LSU defeated UL-Monroe 31-0 on Saturday, and let me be the first to tell you, thank God for SEC football. I have been having one of the worst cases of writer's block trying to write this article, and the reason is obvious. This was a boring game and honestly it was a boring couple of weeks.
After the multi-month long drought that is known as the offseason, LSU fans were chomping at the bit trying to see what this Tiger team was all about and although we have learned a bit in the first three weeks of the season, I still do not know how good I think this Tiger squad actually is. Needless to say, this weekend should change all of that as LSU gets read to square off against SEC West rival Mississippi St. Still, I am hesitant to take away from what the Tigers have accomplished thus far, because man, oh man, it has been impressive!
Saturday will be 1st time @LSUfball & Miss. State go into game BOTH undefeated this deep (3 games) into season since 1919.
Just How Good Is This Defense?
Although the last two games haven't been against the best opponents, LSU's defense has been DOMINANT in every sense of the word. Since the first possession of the second half against Wisconsin, LSU has not allowed an opponent to score a single point. That streak equals thirty-one consecutive possessions and 147 minutes and 24 seconds of game time. I don't care who you are playing, it is incredibly hard to stop them from at least kicking a field goal.
Currently the Tigers are number one in the country in pass defense efficiency. Through three games opposing quarterbacks are 33/82 (40%) with 0 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. LSU's defense currently leads the SEC in yards allowed per game (205.7) Pass defense (94.3 3rd nationally) and scoring defense (8.3 2nd nationally). LSU has only given up three touchdowns on the year all of which came on the ground.
Also, they are holding opponents to a measly 25% conversion rate on third down. STIFLING to say the least. The question now is, just how good is this defense really? The only good team LSU has played thus far was Wisconsin, and for three quarters of that game the level of play was sub par. Either way, I'm not sure if this is THE best defense in the SEC but I feel very confident in saying that this ONE OF THE best. The secondary looks to be on a mission to restore the DBU title to LSU. The linebackers are improving as is the D-line.
The biggest surprise thus far has been the emergence of Davon Godchaux. The true freshman defensive tackle cracked the starting lineup against UL Monroe. I cannot wait to get eyes on this guy against a higher level of competition this week.
The Tigers Want to Run the Ball
LSU rushed the ball 52 times against the Warhawks for a respectable 219 yards. This is good for a 4.2 average, which generally is what you are aiming for. However, I can't help but wonder if it is a bit on the low side considering the level of competition. The offensive line needs to learn to start faster. I love the way the big guys up front have been finishing games, but the beginning leaves a bit to be desired.
Against Wisconsin, it looked as if there were two separate groups of players if you watch film from the first quarter as compared to the fourth. Also, against UL Monroe it was only 10-0 at halftime with LSU punting on five of their eight first half possessions. In the second half LSU scored touchdowns on their first three possesions and put the game away.
It'll be interesting to see if the line comes out of the gates stronger now that C Eliot Porter will be back in the starting lineup. Also, keep an eye on Ethan Pocic. He may be backing up Porter, but I believe that Pocic is too good to keep off of the field. Although I am not exactly sure what his role will be, I expect Pocic to find playing time when he is healthy again.
LSU has looked solid up to this point in the season. They passed a huge hurdle in Wisconsin and now find themselves past their "incubation period." The young guns got great reps during the last two games and were allowed to make mistakes without it affecting the outcome of the game too much. Now that conference play is getting underway, the pressure, competition, and stakes are rising. I love what I have seen thus far and I believe LSU can handle it, but the real season begins now and we shall see what this team is TRULY made of.
LSU's defense has been dominant since the first drive of the 2nd half against Wisconsin. In fact, the Tigers have not given up a single point since Wisconsin made it 24-7. The 31-0 win over UL Monroe combined with the 56-0 blanking of Sam Houston State gives the Tigers back to back shutouts for the first time since 1941! To put that into perspective, the last time LSU accomplished this, Adolf Hitler had been named TIME Man of the Year just three years previous. I know Sam Houston and UL Monroe are not elite competition, but it is hard in the game of football to not even manage a single field goal. LSU only allowed the Warhawks 93 total yards… I love the way this defense is trending and cannot wait to see them square off against Dak Prescott and the Miss St Bulldogs next week.
LSU has made a bit of a habit of sending running backs to the NFL. Former teammates Alfred Blue, Spencer Ware, Stevan Ridley, Michael Ford, and Jeremy Hill all played this last Sunday for various teams around the league. This is one habit that the Tigers don't seem keen to break as this year's backfield may rival any group put together previously. Leonard Fournette, Kenny Hilliard, Terrence Magee, and Darrel Williams combined for 4 touchdowns and 219 yards on 51 carries against UL Monroe. Every back averaged at least 4 yards per carry (well, Magee was close) and watching them run gives you an idea of what a threat this much talent in one backfield can be.
When the defense is exhausted and gulping down air in the 4th quarter, LSU can plug in any one of these four backs and they will be fresh and ready to run thanks to the rotation established by Frank Wilson and Les Miles. Each player will have a game this year where they win the day statistically, in the end however, they are helping each other keep their bodies fresh while proving they can play on the next level. If I had to guess, I am starting to think that Leonard Fournette will end up with the most yards by season's end.
Tonight's performance from the Tigers wasn't perfect, but it also wasn't wholly unexpected. ULM was a team whose roster is almost entirely filled with returning starters. They were a group of veterans who weren't intimidated by the big stage and LSU learned this quickly as the two teams entered halftime with the Tigers leading by just ten. LSU has more talent but tonight was a lesson for these young Tigers that you cannot just show up and win. Focus and execution are the key to accomplishing your goals and for much of the night LSU was lacking in both.
I said before the game that I would be impressed if LSU came out of the gates as strong as last week so it came as no surprise when they struggled early. I am not any more or less worried for next week as I expect this team to be fired up for their first SEC game. That said, if LSU wants to beat Mississippi State they have to perform better on the offensive line. ULM tested this Tiger front five tonight and they big uglies must play better in order to win their conference opener.
The LSU Tigers are preparing to take on the UL-Monroe Warhawks for just the third time in school history. LSU comfortably won the first two by a combined score of 100-7. I think the Warhawks are solid this year, but this is another week where LSU will win the game; it is just the matter of how they win it that matters most.
Not unlike last week, fans' attention will be focused on these young players and seeing how they perform against lesser opponents. This is the second game of a four game homestand, and it is the final opportunity for this Tiger team to get game reps before SEC play opens against a much improved Mississippi State team next weekend. UL-Monroe enters this game at 2-0, having defeated Wake Forest week 1 and conference opponent Idaho week 2. The win over Wake Forest means that the Warhawks have now beaten a team from the power five conferences three years in a row (Arkansas and Wake Forest back to back years). This streak is tied for best in the nation for teams outside of the aforementioned power five.
ULM will be fired up and confident at the beginning of the game, and I am particularly interested to see the energy that LSU will start the game with. One thing that works in the Tigers favor is that because this team is so young, I expect the Purple and Gold to play hard and not overlook the Hawks. However, the mark of an inexperienced team is that they will look like world beaters one game, and then leave you scratching your head the next. So while I don't doubt the Tiger players' enthusiasm for this game, I will be impressed if they perform as well as they did against Sam Houston St.
Beating SEC teams is nothing new to UL-Monroe
First off, credit ULM for challenging themselves with their schedule. LSU will be the first of three SEC teams the Warhawks will square off against. After they play the Tigers, ULM will take on both Kentucky and Texas A&M at later dates. You may be tempted to chalk these up as three automatic losses, but ULM has defeated four different SEC teams in the past. Most recently they beat the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2012. They also took down Kentucky and Miss St in '94 and '95 respectively.
The most impressive win, in my opinion, came back in 2007, when ULM defeated Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide 21-14. This pushed Alabama to 6-6 and placed them in the Independence Bowl, which they almost turned down. This led to one of my favorite jokes of all time which is that the Tide didn't want to go to Shreveport, because they were scared to go through Monroe!
ULM wants to run the ball and RB Centarius Donald can do just that
Colombia, Louisiana native Centarius Donald has had quite the season thus far toting the rock for UL-Monroe. Against Wake Forest, Donald had 26 carries for 117 yards, and ran for critical first downs on eight different occasions. Against Idaho, Donald once again reached the 20 carry plateau as he ran for 111 yards and 3 touchdowns. His clutch running continued as well, as he scored the game-winning touchdown with just nine seconds left.
It is rare to see a running back consistently get twenty carries in today's game, and I credit Donald for being good enough to demand these opportunities from his team. After getting run over by Wisconsin in game number one, I am interested to see how LSU will handle Donald and company. That said, ULM's rushing attack is not on the same level as Wisconsin's and LSU should dominate. All Tiger fans continue to keep an eye on the young interior defensive linemen as they attempt to separate from one another and claim some of the precious playing time that is up for grabs.
How will the reps between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris be split?
LSU's dual quarterback debate rages on, as both players had good games last week against Sam Houston St. Jennings finished 7/13 for 188 yards and 3 TD while Harris was 4/5 for 62 yards and 1 TD. Both showed they are threats on the ground as well, with Jennings scampering for 43 yards on 8 attempts and Harris busting out a 46 yard touchdown sprint that left Tiger fans salivating.
In my opinion Anthony Jennings is still your starter. He has done nothing through these first two games to show me that he shouldn't be the one to take the first snap under center come Saturday. That said, Brandon Harris looked MUCH better in week 2 as opposed to the lone series he had against Wisconsin. While this is somewhat less impressive because of the extreme difference in competition, I saw enough from Harris to see why the QB race was so tight during camp. The UL-Monroe matchup represents a perfect opportunity to continue to get Brandon Harris reps without too much pressure on his shoulders. The same could be said for any of the young players trying to improve on this roster.
This week is a great chance to get out there, fly around, and make mistakes. In some of the more critical games, a simple missed assignment could mean the difference between a win or a loss, but in this matchup, LSU should be able to overcome all but the most egregious of errors. This allows the young'uns to learn from their mistakes without being punished too hard for making them in the first place.
LSU should win and win big. There is a reason the combined score of the first two games with ULM is 100-7. The Tigers are on a different talent plane than the Warhawks. I am still more interested to see who stakes their claim for more playing time and how focused the team appears to be in week number three. Another stellar performance from this group could go a long way towards building their confidence up heading into the SEC opener next weekend.
The game against Sam Houston St is almost hard to write about because there are so many positives, and yet you don't want to give too much weight to the performance because LSU basically did exactly what it was supposed to. That said, anyone who has watched LSU in the past has seen them play down to their opponents (Towson anyone?) so it was definitely a nice change of pace to see the Tigers start fast and finish strong. So what did we learn?
As the stats read right now; Every time Travin Dural touches the ball LSU should advance half the field & have a coin flip chance of scoring
Travin Dural Only Catches First Downs and Touchdowns
Travin Dural has had an absurdly strong start to his career. After sitting behind Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry last year, Dural has come bursting out the gate in 2014. Through the first two games this year, he has more receiving yards (291) than any receiver in school history. As if that wasn't impressive enough, just wait, because the numbers get even crazier.
Dural is AVERAGING 48.5 yards per catch this year. Let that marinate for a second. That is half of a football field every time he touches the ball.
Speaking of touches, Dural now has 13 receptions in his LSU career. Every single one of these catches has gone for either a first down or a touchdown. Speaking of touchdowns, he has 6 of them. This all means that as the stats read right now, every time Dural touches the ball the team should advance half the field and there is basically a coin-flip chance it will be a touchdown.
The Lines Played Exactly As They Needed To
The biggest difference between FBS and FCS teams always lies on the line of scrimmage. From just a purely physical standpoint, big school offensive and defensive linemen just tend to be bigger than their small school counterparts. This means that if your line is struggling in one of these cupcake games, you have a problem. LSU, however, dominated start to finish on both sides of the ball.
Offensively LSU ran the ball 58 times for 334 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Tigers averaged an impressive 5.8 yards per carry, and fans finally got their first taste of Leonard Fournette. Number seven led the team in rushing with 13 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown. After his TD, he struck a Heisman pose, which was polarizing to say the least. The only thing I will say about that is, yes, it was dumb, but can I be bothered to actually care one bit? Not at all. I don't understand the people who act personally offended by a touchdown celebration. Bottom line, it is insignificant.
Defensively LSU has not allowed an opponent to score in 19 straight posessions (goes back to first possession 2nd half of Wisconsin game). Sam Houston gained just 206 total yards and most impressively the Tigers held to Bearkats to just 1.4 yards per carry on 36 rushes. Danielle Hunter played well notching 7 tackles including 1.5 TFLs. Freshman DE Sione Teuhema only saw action in the 4th quarter, but I love to see a guy make plays with limited reps and that's exactly what Sione did. Teuhema busted out 4 tackles and 2 sacks all in the final 15. He might be a name to keep an eye on moving forward.
This VERY Young Team Seemed Focused Beyond Their Years
16 freshman have seen action during LSU's first two games. This is good enough for the highest total in the Les Miles era. I suppose that when you have two straight years of guys bolting for the League you tend to skew on the young side, but the impressive part is what these young guys have done on the field. In week 1 to come back from 17 down against a team like Wisconsin is EXTREMEMLY impressive. After that match, Sam Houston St definitely could have become a trap game.
While I never thought the Tigers would lose I was interested to see if they would play down to their opponent, and was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case. The offense put together 5 touchdown drives of 75 yards or more and the defense shut out the #3 ranked FCS offense and made it look easy while doing so. Another stat that bodes well for the future in Baton Rouge: through the first two games, sophomores and freshman have accounted for 9 out of the team's 11 touchdowns.
Overall solid game from LSU, and now it is time for the Purple & Gold to take a step up (even if its not a big step) in competition when they welcome in the UL Monroe Warhawks this Saturday. As of now I believe Jennings is your guy at QB, but I would like to continue to see Brandon Harris get reps. Until next time!
This schedule is perfectly suited to a young team like this. The Tigers were faced with an immediate test against Wisconsin, but they knew if they could make it out of that game with a W they could enter what I am calling an "incubation period." Sam Houston St was the first step, now you move onto the next level (the Mid Major Level) when you play the Warhawks, then it is time to enter the big leagues as LSU will play Miss St for their SEC debut. The other great part about this "incubation period" is that all the games are at home! This truly is some deviously clever (probably unintentional) scheduling that creates the perfect recipe for young guys to improve without being punished for their mistakes too hard.
The LSU Tigers are preparing to open up the newly expanded Tiger Stadium when they welcome in the Sam Houston State Bearkats into Death Valley Saturday night. Tiger Stadium has always been one of the premier gameday locations in college football. Over the years Death Valley has found itself at the top of many "best of" lists and has inspired memorable quotes from both friend and foe alike. Even the great Paul "Bear" Bryant once said, "Baton Rouge happens to be the worst place in the world for a visiting team. It's like being inside a drum."
My favorite quote, however, comes from Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com: "It has turned the knees of All-Americans to goo. It has caused coaches to lose their coaching minds. Dark. That combined with Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night is something loud, strange and holy. There is noise in stadiums everywhere from Eugene to Tuscaloosa. Only in Baton Rouge is there a living, breathing being lurking in its grand, old stadium."
The scary part for opponents is that all this praise and all these accolades come from before the stadium could fit over one hundred thousand people. The recent expansion increased capacity to 102,321 to be exact, which makes it the fifth largest college stadium in the country. The South End Zone expansion is around 320,000 square feet and includes sixty six premium suites, three thousand club seats, 1400 general public seats, and two 40' X 70' HD video screens that are sure to impress.
Sometimes when enough numbers are rattled off in quick succession they lose the ability to impress. As a frame of reference, when Tiger Stadium is full it will become the 5th largest city in the entire state of Louisiana and have more occupants than 50 of the 64 parishes in our fine state. Saturday night's game against the Bearkats will mark the 91st year in that beautiful cathedral of football, and barring some sort of miracle LSU should improve its' home record under Les Miles to 58-7. Bottom line, Sam Houston is not going to win this game so instead of a keys to victory segment, as would normally follow this intro, I want to give you some key players and/or situations to watch for.
Young guys, young guys, and yes… more young guys.
LSU has started at least one freshman in 12 straight games and 37 of their last 41. Thirteen players saw the first action of their career last Saturday against the Badgers including 8 freshmen. The trend of playing young guns is nothing new as in 2012 LSU played 15 true freshmen, 2013 saw 14, and 2014 has already seen 9 frosh on the field.
Obviously the quarterback situation is one fans will want to keep an eye on. Anthony Jennings now has two quality wins in his two career starts; however, the 1st half of last week's game left a lot to be desired. I believe that Jennings took a step forward in asserting himself as the starting QB, however Brandon Harris can still make a case for playing time. It would be reassuring to LSU fans to see Harris have some success and provide LSU with depth at that position if nothing else.
This game against Sam Houston St also marks the perfect opportunity for Leonard Fournette to gain some confidence, as last week's performance left much to be desired (I personally think it is WAAAAY to early judge Fournette). Bottom line, a game such as this one is the perfect opportunity for young players to get game reps with not quite as much pressure on their shoulders.
The offensive and defensive lines must play better
I love the way that LSU finished the game against Wisconsin. The 4th quarter was absolutely dominant but the beginning was worrisome to say the least. Offensively, this line is supposed to be this team's backbone, but last week's 47 rushes for 2.7 yards per attempt will not get it done in the SEC. No disrespect to Wisconin's D-line, but multiple SEC teams will be bringing stronger talent up front than the Badgers sported. Sam Houston St should not even come CLOSE to LSU as far as line play is concerned and the Tigers should look to dominate from the onset.
Defensively the story is both the same and different. The Tigers faced one of the best O-lines they will see all season in Wisconsin's lineup, but if this defense wants to return to their dominant ways they cannot get pushed around like they were in the first three quarters last week. It was entirely too easy for the Badgers O-line to climb to the 2nd level and get their hands on the linebackers. I look for young guys like Deondre Clark and Davon Godchaux to build off of the strong performances that turned in. The secondary for LSU looks loaded this year, the main question is can the front 7 keep pace?
LSU should dominate Sam Houston St. from start to finish. The first half should be the perfect opportunity for young starters to get valuable game reps while the 2nd half should be reserved for the 2nd team to get some in game action. These matchups with smaller schools are tough mentally because they are not always the easiest to get excited for, and players can become lax in their preparation. I want to see the Tigers play disciplined, penalty free football and take care of business early. I do think, however, that it shouldn't be as hard to get up for this game, since it's the home opener and first time in which over 100,000 fans will be filling the stands.
This is my first entry into my LSU post-game analysis series, and I haven't decided on an exact template yet. For now I shall be adopting a "what did we learn" sort of vibe and if you have any ideas on how to improve on this or a maybe a suggestion for a wholly different direction feel free to hit me up on Twitter. I have always heard that two minds are better than one and I imagine that the collective intelligence lurking here on the internet when combined with my own sub-par brain power should AT LEAST be equal to the aforementioned two minds. Without further ado, lets jump right in.
Its not how you start, its how you finish.
22-21. What do these numbers mean? This is LSU's record during the Les Miles era when trailing their opponents in the 4th qtr. This is absolutely absurd. This kind of stat has the Mad Hatter's prints all over it. It should not be possible to have a winning record in this situation. In fact, they are the only FBS school with a winning record under these parameters. While some would argue that this stat is perhaps not wholly positive (because it means that LSU is probably trailing in games they should be winning) I would like to take a more positive spin on the situation.
Although Coach Miles will be the main name mentioned when this stat is rattled off, I believe that there is a different coach who arguably deserves the lion's share of the credit. That is head strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffit. What I see when I read the 22-21 record is a validation of an entire workout regimen put together by Coach Moffit. Due to NCAA restrictions, college football is a bit odd because you will only be seeing your actual football coaches for a few months out of the year. There is one coach, however, that you spend each and every day with for the entirety of your time at the school and that is the head strength coach.
Told the lsu strength staff(coach Moffit), you gotta give me something harder if your gonna wake me up at 5:30 in the morning ..
Coach Moffit is my favorite coach I have ever played for because you could trust that if you did what he told you, to you were going to improve. As a player, you want to be able to trust a coach to put you in the best possible position to succeed, and I found this trust in Moffit. There is one common theme to Moffit's year round training program and that is the mantra "4th Quarter." It doesn't matter if you are running sprints, doing agility drills, or lifting weights - there is always a focus on making it tough at the end and forcing yourself to push through the pain while yelling about the 4th quarter.
We used to run sixteen 110-yard sprints on a regular basis, and wouldn't you know that sixteen happens to divide perfectly into four. We had an entire workout program during the spring titled "Fourth Quarter" that was specifically designed to push you to the limit both mentally and physically. It quite literally forced you to be perfect in order to pass. That is why whenever I see the LSU team raise their hands up with the number four flying high I know it is not an empty gesture, rather a statement to the other team that they better be ready because this is when the Tigers are at their strongest.
It is almost as if LSU starts the game as first-form Frieza before finally hitting final-form Frieza in the last fifteen minutes. I think this was on display Saturday in Houston as you saw an LSU team that looked COMPLETELY different than the one that started the game. The Tigers were suddenly dominating the trenches, just like Wisconsin had when the two teams came out of the gates. The balance of power shifted and the Badger players knew it as they looked tired and beaten down by the time Kenny Hilliard ran in the final score to put LSU up 28-24. While there is no doubt I would like to see LSU start faster and not dig themselves in a hole, it should reassure fans to know that they cheer for a team that can never be counted out.
How much do you think Brandon Harris plays moving forward? Are you more or less worried about the QBs than you were before the game? #LSU
Be patient with the young players.
I have seen many people rush judgement on the bevy of young players who were on the field Saturday. Twelve of the fifty players that saw action were making their college football debut including nine freshman. This means that over twenty percent of the players were brand new to this stage. This is good and bad. It is tough to establish consistency when playing this many young guys, but the game reps they are getting are invaluable and bode well for the future. The next few games shouldn't be nearly as tough, and I believe they are a golden opportunity for these young players to improve heading into the SEC grind.
There is no verdict yet on guys like Brandon Harris or Leonard Fournette. Our sample size is just too small. Same thing with the guys who played well such as Anthony Jennings, Trey Quinn, and Davon Godchaux. I love seeing them excel but we still need to see consistency before all the starting jobs work themselves out. That said, there is an extremely strong nucleus of talent on this team that should be interesting to watch grow throughout the season and the next couple years.
Bottom line? LSU must play better if they want to accomplish their goals.
While it was nice to get a win, there are a few stats that jump off of the box score because it is almost hard to believe that LSU won the game when you see them. LSU got out-rushed by Wisconsin 268 to 126. Also, Wisconsin averaged 6.9 yards per carry compared to a paltry 2.7 from the Tigers. It is basically football 101 that if this is the case you should almost always lose the game. Luckily for the Tigers the secondary was dominant enough to basically nullify anything resembling that of a passing attack from the Badgers - however, this will not always be the case. The other worrying part of LSU's game was the Tigers' passing attack. The second half looked much better and I LOVE the talent at WR, but the QBs must (and I expect will) be more efficient moving forward. Going 9/21 throwing the ball during a game in which you don't even average 3 yards per carry is not exactly a recipe for success.
Colby Delahoussaye is the under-appreciated hero of this team
Delahoussaye went a perfect two-for-two on the night, knocking both attempts he had through the uprights in the third quarter at a time in which a miss would probably mean the end of the game. There were not easy field goals either, as he conncected from thirty and forty seven yards out. Delahoussaye is now 15/16 in his career at LSU and the value of having a CONSISTENT kicker on the college level cannot be understated.
In sports radio we love to gloat when we are right, and sweep it under the rug when we are wrong, and as often as I am wrong, I would like to take a second and indulge in some self adoration. If you find such braggadocious behavior unbearable please ignore this part of the article. I wrote a piece last week about how it wouldn't be the team who came out the gates strong that would win the game rather the team that adjusted and adapted the best. Welp….NAIL ON THE HEAD I MUST BE SOME SORT OF SPORTS GENIUS JUST CALL ME ZORDON BECAUSE I AM DROPPIN KNOWLEDGE BOMBS ALL DAY
Happy LSU Gameday, Tigers fans! Tonight’s matchup is juicy enough to satiate even the most ravenous of college football fan. Two of the most dominant teams of the recent era will square off in a battle for geographical, conference, and schoolwide pride. The matchups remind me of an ancient battle where two dominant groups of people run into each other and decide to fight it out.
Wisconsin plays the role of invaders in this story as they appear on the horizon deep in southern territory - LSU quickly recognizes that these strangers are an impressive lot. They have the martial bearing of ones who are used to winning. Physically they resemble giants, but there is one group in particular that stands larger than the rest. These “offensive linemen” are said to be the key behind the Badgers' attack. The tension hangs thick in the air as the two sides stare one another down, each trying to asses the size of their enemy’s army.
LSU had enjoyed the most recent peacetime and found themselves with a healthy mixture of veterans from past campaigns and fresh-faced yet eager rookies. Wisconsin’s towering linemen prowled the front lines, yet there was one warrior who outshone even these hulking goliaths… his name was Melvin Gordon of the Doak Walker tribe. Even this far south, the soldiers from Baton Rouge know of Gordon’s exploits. He moved with a grace that was unexpected of one his size. His gait seemed to invoke a predator searching for its next victim. The Tiger Nation can take heart, however, for they too have a champion to bring to the field.
Leonard Fournette is the one the prophecies spoke of. All the Scriers agree that he is the one that shall lead LSU back to the Promised Land. To underestimate Fournette because of his youth would seem to be a grave mistake. The more cynical among us, however, may hold back from crowning the young RB before he has accomplished deeds in the field. The Sun slipped out of view as the two sides advanced towards on another. It is unclear as to who has the advantage yet there is one certain truth… Before the sun rises one team will stand victorious with blood on their jerseys and songs filling their hearts while the losing side limps home shamed and beaten!
Keys to LSU Victory
The Tigers offensive line MUST take advantage of the Badgers' inexperience in the front seven. Out of 11 starters from last season, only 3 three have returned and they are all part of the defensive backfield. LSU is 40-4 when they have at least one 'back break the century mark. LT La’el Collins is the most experienced and the anchor of the line with 25 starts (13 LG, 12 LT)
LSU's defense, the interior defensive linemen in particular, must stand up against the Wisconsin rushing attack. Over the past 3 seasons, Wisconsin is 3rd in the country for yards-per-carry with an average of 5.7, 4th in the country in rushing TDs with 121, and 7th in the country in overall rushing, averaging 251.1 yards per game. If you filter to only include teams from the power five conferences, only GA Tech and Oregon have higher yards per carry and more rushing TDs. Christian Lacatoure, Frank Herron, Greg Gilmore, Devon Godchaux, Quinten Thomas, and Mickey Johnson must step up
Keys to Wisconsin Victory
Run the ball, run the ball, and oh yeah… run the ball! Wisconsin is lucky to return 4 of 5 starters from an offensive line that helped set school records for total offense (480 yards per game), rushing yards (3,689) and yards per carry (6.62.) The four returning starters have combined for 75 total starts.
Wisconsin had six games last season in which the Badgers had multiple one hundred yard rushers - 3 games in which they had 3 different ones - and last year became the first team to have a pair of 1400 yard rushers. Additionally, the Badgers have featured 1,000 yard rushers in 19 out of the last 21 seasons, including 9 in a row - this is the longest active streak in the nation.
The secondary must make plays against the inexperienced QB/WRs from LSU. Both starting cornerbacks return along with their strong safety. Junior Darius Hillary started all 13 games last season, but sophomore Sojourn Shelton is the guy to watch out for. He had 12 starts as a true freshman and led the team with 4 interceptions, good enough for 3rd in the country among freshman. Junior safety Michael Caputo started 12 games and was 2nd on the team with 63 tackles.
The Streak is Once Again on the Line!
LSU has won 45 regular season games against non-conference opponents dating back to 2002. This is 1st in the country for active streaks and also an FBS record. Kansas State used to hold the record with 39 games in a row. Les Miles alone is 35-0 in these games.
Of course, Wisconsin has also been dominant in these games, and has won 35 in a row. This ranks 4th all time and 2nd to LSU as far as active streaks go. During LSU’s streak of 45, Wisconsin is 43-3.
Either way, one team’s streak is coming to an end. Who will it be?
It is finally LSU game week, which means that Tiger fans everywhere have entered a time-slow as they watch the final hours leading up to kick-off slowly crawl by. During these seventy minute hours, one might find his or herself more pensive than usual as they attempt to pass the time. It just so happened that one of my favorite ways to pass the time is listening to podcasts, and there is one that stands above the rest.
The podcast I speak of is Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. Hardcore History is a show that is hard to describe. Often, when trying to tell people about it, I don't do the show justice with my explanation, but I will try. Hardcore History is like listening to a book on tape about all the most fascinating things you can imagine before remembering that everything you just heard is actual proven history… that’s when you end up just plain shocked.
These are some of the most horrifyingly fascinating stories I have ever heard. The most recent Hardcore History has chronicled WWI and the insanity on display during that time. You need to drop what you are doing in order to go listen and marvel at what humans can accomplish, both moral and immoral. One of the main themes of WWI was the clashing of two different eras and the chaos created as a result. There are all kinds of new insane military technology at this time (early 20th century) and no one quite knows what will happen when the new tech is actually put into live combat.
What the military leaders seem to find time and time again was that theories didn’t always hold up on the actual battlefield, and the resulting loss of human life is astounding. Prussian General Helmuth Von Mulka The Elder (Whose son was in control of the German army at the outbreak of WWI) has a quote that the generals could have learned from - “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” This quote is appropriate as LSU prepares to have their own theories and plans put to the test come Saturday.
Obviously, I am in no way comparing a game as trivial as football to the rigors of a real life war. This quote is merely the inspiration behind this other thought about LSU.
Football is such an odd game because 99.9% of the time, it is simply not that much fun. Players and coaches essentially spend around 350 days working for 12 or 13 days of incredible emotion and competition. The reason you run twenty-six 110 yard sprints in 100+ degree weather is for the payoff that you experience on gameday. Schools have entire states full of millions of people who NEED their school to win. Because of the college football ranking system, just one or two losses can be enough to derail any hopes you have of accomplishing your goals. All these different factors add up to create some very high stakes that can bring you to the highest of emotional peaks or plunge you to the lowest of valleys.
The hundreds of hours practicing, watching film, and working out are funneled into just 60 minutes that could potentially decide the fate of your entire season. The first game of the season is one of the most intense if you have a quality opponent. That opening matchup is the one in which you will have the least amount of information on the opponent. There will be many new players, strategies, and sometimes coaches that were not at the program the previous year.
To counter that, you watch as much film as you can and attempt to predict what the opponent will do, and where you can take advantage of their weakness. The only problem is that sometimes these weaknesses may not be weaknesses at all, and suddenly the advantage you predicted you would have is gone and you find yourself on the defensive. Therefore, the ability to make and install changes quickly is one of the main keys to victory.
Whether or not LSU wins the game Saturday, it won't be because their initial plans succeed - instead it's about how they identify, comprehend, and counter adversity. There is a reason behind players coming off the sideline and, instead of watching the game, meeting with their coach while furiously scribbling on a white board. That is because they are trying to figure out exactly what the other team is doing and what adjustments need to be made.
There could be a call or a situation that you have drilled into your head for months, yet suddenly, something completely different is required of you in that same situation. One other interesting wrinkle to think about is the fact that this whole opening game experience is intensified if it is your first game ever starting. There is a big difference between getting it done on the practice field and being able to perform when the game is on the line. The speed at which players move and the quickness with which decisions are made increase on game day and when all these factors swirl together to become a cacophonous maelstrom of noise and violence some players wilt… yet some players thrive.
LSU head coach Les Miles figures to play four to six freshmen in Saturday’s game… how these young players respond could mean the difference between a win and a loss.
We have now been in Lewisburg, West Virginia for twenty days, and while I have had some good times along the way, that is far too long of a time to spend away from the city and the woman that I love. I find myself anxiously awaiting our return to New Orleans on Thursday.
Although I am approximately 48 hours away from touching down back in the best city in the country, everyone I am expressing my excitement to warns me of heat and humidity. At this point, I welcome the heat and humidity if only to awake me from this listless waking slumber that has consumed me wholly.
I miss the sights and sounds of the city. I miss Stein’s, I miss District Donuts, and I miss Crescent City Comics. I miss my bed and I miss my cat. Yes, my sweet, beautiful, obese feline companion. Also, when I left twenty days ago, I had to move all of my things into storage in preparation for my move to Mid-City, which means when I get back I will have to get straight to moving. Normally I would dread that, but I now welcome it with open arms and am giddy with excitement to explore a new part of the city. Until that moment, however, I will continue to talk football!
Saints guard Jared Weaver has continued to build steam, as he played well in the first game and will look to build upon that first performance this Friday when the Black and Gold welcome the Titans into the Superdome. Weaver’s story is one mixed with sadness and triumph, and is deserving of its own entry into this blog series which he should have sometime next week.
Suffice it to say that if the New Orleans native would make this team it would be a dream come true - but he will have his work cut out for him. The Saints are in the enviable position of almost having too many guys who can play. Even without their two Pro Bowl guards against one of the best defensive lines in the league, the offensive line did not give up a sack and averaged over five yards per carry.
This was due in large part to the performances of three of their bubble players, which includes Weaver, Senio Kelemete, and Marcel Jones. When you start to break down the numbers, there is maybe only one spot available between the three players, and perhaps not even that depending on how the Goodwin/Lelito situation plays out.
There are a few things I am excited about when it comes to Friday; the Saints will be playing at the Dome, and as a Tigers fan it will be great to see Zach Mettenberger return to South Louisiana. Mett’s first outing was solid as he led the Titans on a game-winning drive in a torrential downpour. Mett seems as if he is off to a good start, as the Titans have already cut former Ark QB Tyler Wilson and now just Charlie Whitehurst and Jake Locker remain. I expect Locker to start the season, but if he catches another big injury do not be surprised if Mettenberger is suddenly starting on Sundays. Until tomorrow my friends, be kind and rewind.
PS Can’t wait for episode number two of Hard Knocks tonight. Some Hard Knocks veterans I have talked to said that they think his is the most boring one yet however I have never actually watched the show before and I am thoroughly interested. Plus, after Week 1 of the preseason it seems as if Atlanta will once again be tha Saints biggest competition in the South. CHOOOO CHOOO that’s the sound of the week one hype train.
The Saints beat the St. Louis Rams 26-24 in a hard fought, back-and-forth game that saw the Rams miss a 59 yard field goal as time expired. There was plenty to be pleased with for members of the Who Dat Nation, not the least of which was the excellent depth displayed in the trenches on both sides of the line.
The Saints rushing woes were well documented last season, and while I would say that we should not read too much into just one pre-season game, that is no reason to completely dismiss the success that was had tonight. The offensive line had an excellent night as the team ran for 123 yards on 24 carries which is good for a 5.1 yards per carry average.
Also, the Saints did not allow a single sack against a team that was third in the NFL with 53.0 last year. This stellar showing from the big men up front is made even more impressive when you consider the fact that both Pro Bowl guards, Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans, sat out forcing Senio Kelemete, Jared Weaver, and Marcel Jones into additional reps.
Without the benefit of recording the game and watching the film it is hard to say exactly who played the best, but the box score speaks of an offensive line that was dominant and did not miss a beat, no matter who was in the lineup. The Saints were excellent at the point of attack and there were multiple times tonight where the O-line was not just winning with stalemates but rather by driving the guy lined up across from them two or three yards back. This was but a mere taste… a teaser if you will… it definitely has me excited to see the rest of the show!
- Tyrunn Walker DT Walker is from New Iberia and went to Tulsa, and once again it seems as if the Saints have an uncanny ability to find diamonds in the rough. Tyrunn has been a standout thus far in camp, and he translated that momentum into dominant in game success. Walker was tied for first on the team with 6 tackles 5 of which were solo including 1 sack and 3 tackles for loss… wow… great start for the Big Man from the Berry.
- Mark Ingram RB The former 1st round pick looked to pick up where he left off in 2013 and was running confidently and downhill. He displayed improved vision and perhaps most impressively ran over a few guys and broke a few tackles. In other words, he looked like the back that once won the Heisman trophy. His final stat line of 8 carries for 83 yards and a TD is a great start to his 2014 campaign and hopefully it will give him more confidence moving forward.