coverage.

So here is an example of mesh, the concept that KILLED Pelini’s defense. It is THE quintessential man coverage killer, especially if the corners are playing MEG technique, as they have to run with their men on crossing routes, which is an advantageous position for the receiver. It’s usually simple too: when the routes mesh, create a logjam to force them to alter their path, slowing them up. Ricks covered this one well initially, and honestly he wasn’t that bad overall, he wasn’t the problem on Saturday. The snag here? He decides to try to be a hero and gives up a touchdown as a result. Freshman mistake and a half.

Here’s another royal screw up. So Hill initially lines up as the number one receiver to the bottom, and Ricks’ responsibility in man coverage. Leach motions him, and immediately off the motion, sends him on a wheel route paired with their mesh/dig combo. So normally, you’d want Ricks to pass this off to someone on that side who would then assume the job of covering Hill. LSU, however, brought the house, so there was NOBODY there. This is a great way to punish somebody for a blitz, and Ricks was lost. He either needs to follow Hill here or somebody rushed when they shouldn’t have. Either way, this is a nice gain if it isn’t a TD, Ricks was in no position to cover this. Dave Aranda never travelled his corners, fixing their positions at their initial alignments, just FWIW.

These sideline fades are good man beaters too if your QB is really accurate/your receivers are good in contested situations. Oh boy...is K.J. Costello accurate or what? Just pinpoint on these deep sideline verts and fades all day, NFL stuff from Costello. I gotta tip my cap to him. What a performance, what a passer.

I gotta say, this one really grinds my gears. So Ricks (field corner here) and Flott (over the slot) are both playing straight man on their matchups. What’s SO FRUSTRATING about this is the fact that Flott is playing inside leverage with the safety help to his inside and no help to his outside. I think Flott is supposed to be playing outside leverage here on his guy, if this is the design, Pelini was asking for this exact concept. K.J. Costello is too accurate, if his guy has a step, he’ll hit him, and if you’re playing outside leverage in this spot, you’re handing him that step on a corner route. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a bracket on the slot or what. I mean, the safety collapses on the under and was lined up inside the slot, so he clearly wasn’t responsible for the outside. Screw this play man. What is this? My understanding of the detailed complexities of specific coverages is admittedly underwhelming, so if somebody wants to explain this to me I’m all ears, this could not have been the design right?

For good measure, here’s Jay Ward getting beat underneath on a shallow cross or under route by budding superstar Osirus Mitchell, who is 6’5 “ (lmao). See how hard it is to chase a guy on an under route like this? This is why you don’t play MEG against Mike Leach.

Here’s the thing, Myles Brennan is probably NFL Jared Goff. If he doesn’t have to think, he’s pretty good. You can see the reticence here that plagued him all game, but Brennan can throw the deep ball well.

Here is some of the hesitation and slow processing that really scared me. He needs to anticipate the safety’s positioning here. The MOF safety is flat footed, and he got blown by. Brennan needs to anticipate that his guy is gonna get behind him, and let this rip at the top of his drop. Very concerning all around from Brennan when he had to really process. It could get better with time, but still a red flag.

That’s what happened y’all, they’ll get better, but yikes.... that’s what happened.