That game, aside from the LSU defense, was a whole lot of awful. Power 5 sickos game of the week besides Kansas-Texas. Yuck.
The game started with LSU pathetically going 3 and out, what else is new. Arkansas returned the punt to midfield and got into field goal range to go up 3-0 early. LSU then went on a strange 10 play drive that only went 34 yards that ended in a punt. Arkansas was then shut down and punted it back.
Then, Ed Orgeron put Garrett Nussmeier in the game. They started in Arkansas territory, so it didn’t take much to get into field goal range, where they tied the game at 3. Arkansas got stuffed deep in their own territory and punted. LSU took over in Arkansas territory again and scored a hero ball TD on a great Garrett Nussmeier play. The teams then punted over and over and over and over until the half ended, minus an LSU fumble after a good drive in the middle of all that. In totality, 9 straight scoreless possessions.
Arkansas got into LSU territory to start the second half but they turned it over on downs. LSU responded with a decent drive ending in a cowardly field goal attempt from 55 on 4th and 5 that missed, a far bigger risk than just going for it. Arkansas punished Orgeron with a touchdown on a busted coverage. LSU followed with a bad Nussmeier INT and Arkansas answered by taking a 13-10 lead on a field goal. LSU drove and kicked a field goal to tie it back, to their credit. Daronte Jones forced an Arkansas punt. LSU drove into Arkansas territory but failed on a well decided 4th and 3. They forced another Arkansas punt and had a chance to win the game. They drove out toward midfield but took a false start on 4th and 1 and had to punt to go to overtime, the issues on 4th downs continue. On the first possession of overtime, Garrett Nussmeier ripped a seam ball to put LSU in position but then threw a bad INT in the end zone. Arkansas set up a field goal and ended it, 16-13.
Let’s start this with a brief breakdown of a few Garrett Nussmeier plays. Before I do that, I must establish that we didn’t actually learn anything about Garrett Nussmeier; he isn’t “bad” because he struggled against a decent defense in one of the very worst the worst systems in the country missing several people from an already horrible OL room, okay? He isn’t good because he made a couple really nice throws. He’s talented, but we learned nothing.
Let’s start with a good one. Arkansas brings a zero blitz and he does a good job fading away from it and taking the tight 1v1 fade ball. It’s a decent throw that’s sorta away from the defender’s leverage. You wanna see a blue chip receiver catch this.
Here’s a bad one. LSU made an effort to get him out of the pocket on play action to make his life a bit easier, not really enough of one since it’s just not a big part of the system. They really only have like, two concepts they do out of this so it’s not enough to make a real difference in the end.
It’s a smash concept with a flat route (for some reason, the hitch is basically already in the flat) with a crosser from the backside. The read here is the corner, and whether or not he falls off with the corner route or stays shallow. He falls off but Nussmeier forces it anyway despite the open hitch. This is a really easy read on the move but he was throwing that corner even if Tiger Stadium collapsed onto the field.
This is pretty yucky. You gotta see that the safety is sorta squatting on this and move to Bech in the other seam. He bends his route under his safety and is wide open. The way a lot of teams, particularly the Heupel-style offenses, are running 4 verts now, in an age of quarters, is off play action to suck the linebackers up into the fit. The goal isn’t really to pop a guy vertically up the seam or hit a go ball on the sideline anymore, it’s to hit those benders for 15-20. LSU runs it on straight drop and while Bech is open on his bender, it’s easier for the linebackers to get the requisite depth to squeeze the window while the safeties cap the verts.
Once things slow down for Nussmeier he is really going to be a deadly playmaker in the scramble drill. He is a fantastic athlete, effective at evading free rushers, and has an absolute rocket. An Aaron Rodgers-esque play.
Once again, Daronte Jones gave the opponent hell with his 0 blitz packages. The double GUM front (Double mug but with LBs in the B gaps instead of the A) forces Arkansas into “5-0” protection (just block the dude in front of you for a bit of an oversimplification), which leaves Ojulari free off the edge. Only place to go with the ball here against an off corner is that slant short of the sticks. Lining up in empty on passing downs against LSU right now is just suicide.
For the second week in a row, LSU used their bear front to stifle the opponent’s run game. Arkansas is a zone heavy run game in an offense that really leans on it. The overhang defender widens hard and sets the edge, forcing the run back into the clogged up interior gaps. This kept Arkansas behind the sticks all night and in a situation where you can tee off on them with your passing down pressure packages and force a physically talented, but technically lacking QB into unfavorable spots.
The weakness of bringing as much pressure as LSU has is that it puts pressure on your corners. To their credit, a ragtag group of backups has really shown out. Darren Evans locks down his guy vertically. I’d have taken more shots like this than Arkansas did, particularly to Treylon Burks, but they were largely unsuccessful when they tried anyway.
When Nussmeier first came into the game, LSU did a decent job of scheming some things up for him on boot action. The problem is it’s just not really part of their system and they have very very few concepts off of it. So while it was nice to see, it ultimately didn’t make a huge difference because they just don’t have enough of it. This sail concept with a slice route to Bech and a backside crosser is a nice concept, especially when hit with a nickel pressure like this, but it’s just not enough of the playbook to build anything significant with it.
Most of the offense sorta looked like this. Spread out, drop back concepts dependent on people winning 1 v 1s. Few switched releases and rubs, few double moves, few real man coverage beating concepts. Barry Odom called a defense that is not at all characteristic of what he likes to do. He manned up his DBs, played cover 1, and brought pressure to speed up the young QBs clock. If you don’t have great receivers to win these 1 v 1s, a game plan like this will sink you. Here are a couple of examples of them calling concepts that get stifled by tight man coverage unless you have three Kayshon Boutte’s out there.
This is just so much of what this offense has been all year. There’s just nowhere to go with the ball most of the time as a result. It’s a near impossible situation to operate in as a QB. Awfully, awfully schemed. Barry Odom does not normally do things like this, he’s usually dropping 8 and playing soft zone the whole game, but when you know how to stop someone you should just do it.