Let’s start with the obvious: it’s just Central Michigan. You are supposed to beat MAC teams like a drum. You’re supposed to get out to a huge first quarter lead and then slowly kill clock for the bulk of the game.
You can say those things, and not be entirely wrong. But this was an LSU team that didn’t exactly blow the doors off of McNeese, which raised the levels of concern throughout Tiger Nation. LSU needed a game like this, if not only for their own confidence, but our own.
And you know what? Who is putting forth dominant performances in college football this year? #3 Oklahoma eked by with its second consecutive one-score win over a bad team. #5 Iowa struggled to put away Kent St. #6 Clemson needed a late score to beat Georgia Tech. #7 Texas A&M barely survived Colorado.
And those are some of the best teams in the nation. Heck, even Bama looked mortal, albeit against a pretty darn good Florida team. The point is, early season struggles seem par for the course this season, so it’s possible… POSSIBLE, mind you… that we’ve all been judging LSU a bit too harshly.
Regardless, it’s not like LSU didn’t make adjustments from those first weeks to this game. First and foremost, the offensive line seemed like a totally different unit. Max Johnson actually had time in the pocket, and given the chance to look at his options downfield, he took full advantage.
The first major change was to the receiving corps. Ed Orgeron went all in on youth, and gave a majority of reps to Jack Bech and Deion Smith behind Kayshon Boutte. They responded immediately, and it looked like a totally different offense in the first half.
Bech finished the game with 5 catches for 81 yards and a TD, while Smith went for 135 yards on 5 catches and 2 TD. Not to be completely overshadowed, this is still Boutte’s team, and he added yet another touchdown to his resume to go with his 6 catches and 44 yards.
The defense also put forth a massive effort. Derek Stingley forced a fumble on the Chippewas first drive, which Andre Anthony scooped up and ran into the end zone, staking LSU to an early 14-0 lead. The defense was flying to the football all game. They allowed just 159 yards in the first half, though 78 yards of it was on one busted coverage for a TD.
And that was the same old, same old. For all of the good, some of the old problems persisted. LSU did have that huge coverage bust which resulted in a touchdown. Max Johnson threw a pick six in the third quarter, but it’s hard to quibble with a guy who threw for 372 yards and 5 touchdowns on 26 of 35.
Really, the biggest problem which still existed is the lack of running game. Again, LSU abandoned the veterans and turned the ball over to the kids, in this case, Corey Kiner. Sure, he only finished with 74 yards rushing, and the team a mere 84 yards. But it was a small step forward.
As for the rest of the team, it was huge step forward. Sure, it was against a wildly outmatched foe, but isn’t it nice to know that there are teams which LSU can wildly outmatched? That was an open question even a week ago.
You might want to complain about the performance of the second team but honestly… who cares? This game was over at halftime, and both teams responded accordingly.
Tonight didn’t solve every problem which ailed the Tigers, but it could be the first step to doing just that. We will see when they start SEC play next week.