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Post Game Review: Mississippi State

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Stay of execution for the 2021 LSU Tigers

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

That was pretty big, whether it was pretty or not. It’s obvious that Ed Orgeron learned his hard lesson about playing press man against the air raid and allowed Daronte Jones to call what was ultimately an exactly correct game. It was frustrating at times allowing State their 4-5 yard completions, and the occasional ill positioned linebacker led to some windows in the intermediate middle, but all in all, this is what defending the air raid successfully looks like and they did it, I’m proud. Offensively, it’s still pretty clear that they can’t block a soul and I think the system is overall a bit disjointed. Jake Peetz is figuring this out a bit on the fly and while he is identifying and attempting to address some of the issues (much higher average depth of target this week, way more 7 man protections, yay!), it’s still been a bit of a grind (please use more play action to hold underneath defenders out of intermediate windows when you’re protecting with 7). Win is a win, back to Baton Rouge 3-1.

Recap

The game started off with a classic 2021 air raid drive, a few dink completions while eventually being tackled short of the line to gain on 3rd down. This time, Cordale Flott (hell of a game, king) jarred the ball free and Damone Clark returned it a long way into striking distance. LSU cashed in the turnover with a touchdown to Kayshon Boutte (just assume TDs are Boutte unless stated otherwise, at this point). Mississippi State punted after a feeble 18 yards which LSU answered with a similarly feeble punt after a drive of 13 yards. Will Rogers then got a bit impatient and forced a 7 ball which was undercut and picked by Cordale Flott. LSU failed to capitalize on it and punted, which MSU answered with a field goal to make it 7-3. Max Johnson then underthrew a sideline vertical ball which was picked off by star corner Emmanuel Forbes. Miss State couldn’t get anything though, and the two teams traded punts to end a feeble half of offensive football. LSU started the second half with thunder, cashing in on a 64 yard TD to Kayshon Boutte. Mississippi State then drove a little but missed a field goal. The teams traded punts, but LSU then struck on busted MSU coverage for a long TD to Trey Palmer. MSU answered with a TD of their own, which LSU answered with a TD to Kole Taylor. Miss State struck again to make it 28-17. LSU punted and gave up ANOTHER TD to Miss State, but it was too little too late, with a final 0f 28-25.

This is the big story of the game. A year ago, LSU insisted on playing their cover 1, tight man system from start to finish against the air raid and got excoriated for it. This year, they learned. The way to deal with the air raid is to rush 3, drop 8, and keep them inefficient. Great stuff.

The one thing from the defense that was underwhelming, which cost them a fair amount of headache, was their linebackers in coverage. Baskerville needs to drop into this over window here and takes one false step, taking him out of position. There were a lot of plays like this.

As for the QB, Max Johnson had an uneven performance, but continues to look far better than his disaster against UCLA. Here, he realizes he’s charged with accounting for the creeping safety if he comes on a blitz, he does, evades him, and hits Boutte for the TD. Much more composed, prepared, and aware than earlier in the season.

Max Johnson’s accuracy is generally functional, but it isn’t necessarily high end, and that prevents him from really adding a ton that isn’t gifted to him by a good scheme or a receiver generating a ton of separation. MSU is in cover 1 with a tight corner, the sideline vert should be a good read, but not if you underthrow it. Smith had only a step, but this is the kind of high end accuracy you have to have to be a great QB, he needs to put this over the top. It’s a great play by Emmanuel Forbes, who had a GREAT game before leaving with injury, but Johnson gives him the chance to make it when he didn’t have to.

I can talk about run schemes all I want, but the biggest reason they can’t run it is that they sorta just can’t block people. Sometimes it isn’t that complicated, Shanahan and Dellinger get worked.

It wasn’t just the run blocking that struggled. LSU continues to flounder in their pass protection assignments. Without knowing their specific calls and rules, it’s hard to tell who is wrong, but Mississippi State dials up a twist here, with Corey Kiner sticking to his man and Ed Ingram seeming to be protecting a gap. I’m not sure what their rules for twists are, so it’s hard to tell who is at fault, but the result is a free rusher and a sack.

This is kinda what I love to see from this offense. The concept is what I call Yankee Overs for the sake of clarity. It’s a normal yankee concept (Post, over combo) with another over route crossing to the backside. Mississippi State seems to be playing a 3 high shell, drop 8 modified version of Tampa 2, with the 2 deep half players, the deep middle runner, the two corners playing the flats, the 2 hook/curl defenders, and in addition, a low hole defender in the underneath middle as well. The middle runner just gets caught between the post and one of the over routes, touchdown.

My only problem with this is that it isn’t on play action. Without underneath routes, you need a play fake to suck the underneath defenders into the fit and hold them underneath the overs. If you’re in 7 man pro, you probably need to be running play action, certainly if you want to attack these areas of the field. Without the bust, they have this covered.

This one just kinda sucks really hard because Jake Peetz called something I really like and they blew the protection anyway. I’d rather have Kole Taylor in and leave him into protect than have Bech release underneath, but whatever. Play action, what looks like a spear type concept (pictured below). I love the concept, love the use of play action, and TDP just whiffs on his guy and Ingram leaves the slide for some reason, giving up the sack. Hate it.

Alex Byrne

This one Jake Peetz gets some real props for. Mississippi State played their quarters shell for much of the game and this is the only time LSU really attacked it. It’s a Counter-X Glance RPO. The boundary safety spins down in run support so Johnson pulls and throws the glance route to Boutte. He’s gonna win on that glance route every time if it’s one on one like this.