Okay so the fears of a Troy repeat have been averted. Good, of course. They were probably never well founded since that Troy team was actually quite good and CMU is quite... not that way, but still, it felt similar leading in. The big difference between this week and last wasn’t opponent (in fact, CMU is a better opponent than McNeese), it wasn’t even mostly scheme (despite better RPO deployment and a conscious effort to throw vertically), it was execution. They didn’t necessarily beef up their protections, they just protected better. Max Johnson was far, far more decisive and aggressive with the football once kept clean and that yielded solid results, despite some uneven moments. The biggest takeaway of the night, of course, was the emergence of star young receivers Deion Smith and Jack Bech, who could form a dominant trio with Kayshon Boutte going forward and into next season.
Like last week, the game recap will be far more general, since this was a cupcake game where the result was never in doubt. LSU started scalding hot, with a TD drive followed by a scoop n score. The rest of the game would go very similarly, replete with big plays from Deion Smith and Jack Bech, and nothing from Central’s offense. LSU mostly pelted them with touchdowns until the first half was over. At the beginning of the second half, Max Johnson threw a sketchy pick 6 before being lifted for Nussmeier, but the game was long over at that point. From there, nothing else really happened besides Corey Kiner clowning some sad CMU backups.
Like I said earlier, the schemes and play calling didn’t really change all that much, but they did change a little bit. The protection philosophy didn’t change a ton, despite a few glimmers of heavier protections (much more please, 7 man protections with or without check releases should be the norm on earlier downs, not an exception), but they were far more aggressive dialing shots up downfield on the whole anyway. The line was holding up and Johnson was pulling the trigger, so Jake Peetz and DJ Mangas displayed a bit more trust in their offense to let it rip down the field and generate explosive plays. Unless they’re willing to beef up the protections and use more play action, I have trouble thinking this will carry over to the tough opponents, but regardless, it was cool to see them take shots and generate explosive plays, very cool to see the line look halfway competent, and of course incredibly cool to see the receivers emerge.
The first snap of the game is a window into what I would like the LSU offense to look a lot more like. You have play action, a 7 man protection (with a chip release by Bech and a check release by Davis-Price). The concept is a cover 3 beater, the X receiver to the boundary runs a deep comeback (? I think it’s supposed to be, he may be reacting to the ball here, need the All 22 for this one), and the slot runs a deep over behind it. The read on these types of concepts (if it’s actually that) is the boundary corner, the deep third player. If he stays low on the comeback, you throw the deep over, if continues to zone off deep to the over, throw the comeback under him. Johnson just locks onto Boutte and makes a bad read. Good concept, bad read.
Thanks to the broadcast and LSU’s tempo, I can kill two birds with one gif here. First off, the RPO in the previous play. LSU was running this all night, I’ll have to see it run more and thrown to different options over the year to see what the exact pre snap keys are to determine which post snap key the QB is supposed to read (ie if it’s 2 high, read this defender, 1 high, read that one). But the read Johnson makes is simple, if strong hook collapses into the run fit, throw the stop route behind him, if he stays on the stop route, give the ball.
For the second play, it’s just a big boy throw on 4 verts. The boundary safety has to cap the middle read by the number two receiver, so the corner has no safety help and gets beat, Johnson makes the throw. How good is Deion Smith by the way?!
I’m starting to get a liiiiiittle concerned about the busts. Not like last year, because there were like 5 a game last year like this, but it’s still not great. LSU is playing cover 6 here, also known as quarter-quarter-half. So the field corner takes deep quarter, the field safety takes deep quarter, the boundary safety takes deep half, and the boundary corner plays the flat.
Major Burns had different ideas, I think he thought Stingley was taking deep quarter instead of the flat and looked to poach the front side of the concept
Once again on the heels of that stop RPO from earlier, LSU dials up 4 verts again and Johnson drops a BEAUTY to Brian Thomas Jr, who gets vertical separation on his guy despite him having a small cushion. This is a long throw, and shows that Johnson can indeed put some air and distance under it when he needs to, absolute bomb. Johnson made a handful of throws that showed you what a really good Max Johnson could possibly look like.
The INT was pretty bad process. He needs to anticipate here that the robber’s path will take him to Moore’s drag route and the over route behind it to Jenkins, which opens up. A better process has him making that determination and popping this to Jenkins at the top of his drop. Even that aside, as Jordan Rodgers pointed out on the broadcast, he needs to know that Moore is going to settle into space here instead of running into the curl/flat defender. This is what he’s taught to do I believe, Johnson just leads him and throws a pick 6. Pretty ugly play.
In brighter news, the X glance RPO appears to be back. The read, as it was in 19 and 20, is the boundary safety, if he rotates down into the fit like he does, you throw the glance post behind him. TD. This is a great answer for when teams are bringing that safety into the box in run support or to clog your underneath passing windows, punish them for bringing him down by putting him in conflict.