Confusion Up Front
Right guard Will Blackwell’s path to full health took a step in the right direction on Saturday when the junior took snaps from the second quarter forward.
For the LSU offensive line, it was one of the lone bright spots.
The mistakes were many. Both Joseph Barksdale and Chris Faulk were tagged with false start penalties in the second quarter, and center P.J. Lonergan botched a shotgun snap to Jefferson not once but twice.
Despite the fact that – per the normal routine – LSU piped in the Razorbacks band at practice in hopes of simulating the War Memorial Stadium environment, the players still seemed surprised with the effects of the crowd.
“Some of the times we weren’t prepared for it to be too loud,” said offensive guard Josh Dworaczyk. “We were here in previous seasons and it hasn’t been that loud. The crowd played a bit of a role as far as bad snaps. You think you hear something or whatever, or the defensive lineman calling ‘set, hut’ and calling the cadence.”
Miles agreed, but the blame was more direct.
“That was a cadence issue,” he said. “Really, the quarterback needs to communicate to that offense a little bit better.”
The final misstep, a 2nd and goal snap from Lonergan that soared over Jefferson’s head, proved the most costly. Eight yards away from a score with just minutes to play, the Tigers were backed up 19 yards, lost time off the clock, burned a timeout and were forced into the field goal by Josh Jasper.
“We practiced the whole week with different snap counts, and there is no reason for us to mess it up in the game,” said wide receiver Terrance Toliver. “That’s what happened (Saturday).”
More Jefferson, Less Ridley
Bad snaps and false starts weren’t the offensive line’s only concern.
After running back Stevan Ridley went off to the tune of two touchdowns and 65 yards on 11 carries in the first half, he was given just six touches in the second half – which turned in to only 10 yards. He also led the team in receptions with four, three of which came in the first half.
“I think Ridley ran hard,” Miles said. “I would have liked to see him with the ball a couple of more times.”
On an afternoon where Jefferson was 16-of-27 passing for 184 yards and no touchdowns, the junior was sacked four times and carried the ball 14 times for a net of 34 yards.
“The majority of my carries were scrambles off of passes,” Jefferson said. “I didn’t have that many designed runs going into this game.”
Dworaczyk said of the defensive pressure: “There were some times throughout the night that the offensive line could have protected him better and kept him clean.”
With the increased touches from constant scrambling, the passing game suffered. Outside of Ridley, no receiver grabbed more than three catches or went for over 41 yards.
“I didn’t think our offense was sharp,” Miles said. “I felt like we should have thrown it and caught it more efficiently. (Jefferson’s) a better quarterback than he played tonight.”
Trouble with the Turf
Fresh off a snub from the finalists list for the Lou Groza Award, senior Josh Jasper missed his first field goal attempt of the night.
According to Jasper, the War Memorial Stadium turf doesn’t match what he’s seen in the past – and trouble followed because of it.
“My spikes kept catching the turf,” he said. “I’m not used to this kind. Ours is a little different; it’s a little more padded down.”
Jasper said the first signs of trouble came in warmups. Each time he would go to make a kick, the spikes on the bottom of his right shoe would drag across the ground before he made contact with the ball. While Jasper said he doesn’t have to turn to that tactic often, the immediate fix involved cutting his cleats.
“I shaved it down before the game,” he said. “It’s just plastic, so we can shave it down really quick. Then I caught it again on that first field goal and shaved it down even more. Then it was fine for the rest of the day.”
Jasper went on to hit field goals of 46, 20 and 36 yards, and his five kickoffs averaged 62.8 yards a try. On the year Jasper has converted on 26-of-31 field goal attempts and 31-of-32 extra points.