Final stats are what mean the most, especially the one on the scoreboard of course.
So the fact that LSU had scratched out only 53 yards of offense in the first quarter last week against Tennessee isn’t a major cause for alarm when you consider the bottom line: A 38-7 rout and 383 total yards.
But the sluggish start – especially after a similar lull against Florida in the second and third quarters the week before – may be a sign that defenses have started to adjust to the Tigers’ basic game plan.
In the last three games, LSU has rushed for 12 yards on 11 carries in the first quarter against Kentucky, 58 yards in the second and third quarters combined vs. Florida and 31 yards on nine attempts in the opening period against Tennessee.
“Defensive coordinators have gotten enough game film to see what the strengths are,” receiver Russell Shepard said. “That means we have to adjust now and come up with something different to get them back off-balance.”
Added quarterback Jarrett Lee, “Eight weeks in, people do start to figure out we’re running the ball really well but we can also throw it when we need to. We have to just keep executing and keep preparing hard every week.”
Well, there may be a little more involved.
Although LSU has struck a very close balance so far with 1,338 rushing yards and 1,246 through the air, the Tigers have been fairly vanilla much of the season – to the point now where they may have become a little predictable.
That hasn’t caught up to them yet against SEC foes. In the last three wins, despite an occasional dry spell and early struggles to run the ball, LSU is averaging 394.7 total yards and 38 points.
What might become necessity as defenses hone in on trends and tendencies is for more Tigers to get involved.
Spencer’s Ware’s 128 carries represent 42% of LSU’s rushing attempts. Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham, Jr. have snared 28 and 24 passes respectively and DeAngelo Peterson has 11 grabs. That trio makes up 65.6% of the receptions.
“We need to get the ball into other guys’ hands to give defenses something more to think about,” Shepard said. “We have all kinds of playmakers and if we start spreading it around, we’re going to be that much tougher to defend.”
That process has begun at the quarterback spot with the Jordan Jefferson gradually working his way back into the offense. What he hasn’t done a whole lot yet is throw the ball, with only four completions in seven attempts for 69 yards.
It’s possible – likely? – the Tigers coaches are setting up Jefferson for more activity through the air by intentionally making his entrance into games predictable.
“They expect run whenever Jordan is in there,” Shepard said. “We want them to start doing that because Jordan is one of the premier passers in the SEC. He has a very talented and live arm. So when teams do that, we’ll just go to our other phase and that’s let him three-step and fling it.”