1) Watch out college football. In week one, Tyrann Mathieu picked up right where he left off last season. With everything there is to be excited about on the defensive side of the ball for LSU, most of the offseason chatter was around the promise of Mathieu. On Saturday he delivered, recording a team-high 10 tackles, one forced fumble, two pass breakups and a tackle for a loss. After he was in on the first special teams tackle of the game, Mathieu later scored the first touchdown of the game - stripping Oregon punt returner Kenyon Barner before a scoop-and-score from three yards out. Deservedly so, SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors followed.
2) Of course, it wasn’t just Mathieu. The secondary was billed as the strength of the defense, and on Saturday they flexed their muscles. There was Mathieu’s double-digit tackles and pair of pass breakups, and Tharold Simon – who stepped in as the No. 2 cornerback and allowed Mathieu to remain in his nickel back role – added eight tackles (six solo), three pass breakups, a tackle for a loss and an interception. Brandon Taylor appeared fully recovered from injury, and the safety rotation of Taylor, Eric Reid and Craig Loston combined for 15 tackles, and Reid recovered a fumble. On special teams, Loston forced a fumble and cornerback Ron Brooks recovered it. It was production defined. This group will help defensive coordinator John Chavis rest easy at night.
3) It’s tough to snap your fingers and fix depth concerns, but the emergence of Bennie Logan as a starting defensive tackle at least gets defensive line coach Brick Haley moving in the right direction. The sophomore played in just three games last fall, and all five of Logan’s career tackles game against Louisiana-Monroe. This offseason he was pushed to the conversation backburner in favor of Michael Brockers, Josh Downs and Anthony Johnson, but that will change moving forward. Logan, who played in all four quarters, finished with four tackles and was the only lineman to break up a pass. Last week, Brockers told reporters that if Logan played like he practiced, then he would “be great.” This weekend, Logan was in practice mode – which gives LSU another much-needed option inside.
4) For a team that pushed Auburn to the edge in last year’s National Championship game, the Oregon offense has a long way to go if they want to end up in New Orleans for the same game this year. Remember, this is the same Chip Kelly offense that set Oregon’s school rushing yard record in 2010 (3,721 yards) - when star running back LaMichael James was the nation’s leading rusher. 54 rushing yards from James, 12 rushing yards from dual-threat quarterback Darron Thomas and just 13 points through three quarters wasn’t the start Kelly had in mind for 2011. If coordinators want to know how to slow the Ducks, dial Baton Rouge.
5) If Les Miles had a doghouse, most LSU fans would have bet their bottom dollar that he was dead set on keeping sophomore running back Michael Ford locked up inside. Those complaints likely died this weekend. First-year offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa promised that if one of his backs got hot, he would continue to feed him the football. This weekend Ford heated up to the tune of 6.9 yards per carry, and Studrawa kept the reps coming. By game’s end, Ford and starter Spencer Ware had combined for 195 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries. Compared to recent years, that’s a lot of touches for a pair of LSU running backs. But Studrawa’s run-run-pass approach got the job done, and it proved LSU has a 1-2 punch – with lightning in Ford and thunder in Ware.
6) Speaking of running backs, kudos to walk-on fullback James Stampley. After going back-and-forth with converted defensive tackle J.C. Copeland at the end of last season, Stampley stepped up in the opener with a handful of devastating lead blocks – which went a long way towards the 195 yards that Ware and Ford racked up. This is an offense that will need to run the ball in late game situations, and Stampley looked like he was getting stronger as the game went deeper into the night.
7) While we are on the run game, how about that offensive line? With starting left guard Josh Dworaczyk injured and done for the year, senior T-Bob Hebert stepped in and didn’t miss a beat – leaving freshman La’el Collins sidelined after being talked up by Miles during camp. The brightest spot: sophomore Chris Faulk, who looked like a seasoned veteran in his first start at left tackle. There were plenty of reasons the Tigers one this one, but the performance from the big men up front is near the top.
8) Get DeAngelo Peterson more involved. That was the call from armchair offensive coordinators the past two seasons. On Saturday, the peanut gallery was satisfied. Peterson was targeted from start to finish, and he pulled in a team-high four catches for 62 yards – highlighted by a perfectly executed play-action pass and catch from Jarrett Lee that went for 29 yards and set up an LSU touchdown.
9) Lee’s best pass was to Peterson, but there were other promising moments for the fifth-year senior – even if his stat line of 10-for-22 and 98 yards didn’t scream production. The game plan asked Lee to be serviceable, and he was just that. His receivers also left a few plays out there, and a big pass-and-catch from Lee to freshman Odell Beckham was called off. Had some of those gone the other way, Lee could have not only gone over 100 yards, but arguably 200 yards. Things could have been worse given LSU lost their starting quarterback at the dawn of fall camp, but Lee eased those worries – at least for the meantime.
10) With a bad offense, special teams won LSU games in 2010. LSU’s offense might be in a better place now, but the special teams unit isn’t letting up from their relentless approach. Newcomer Drew Alleman nailed a pair of field goals, and Brad Wing showed a strong leg in his first start at punter. Of course, the big plays came when the special teams coverage unit forced two fumbles and recovered both loose balls, including Mathieu’s all-in-one play early in the second quarter that resulted in the game’s first touchdown.