10 for the win

Shea Dixon looks at 10 positives from the win over Northwestern State.

1) Defensive end Sam Montgomery expressed some concern with the LSU defense after a 49-3 win over Northwestern State, stating that the Tigers would need more sacks going forward (LSU has recorded one sack in two games) if they were going to find success. That might be true, but there's no reason for the Tigers to hang heads after Saturday night's home opener. For the first time since Oct. 30, 1982, LSU held an opponent to negative rushing yards. That last happened against Ole Miss when the Rebels finished with -50 yards rushing on 31 attempts. Saturday night, LSU held the Demons to -4 rushing yards on 27 carries.

2) The defensive line and linebackers usually take the heavy lifting when the opposition turns to running in the trenches, but the current brand of LSU defensive backs aren't afraid to lend a hand.

After nearly shutting down the Oregon run game in the opener, the Tigers were back at it up front against NSU – and the defensive backs were there every step of the way.

Sophomore cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was in on the team's first sack of the season, and for the second game in a row, three (Mathieu, Mo Claiborne, Eric Reid) of the team's top four tacklers were defensive backs – and all three recorded at least one tackle for a loss.

3) One of the game's best – and perhaps season's best – individual efforts came from the defensive line courtesy of sophomore Michael Brockers.

In the second quarter, the NSU offense faced 3rd-and-11, and quarterback Brad Henderson went for the screen pass.

A rare moment for any 6-foot-6, 310-pounder, Brockers recognized the screen, leaped, went completely horizontal and snagged the interception with one hand – his left hand, at that.

"It's one of those plays you will remember for quite some time," LSU coach Les Miles said.

4) LSU sat senior linebacker Ryan Baker because of a violation of team rules. Coupled with the opponent, Baker's absence allowed a handful of younger linebackers to see action.

Defensive coordinator John Chavis went to the 4-3 more often than he did in the opener, and the starting three were Lamin Barrow, Kevin Minter and Stefoin Francois.

But others shuffled in early and often.

Sophomore Luke Muncie and redshirt freshman D.J. Welter both logged time, and Miles said he was most impressed with sophomore Tahj Jones.

While the Tigers will graduate three seniors after this season, the emergence of Jones brings another option to an outside linebacker position that is already lined up for Barrow and Muncie – not to mention true freshman Trevon Randle, a four-star from League City, Texas. On the inside, Minter and Welter give LSU even more youthful depth.

5) The linebacker position wasn't the only unit to welcome fresh faces to the field.

Freshman wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. earned his first career start.

Tigers that recorded their first career action: QB Zach Mettenberger, OL La'el Collins, OL Chris Davenport, TE Travis Dickson, C Ben Domingue, FB Connor Neighbors, RB Jakhari Gore, WR Armand Williams, DE Jordan Allen and LB D.J. Welter.

Of course, the biggest impact came from Mettenberger, who went from start to finish in the second half and recorded 92 yards and a touchdown on 8-of-11 passing.

On Monday, Miles said that there were no scripted snaps for Mettenberger in the game plan for Thursday night at Mississippi State, but after a positive outing against the Demons the JUCO transfer will likely be back in action sooner than later.

6) The second half belonged to Mettenberger, but the first half was all Jarrett Lee.

Lee finished 9-of-10 for 133 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't an SEC defense – or an FBS one, at that – but it was a near perfect outing for the fifth-year senior.

Tougher competition is still ahead, but so far this season, with Jordan Jefferson's status still in limbo, Lee has done his part, hitting on 19-of-32 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns.

7) Seeing his first snaps as a Tiger, Mettenberger got on the bike with training wheels before operating the offense without any added benefit.

With the score at 28-3 and Miles already shuffling in second and third teamers, the starting offensive line of Chris Faulk, T-Bob Hebert, P.J. Lonergan, Will Blackwell and Alex Hurst remained intact.

"It helped out a lot," Mettenberger said. "There is a reason those guys are first string. They gave me a lot of good protection, and I was able to hit receivers and make plays."

For the first six quarters of the season, offensive line coach Greg Studrawa stuck with the same five without any rotation – a big positive on a unit that was hit with injury midway through fall camp.

The good news on senior Josh Dworaczyk, who suffered a knee injury that required surgery, is that he could return for a sixth season. On Monday, Miles said LSU appealed to the NCAA to grant Dworaczyk a medical redshirt.

8) With the offensive line giving the two LSU quarterbacks all night to throw, it was on the receivers to get open and reel in the ball – and the Tigers struggled with the latter against Oregon.

A week later, when Lee and Mettenberger combined for only four incomplete passes, the receiving corps didn't suffer any drops.

"It was something we stressed in practice all week, because that's not like us," junior wide receiver Rueben Randle said. "Our guys can hang onto the ball if the quarterback puts it in there."

9) Randle is back.

He caught Lee's only touchdown pass against Oregon, but it was also his only reception.

After offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa targeted his top wideout only three times and didn't prefer him to younger bodies as a blocker in the run game, it was evident that something was up with Randle.

Always tight-lipped on injuries, Miles said the lack of Randle was only because the Oregon defense was double-teaming the star receiver.

Later in the week, Randle said his knee was giving him trouble – the same knee that had hampered him at the back end of fall camp.

Saturday night against Northwestern State, Randle said he felt perfectly fine, and his stats reflected it.

Randle was targeted a team-high six times, and he caught five passes for 121 yards – highlighted by a 43-yard deep ball from Lee on LSU's first offensive snap.

10) Randle's return to health gives the Tigers a full deck going into their SEC opener on Thursday at Mississippi State – as long as Miles is being honest about Jarrett Lee's ankle.

In the first quarter against NSU, Lee was sacked for an 11-yard loss and he hobbled off the field when the series ended one play later.

The fifth-year senior quarterback played through halftime before handing the reigns to Mettenberger, and on Monday Miles said that "Lee is 100 percent."

Through two games LSU has avoided any injuries, and Miles is certainly counting his lucky hats and hoping the good fortune continues.

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