Saturday, LSU put together one of the least inspiring efforts I have seen in Tiger Stadium in a very long time. I'm not one to overreact on this site, whether good or bad, but I can honestly say that LSU's performance against Towson was total horse shit. I'm not sure I have ever been angrier and more disappointed after a victory than I was on Saturday. And that says a lot considering what happened a couple of years ago against Tennessee.
Look…I get it. The opponent was Towson. The players knew all they had to do was show up, and they would win. They probably treated the entire week like a bye week, and that's not really a bad thing to be honest. It also rained all day, and there was no atmosphere whatsoever. So when the game started, it was not that surprising that a maximum effort was not given. And when that's the case, you'll see missed tackles, penalties, fumbles, holes not open when they should, missed blocking assignments and communication problems. And that crap is frustrating as a fan because you want to see your team look sharp and build some momentum as they head towards the toughest stretch of the season. I'm quite sure the coaches share that frustration.
So while the flat performance is not a huge surprise, LSU's players took it to a whole new level. When Towson fought back, LSU backed away from the fight. Rather than make it very clear to Towson that their little uprising would not be tolerated in Tiger Stadium, LSU's players, especially their quarterback, moped around the field with piss poor body language and looked completely lost. LSU briefly turned a 17-9 lead into a 31-9 lead, but then promptly took their foot back off the gas pedal and let Towson put together two touchdown drives.
As a result of not having this game put away by halftime, LSU saw Zach Mettenberger get hit way more than he should in a game like this. Getting young players valuable reps? Forget about it. It also dictated that J.C. Copeland still play in this game well into the fourth quarter, where he got injured. He'll probably be out for quite some time; although, we have not heard anything official on that yet.
So after consecutive subpar performances, we're all wondering….is LSU simply not as good as we thought they were? Or are we just not seeing a focused effort due to the opponent?
We'd like to believe the latter even though the answer might be that it's a little of both. When the team was fired up to play Washington, we saw a dominating performane on both sides of the ball. Other than a few drops by the receivers, that game was almost flawless. Washington's win over eighth ranked Stanford on Thursday night further validates LSU's performance against them. So we've seen some evidence that the team can flip the switch.
However, I do believe LSU has some very real problems on the offensive line and the inexperience at quarterback is showing up in a big way. The combination of those two things is not real good and could very well cost LSU a football game sometime soon. The expectations for this team have not been relaxed, despite the fact that the team has lost Chris Faulk, Tyrann Mathieu, Tahj Jones, Alfred Blue and quite possibly J.C. Copeland for the season. Those losses matter, and they're certainly affecting the team. And that's not even counting freshman receiver Travin Dural, who had a real chance to be the deep threat that this team is obviously missing.
Here are some more things that I think:
- I'm not worried about the defense. Despite giving up gobs of rushing yards to Towson and letting them score 22 points, I still firmly believe this defense is elite and will "bring it" when needed.
- Assuming J.C. Copeland is out for a while, I think we could now see a bit more looks from the shotgun with one running back and three receivers. Mettenberger seems much more comfortable working out of the gun and Spencer Ware and Michael Ford are also comfortable running the ball out of those looks. I also would not be surprised to see some of Jeremy Hill at fullback. It has been a bit of a rite of passage for LSU running backs to log some time at fullbak before becoming a primary ball carrier. Guys like Ridley, Ware and Hilliard all did the same.
- On the same note, it was nice to see Russell Shepard make a big play running the football from the backfield. In the few opportunities he has had, he has looked pretty good operating from the backfield. I wouldn't mind seeing him get some more looks back there, but the LSU staff will have to get creative to ensure it's not an easy tipoff that he's about to get the ball when he's back there.
- Odell Beckham had a nice game with a pair of terrific touchdown catches and 128 yards. After struggling early in the season with some drops, it was nice to see him play well. His two touchdowns, along with his 30 yard punt return, were some of the few bright spots for LSU on the night.
- LSU shuffled the offensive line, putting Alex Hurst at left tackle and inserting true freshman Vadal Alexander at right tackle. The results weren't fantastic but nobody played all that great on the offensive line. My guess is that we'll see this alignment moving forward; although, I'm still not sure why La'El Collins doesn't get a shot at left tackle.
- LSU found the tight-ends down the seam a couple of times, one for 21 yards to Chase Clement and another to Nic Jacobs for 27 yards. Simple plays….but they'll give the defense someone else to worry about moving forward if LSU continues to utilize them.
- Zach Mettenberger was pretty bad on Saturday, despite an OK looking stat line (15 for 26 for 238 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs). He had a bad fumble and missed some open receivers. However, he did finish the game completing 11 of his last 15 passes, so there's your silver lining to his night.
- Lavar Edwards continues to impress in his senior season. With all of the hype given to Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, Edwards has been right there with them through the first five games. Combined, the three have logged 39 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. That's outstanding.