Rabalais: One last deep dive into LSU’s 27-0 season-opening win over BYU
The good, the bad and the “forgetaboutit” from LSU’s 27-0 victory Saturday over BYU:
The good: LSU’s offense was overwhelming. The Tigers possessed the ball nearly 42 minutes (41:54), a stunning number and reminiscent of some of LSU’s take-the-air-out-of-the-ball wins in 2011 like Tennessee and Florida. Derrius Guice and his Tasmanian Devil running style was on full spin (if he was hurt he didn’t show it), and the running of backup Darrel Williams (6.1 yards per carry) was a nice bonus. Danny Etling’s passing (14 of 17 for 171 yards) was exceptionally on target, and LSU’s receivers didn’t drop a ball.
The bad: The Tigers’ red zone issues were disturbing. LSU’s four drives from late in the second quarter through the fourth ended in a missed field goal, two made 3-pointers and a turnover on downs when Williams got stuffed on fourth-and-goal at the 1. The Tigers’ easily could and should have scored in the 40s. Of LSU’s 10 penalties, eight were on offense: three holding calls, two illegal shifts, two false starts and a delay of game flag LSU argued was because the play clock was improperly set.
Forgetaboutit: Aside from the game’s first play, new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s wholesale shifts weren’t much in evidence. Neither was an exceptional amount of creativity. Other than, arguably, the efficiency of the passing game, this could have been LSU’s offense from years past. But LSU clearly figured out from watching BYU’s film that the Tigers could just run right over the outsized Cougars at will, which is precisely what they did. That they did it behind a thin and patched up offensive line was remarkable. Frankly, don’t expect much different in LSU’s home opener Saturday against Chattanooga, though do expect the efficiency to improve. The Tigers can and should save their bag of tricks for their Southeastern Conference opener Sept. 16 at Mississippi State.
The good: To keep him from ever leaving, LSU should have defensive coordinator Dave Aranda dipped in bronze and enshrined in its Andonie sports museum. In way’s big and small, Aranda’s defense produced one of the most breathtaking games in LSU program history, a bonafide 10-carat gem. En route to LSU’s first season-opening shutout since 2007, the Tigers held the Cougars to 97 total yards including -5 yards rushing, the fewest on the ground allowed by LSU in 35 years. And, most memorably, BYU didn’t run even run one of its meager 38 plays on the Tigers’ side of the 50. All this after losing seven starters from last season – though getting defensive end Christian LaCouture back after missing all of last season with a knee injury mitigates that a bit – and having three likely starters out including your best defender, Arden Key. Utterly remarkable.
The bad: It’s nitpicking, but LSU only turned BYU over once on the early Greedy Williams interception, though it did force a turnover on downs after an ill-advised fake punt by BYU’s Jonny Linehan. And that roughing the passer penalty on Greg Gilmore early in the third quarter could have sparked the Cougars to a momentum-turning drive. Other than that …
Forgetaboutit: Legendary BYU/Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon was on the field for the coin toss, but this wasn’t the kind of pass-happy machine BYU used to field on offense. As proved in their 20-6 win over FCS foe Portland State, the Cougars’ offense was rather limited. LSU’s real first test will come from Nick Fitzgerald and Mississippi State’s offense in two weeks. That said, in an age when offenses run amok in college football, this kind of suffocating defensive effort is practically historic.
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LSU’s special teams weren’t terribly special, just somewhat above average. That missed 34-yard field goal by Jack Gonsoulin was thrown into sharp relief, though he probably would have made it from five yards closer but was pushed back by a false start on Jakori Savage. Still, a kick you have to make.
Again, though, it’s nitpicking. Overall, LSU has a lot of reason to be overjoyed with how its season started. The Tigers didn’t leave the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with any alarming injuries like Florida State and Georgia suffered with their quarterbacks. LSU isn’t having to overcome the foundation-shaking shock that Texas A&M is facing after its collapse Sunday night at UCLA. And the team even overcame a bit of adversity after the game moved from Houston to New Orleans by Hurricane Harvey.
Unlike last year’s opening loss to Wisconsin in Green Bay, LSU came home with a confidence-building performance, a foundation for the bigger tests to come.