On this week's show: Decline of the Super Powers – Is Rome (and Byzantium) falling?
Recaps of Saints-Cowboys, Pats-Chiefs, Eagles-Niners and Packers-Bears
Studs of the Week
Quarter Season Locks
Harbaugh, Dennis Allen, coaching stuff
Backup QB ridiculousness – EJ Manuel benched for KYLE FREAKING ORTON
Stream the show by clicking the link below…or you can download the podcast. Let us know what you think by hitting us up on Twitter @tbob53 or @SethDunlap. And, look out for a new episode every Tuesday! Sit back and enjoy some subpar NFL conversation.
LSU won big in a game that could not have started worse in the eyes of many Tiger fans. Much of the drama that permeated the media all week was about who would start for LSU. Anthony Jennings ended up getting the nod, but Brandon Harris is the QB who won the night. LSU ended up winning by a final tally of 63-7, and here are some freshly baked HOT TAKES™ FROM T-BOB.
Brandon Harris should be the starter for LSU moving forward. If you want easy argument fodder let us take a look at the box score. Anthony Jennings led eight drives in which he threw two interceptions, fumbled once, punted twice and managed to score one touchdown. Brandon Harris led seven drives all of which resulted in touchdowns. Off the bat that is a forty-two point difference. Statistically Jennings was 2/5 for 11 yds and two interceptions. Brandon Harris finished 11/14 for 176 and 3 TDs with no interceptions. Clearly Harris earned the right to start. The question remains--does Coach Lea Miles agree? Speaking of people being upset about personnel decisions…
I am hesitant to write this for fear that it will be taken the wrong way, but I feel it needs to be said. I would caution disgruntled fans to keep their frustrations funneled towards the coaches rather than the players. Major Division I college coaches are grown men, who are paid handsomely to do their jobs. Dealing with tough questions and critiques comes with the territory. These players are kids age 18-23, who are not making any money and are trying their damnedest to be successful out there, and sometimes plays just don't go your way.
Put yourself in Anthony Jennings' shoes and just think about what it would be like to walk into class Monday. I am not saying you cannot criticize a player's on field performance, but my advice is to be mindful of who bears what responsibility. The player may have made a bad play on the field, but it is not his choice whether or not he remains in the game.
Now, back to Brandon Harris… While I believe Harris is your starter moving forward, I would caution people against setting expectations too high for this young man. Already this season I have witnessed LSU fans' hopes shoot up following successful outings against lesser opponents only to be jerked back down against more quality opponents. Brandon Harris is still a freshman, and this upcoming schedule is no joke.
Seven SEC match-ups in a row, including back to back road starts, against Auburn and Florida would be incredibly tough even for the most seasoned starting quarterbacks. So steel yourselves my friends, because there will be mistakes, however, there will also be flashes of brilliance.
Finally, running backs looked good, however, I'm not buying it until I see it for four quarters against a good team.
Do you feel as if we've been here before? I can't help but feel that just a couple weeks ago I was writing an article about how we don't quite know how good this LSU team really is and that we need to wait for SEC play to figure it out. Welp my friends… it seems as if we find ourselves back at square one for this Saturday's matchup against New Mexico State. The Aggies (of the New Mexican variety) are currently 2-2 coming off back to back losses against UTEP and in-state rival New Mexico. LSU will pay New Mexico State $975,000.00 to head to Tiger Stadium, which should tell you everything you need to know about how exciting this game should be. Bottom line, LSU will win Saturday. Once again, the Tigers are in a position where the biggest goal is to show improvement. The quarterback position imparticular is one that Tiger fans will be keep a close eye on. Will Anthony Jennings retain his starting spot or will Brandon Harris earn the opportunity to lead LSU through this upcoming SEC gauntlet? That is the question on all fans minds, however, we won't know the answer until next week. For now, let us look at some other issues plaguing this Purple & Gold team.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Running Game success hinges on the whole team top to bottom.
As much as it pains me to write this, the offensive line might be the biggest disappointment of the 2014 season up to this point. There is a TON of talent on this line, yet, it hasn't necessarily translated into on field success. That said, this offensive line has looked much different than the one we expected to see, before the season started…as far as the starting group is concerned. Due to Elliot Porter being suspended for the first two games, LSU has used 3 different lineups in 4 games. I am not sure this is the sole cause of the line's communication issues, but it certainly hasn't helped. Whether it is the shifting lineups or players simply not knowing their playbooks well enough, the bottom line is there have been too many missed assignments and preventable errors up front. This is part of the reason why the run game has been struggling so much, however, it is not the only reason.
Football is a team game and right now the entire offense shares responsibility for a struggling rushing attack. Right now opposing defenses are loading up the box against the Tigers and daring them to throw the ball. LSU, unfortunately, has not been able to consistently make teams respect the pass. Up to this point the Tigers have completed just 52 passes through four games. There are only ten other teams in college football that have completed less in the same amount of games. If I was a defensive coordinator looking at the Purple & Gold, it would almost seem too easy at this point. Load the box, man up the receivers, and go one high safety (or don't) then watch the Tigers run into the wall. While it is not impossible to run against a stacked box, it isn't ideal. I was a part of a couple of LSU teams where we were able to have success being one dimensional, but it is because we had a great defense. The running game reminds me of waves crashing against the rocks. The waves don't seem like they are doing much damage to the stone, but over time the rock starts to erode until eventually it becomes sand. Accelerate the process to a four quarter time frame and by the fourth quarter the offense should have the advantage, and runs that were only going for 1 or 2 yards in the first half are suddenly hitting for 5 or 6 by the end, regardless of how many people are in the box. The problem with this is that, if the team doesn't have a great defense to make up for the offense's low scoring, the opponent can score enough points to force the offense to abandon the run. For LSU this is a big problem, because they already struggle to throw the ball and it certainly doesn't become easier when the defense knows what to expect.
In summary, the offensive line needs to do a better job of cleaning up simple mistakes, the offense as a whole needs to show more balance, and the defense can't allow teams to jump out to early leads like Wisconsin and Mississippi State did.
GLASS HALF FULL: EMBRACE THE UNDERDOG STATUS!
Disclaimer: This is a message to fans written from a fan perspective. Nothing analytical in this part.
If you have read any of my previous work or listened to me on Double Coverage weekday mornings in 3WL 1350am or 3WL1350.com, you have heard me say LSU could win or lose any of the remaining games on this schedule. (Well, besides this one…but you get the point). I don't say this to be negative or a curmudgeon; rather it is my honest take on the situation. I'm not a smart man and I hope I am proven wrong and the Tigers go on a tear, but even if they don't, this season does not have to be viewed through a negative lens. Look at Alabama fans; they have become so accustomed to success they don't even take joy in it anymore. All the gumps have left is disappointment, when their beloved Tide don't perform as well as expected. If Bama's offense goes three and out, Lane Kiffin needs to be fired and the quarterbacks need to be expelled. Is this how you want to live?! Nay, say I. LSU fans should enjoy football for just that… football! Forget about bragging rights, forget about what the TV says, forget about playoffs and rankings and get back to what made LSU and Tiger Stadium so legendary in the first place…the passion of the fan base. This is a team filled with young, hardworking men, who have committed themselves fully to winning as many games as possible, and I will support them in this venture! They say forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest and how sweet will it taste when LSU beats one of these teams that they are supposed to lose to. Tiger Stadium should be a place where opponents fear to play every week not just when Alabama comes to town. There is almost more excitement to this season because of the unknown. This is not a year where everyone is expecting LSU to win every game; rather the outcomes are hidden in the murky ether of the future. When you watched Rocky IV, did you cheer for Ivan Drago or the scrappy Italian Stallion? So I say unto thee, embrace the underdog role, for this too shall pass. I will leave you with a quote from the ever resilient Samwise Gamgee:
Frodo: "I can't do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass.
A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.
Check out the inaugural episode of the WWL NFL Podcast with T-Bob Hebert and Seth Dunlap. Our goal? To take a league-wide view of the NFL. Plus, we just love talking football. Each week we'll cover the biggest games, storylines, and, of course, some Saints.
This week's topics:
Almost epic comeback by Peyton and the Broncos
Unfair overtime rules
Russell Wilson vs Andrew Luck
The surprising undefeated Eagles and Cardinals
Are we worried about the Saints
Will anyone dethrone the Seahawks in the NFC
Saints vs Cowboys; Cowboys not getting enough credit
We preview Eagles vs 49ers
Stream the show by clicking the link below…or you can download the podcast. Let us know what you think by hitting us up on Twitter @tbob53 or @SethDunlap. And, look out for a new episode every Tuesday! Sit back and enjoy some subpar NFL conversation.
A few days have passed now since the LSU/Mississippi State game, and the more I think about it the more my opinions pretty much remain unchanged.
The Bulldogs outplayed LSU in almost every facet of the game, and it is a credit to this Tiger team that they never gave up and forced the game to come down to a final hail mary play. However, the game was not that close and the box score reflects that fact.
LSU's rushing total more than tripled and the yards per carry average quadrupled. Most Tiger fans would describe this loss as disheartening, yet I disagree. I believe LSU lost to a team that overall was better, and I also believe Mississippi State has the ability to beat any team on their schedule, if for no other reason than their offensive and defensive lines. The Bulldogs will struggle trying to defend teams that are dominant throughout the air, however, it will be tough for anyone to run on them with senior DE Preston Smith wreaking havoc in their backfield.
So, take heart LSU fans, football season is a marathon not a sprint and the journey along the way is filled with emotional and physical peaks and valleys. This loss does not mean the end of LSU's season. From the beginning we have held firm that if this Tigers team manages to win ten games with all the question marks it had coming into the year, 2014 should be considered a resounding success. And, as I wrote right after the loss to the Bulldogs, in order to win ten you have to lose three.
LSU has Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas A&M left to play. While there is no argument that this is a daunting schedule, LSU has the ability to win five of these seven, however, they will have to improve immediately, otherwise they could be looking at a seven, eight, or nine win season.
It will be interesting to watch this team continue to develop and see how they respond to the adversity confronting them. If the Tigers lose a couple more games, the media will sour and negativity among the fan base will reign supreme.
I was a young player in a similar situation at one time and let me be the first to tell you it is extremely tough to deal with barrage after barrage of negative questions each time you face the cameras. However, it is how you respond to this negativity that will ultimately decide the direction of not only individual players, but this team as a whole. How will this year's LSU team respond? I'm not so sure, but if I was a betting man I'd put my money on the Purple & Gold.
What did we learn?
The early exits of Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson are starting to be felt in an extreme way. During the preseason we heard plenty of talk about how defensive coordinator John Chavis believed he had five or six young D-linemen ready to compete in the SEC. Yet, to this point, we have only seen three take significant snaps with the game on the line. Despite all the praise received by redshirt freshmen Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron received coming out of camp, neither saw the field in LSU's two most significant games, Wisconsin and Mississippi State.
Davon Godchaux has been a nice surprise and combines with Christian Lacatoure and Quentin Thomas to make up the whole of the Tiger defensive line rotation. For LSU fans it all must seem strikingly similar to last season in which Ferguson and Johnson played almost every snap and the rush defense struggled because of it. Playing defense is absolutely exhausting and without a rotation, a solid offensive line should be able to take advantage of this exhaustion by the fourth quarter. Bad news for LSU fans as the thin group may have gotten even thinner when Quentin Thomas hurt his left arm in the 4th quarter Saturday (oh yeah, his right arm is the one with the torn biceps... really bad luck).
While LSU will be fine against New Mexico, the Purple & Gold will NEED one or more of these young defensive linemen to step up and fill the gap (literally and figuratively), if they are to accomplish the goals they set at the beginning of this season.
The Quarterback Race is once again wide open
Brandon Harris came in with about three minutes to go in Saturday's contest and put on a show. The freshman QB went 6/9 and threw two touchdowns in order to mount a furious rally that saw the Tigers fall one "Hail Mary" short of pulling out one of the most improbable comebacks of all time. As impressive as his performance was, I would warn fans about making too much of it. Mississippi State was mentally checked out of the game at this point.
They must have thought the game was far out of reach, and although you should always strive to finish, sometimes when you are winning by a large enough margin you catch yourself going through the motions a bit. Combine that with a couple really dumb mistakes by the Bulldogs and you have a recipe for what occurred Saturday night.
Now, just because I don't want to OVERhype Harris doesn't mean I didn't come away mightily impressed by his performance. He looked wholly different from the QB, who saw the field for one series against Wisconsin, and seemed to be playing more loose and free. I especially loved the poise he showed while getting the Tigers into "Hail Mary" range. He made the plays that needed to be made and had the presence of mind to get everyone lined up and spike the ball in order to get off one last play. Excellent clock management from the freshman! Harris has in the least earned split reps during practice, and the New Mexico game offers the perfect opportunity to give both quarterbacks playing time heading into the rest of this intense SEC schedule. Currently, I still find myself unable say 100% that Harris should be LSU's starting QB. I am, however, willing to say he is trending in the right direction, while Anthony Jennings has taken a couple steps back.
Bottom line, Saturday against the Bulldogs was a bit of a wakeup call for many LSU fans and players alike. The SEC West is incredibly competitive with everyone but Arkansas ranked in the Top 25. LSU will continuously be tested post New Mexico, and I for one have no clue exactly where this team will end up. What I do know...if LSU wants to win 10 games or accomplish the goals they set for themselves, this team MUST play better on both sides of the lines. Quarterback play will be up and down throughout the year, but solid offensive line play can contribute a stabilizing factor that has been absent up to this point. Defensively, five of the next eight opponents are ranked in the top 40 nationally in rushing. Drastic improvements will need to be made on the D-line, if the Tigers are going to win some of these games. I still believe talent wise, if the mood is right, LSU can beat anyone on this schedule. The scary part is that I also believe they could lose to anyone on this schedule.
Mississippi State dominated LSU in every facet of the game. As LSU fans try to process this game, you may hear many say the Tigers lost because of all the mistakes they made. However, in my opinion, tonight's loss was less about LSU playing poorly and more about Mississippi State straight up dominating. Say all you want about the talent between the two sides, but what I saw tonight was a Bulldog team that flat out looked better than the side from Baton Rouge. This week I spoke a lot about how the law of averages (in regards to LSU's now defunct 14 game winning streak over MSU) would dictate that Mississippi would have to win one eventually. However, when I envisioned a Bulldog win, I thought there would be lucky breaks and terrible mistakes that would help MSU "luck" into a W. I could not have been more wrong. Miss St accomplished everything they wanted to, when they wanted to, and how they wanted to.
It all started up front for the Bulldogs; they were unstoppable in the trenches. If you thought the Tigers looked helpless at points during the game it's because they were. I know what it feels like to take the other team's will and crush it beneath your heel and that is what Mississippi State accomplished. After Dak Prescott's two third quarter touchdowns, you could see the Tigers' body language change as all hopes for a win were extinguished by big #15.
Dak Prescott was absolutely incredible tonight! If Tiger fans can't appreciate the performance #15 put on the field, it's because they are blinded by their own bias. Dak Prescott played like an All-American and (dare I say) Heisman quarterback. The way he responded to Danielle Hunter's defensive touchdown to start the second half was as impressive as anything I saw all night. When Hunter pulled the score to 17-10 Tiger stadium came alive! How easy it would have been to lay down and lose, yet Dak Prescott responded by leading his team on a six play 75 yard drive, that he capped off with a 56 yard touchdown run that'll be featured in highlight reels for years to come. LSU then went three and out and Dak Prescott let the Tigers know there would be no victory for LSU on this night as he threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to Jameon Lewis. Prescott was magnificent on the play as he extended it with his feet all the while keeping his eyes downfield.
If you didn't watch the game, Dak Prescott's final stat line will tell you all you need to know. Dak Prescott: 15/24 (62%) 268 yds 2 TDs 0 Ints 22 car 105 yds (4.8 avg) 1 TD
The LSU QB race is wide open once again. There is no doubt in my mind that you will hear many LSU fans say Brandon Harris should without a doubt be your starter heading into the New Mexico game. I don't agree. While Harris' stat line looks much prettier than Jennings, he racked up these numbers against a Miss St team that had mentally checked out as they thought the win was in the bag. This is not to say I don't think Harris deserves a shot. In fact, I would have had zero issue with him getting a chance earlier in the game. After what Harris was able to do with limited snaps tonight, I believe he deserves to at least get 50% of the starting reps during this practice week. Also, even if he doesn't start against New Mexico, he MUST get in the game earlier. The most efficient way for Harris to improve is to take as many game reps as possible.
In summary, I am not willing to write off Jennings after one bad game. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that Brandon Harris needs to see more series.
LSU fans, don't despair my friends. All is not lost. If you were one of the fans expecting a SEC/National championship this season, you have no one but yourself to blame for the disappointment you feel. From the beginning we have said if this team can get to ten wins, it would be a very successful season. Well, in order to win ten, you have to lose three. So dry your tears, my friends, for this football season is a marathon not a sprint!
The LSU Tigers are preparing to open up conference play when they meet head to head with the Mississippi State Bulldogs Saturday Night. This will be the 108th meeting between these two sides so there is an incredibly long history here. Unfortunately for Bulldog supporters this series has largely been DOMINATED by LSU. In the first 107 matchups LSU finds themselves with a comfortable 71-33-3 record. As impressive as this is for the series as a whole, LSU has been more dominant than ever in recent years. The last time a Mississippi State football team celebrated after facing a Tiger team was 1999. Just for some perspective, the Miss St players probably had intense discussions about the dangers of Y2K while drinking to their victory. Do the math and LSU has now won 14 in a row over the boys from Starkville. 14! To most this means the Bulldogs don't stand a chance against the Tigers, but personally I grow wary when I read numbers such as these. There is a definite talent gap between these two schools, but it is not a "14 in a row" talent gap. Ole Miss is 3-3 against the Tigers in their last six, yet Miss St has beaten the Rebels 4 out of the last 6 years. This puzzles me to no end. Maybe it is mental? Maybe it is luck? Who knows? What I know…14 in a row is starting to verge on a statistical anomaly and it worries me, because eventually all good things must come to an end. And if there was ever a year for the Bulldogs to upset the Tigers, it is 2014, as you have a historically young side from Baton Rouge going up against a veteran Maroon side led by Redshirt Junior Dak Prescott.
What to watch for:
Mississippi State's defense has been great thus far and will without a doubt be the toughest group of 11 that LSU's offense has faced this season. Currently the Bulldogs are first in the SEC and second in the nation in tackles for loss at 29. They have also forced 22 turnovers in the last 8 games including the end of last season. You can guarantee they'll look to add to that tally when they see a true sophomore quarterback starting just the 5th game of his young career. LSU's offensive line was supposed to be one of the main strengths of this team, yet to this point they have not lived up to expectations. They will have a chance to prove themselves against the Bulldogs, but first they must go through senior defensive end Preston Smith. Smith has been a three time SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week and has an insane stat line so far this season. He is tied for the national lead in blocked kicks with 2 and also has 2 interceptions (one of which was returned for a TD), 3 tackles for loss (2 sacks), and a forced fumble. This is in just 3 games! The line-backing corps is no slouch either and the man to watch--JR LB Bendardrick McKinney. McKinney leads the Bulldogs in tackles with 20 and is currently ranked 4th in the SEC with 5.0 tackles for loss. As you can see this will be no walk in the park for the Tiger offense, HOWEVER, this game represents the perfect opportunity for Anthony Jennings and company to show us how good they truly are.
LSU's defense has been putting up some ridiculous numbers lately. The Purple & Gold have not allowed a single point for 31 consecutive possessions. It has been 147 minutes or 9 straight quarters since a team managed to make the scoreboard move. Here is a sampling of the statistical dominance LSU compiled during this streak. The Tigers are first nationally in pass defense efficiency, with opposing quarterbacks completing just 40% of their passes with zero touchdowns and 4 interceptions. LSU leads the SEC in total yards allowed (205.7), pass defense (94.3), and scoring defense (8.3). LSU still has yet to allow a passing TD and have only given up three TDs on the year. On third down, opponents are converting on just 25% of their attempts! All of these stats are mind blowing, however. they haven't exactly been compiled against the best of competition. During the Wisconsin game (or the one good team LSU has played) the defense looked BAD for the first three quarters. This leaves many scratching their heads as to just how good this D really is. They will have a chance to prove themselves as Mississippi State is enjoying unprecedented success on the offensive side of the ball. Including the end of 2013, the Bulldogs have over 500 total yards of offense for four games in a row. This is the longest streak in school history. QB Dak Prescott has thrown for nine TDs and ran for another two this season in just three games. He currently leads all SEC QBs in career rushing TDs and rushing yards and has back to back 100+ yard rushing performances. LSU lost games last year when they could not stop the run, and junior RB Josh Robinson will look put the Tigers to the test once again. Robinson averages six yards per carry this year and was not allowed to talk to the media this week as he said, "I've got something for you" in reference to the boys from the boot.
This Tiger team is a solid, if inexperienced, squad. The thing that worries me about this game is that the Tiger's weaknesses match up with Mississippi State's strengths. LSU's pass defense is much better than their run defense, yet the Bulldogs want to keep it on the ground. LSU's rushing game on offense is much more consistent than their aerial attack, yet Mississippi State excels at stopping the run and is weaker on pass defense. LSU is favored to win by 10 points, and while I don't think they'll cover, I do believe the Purple & Gold will win if for no other reason than it will be Saturday night at Tiger Stadium. While the final count is up for debate, there is no doubt Saturday's crowd will be the largest to ever witness a game in "death valley," and I believe players will thrive off the energy of the crowd, while the noise generated in the stands will make it tough for the Bulldogs to operate offensively. Either way, it is put up or shut up for both of these teams as each side aims to find out just how good they really are.
*Programming note: Catch "Double Coverage" with T-Bob Hebert & Kristian Garic weekday mornings 6 to 9am on 3WL 1350am or 3WL1350.com.
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