- The patchwork offensive line held its own for the most part.
LSU's usual starting five, from left: Collins, Alexander, Porter, Turner, Hawkins.
The starting five versus Furman: Hawkins, Alexander, Pocic, Turner, Washington.
In all the LSU offense was able to maul the smaller Paladin defense whenever the Tigers opted to run, finishing with 332 yards on the ground and 9.2 yards per carry. More often than not, though, Cam Cameron wished to test out the passing game and re-establish a rhythm. Despite two interceptions, the line did free up Zach Mettenberger to throw for 328 yards (and LSU for 340 yards as a team).
Perhaps the most impressive thing with a true freshman at center: There wasn't a single botched center-quarterback exchange. That was one of the biggest issues Pocic, a converted high school tackle, had in the spring and even into Fall Camp. Washington, who also filled in at right guard for Trai Turner for most of the Auburn game, looked good again Saturday night at right tackle. The redshirt junior is a serviceable backup at three of four positions up front.
The other "new" piece to Saturday night was Jerald Hawkins moving over to left tackle in basically an audition for 2014, assuming La'el Collins takes his talents to the NFL. Hawkins was solid in pass protection, but I'm not sure he's as big and physically imposing as LSU typically likes its left tackles (the Tigers have loved to run left in recent years). That will be an area of emphasis for "Hawk" in the offseason. It's also worth noting he had a 15-yard facemask penalty in the third quarter that negated some momentum LSU just picked up from a Ronald Martin interception.
Finally, LSU did use a whole lot of two-tight sets to help this new line. Once Collins and Porter return for the Alabama game, which Les Miles said they will, the Tigers will be better off if they can be in more diverse sets with as many pass-catching options as possible.
- The majority of the defense actually had a decent night.
In the first half Chavis' crew couldn't get off the field. The stats were pretty damning. Despite LSU gaining 278 yards on 24 plays (the Tigers only got to third down four times, converting three of them), Furman ran a total of 44 plays and possessed the ball for 22:09, compared to 7:51 for LSU.
However, when you consider Mettenberger's pick-six and Odell Beckham's muffed punt inside LSU territory right before the half, the defense really only conceded two field goals on its own merit. And the second half? Furman was absolutely shut down, scoring no points and gaining only 39 yards of total offense.
The players who shined most: DB Dwayne Thomas (two sacks, one forced fumble, one PBU) in the dime back role and LB Kwon Alexander (game-high 14 tackles, double any other Tiger's output).
The biggest downside: Furman was able to run the ball in the first half, even on short-yardage plays where it was pretty obvious what the call would be. Still way too often, the linebackers are catching tackles 4-5 yards down the field. It's been a problem all year versus SEC offenses, and it still was for stretches in the first 30 minutes Saturday against a Southern Conference foe.
- The offense's passing rhythm wasn't quite there.
This may read as a head-scratcher given the fact LSU rolled up 340 yards passing, completed balls to seven different receivers and Beckham had 204 yards and two touchdowns through the air. But, in the overall scope of the game, these were feats of volume, not efficiency.
It was interesting to watch, but Cameron was insistent on LSU throwing the ball, presumably to get confidence up and get the machine rolling again pre-Alabama, even though Furman had no chance of holding the Tigers to less than 10 yards per carry. While that was probably the right call, choosing to sharpen his team rather than taking the easy way out against a smaller foe, it didn't always work the way it was intended.
Mettenberger threw a pick-six on the opening drive based on bad communication. His second pick, in the third quarter, was due to a breakdown in protection, per Miles following the game. There was at least one other ball (on LSU's second drive of the game) where Mett could've been picked as well, throwing wide of an open Beckham on a 10-yard comeback route. The bottom line is that while there were moments of brilliance, consistency was definitely lacking for Mettenberger, and the rhythm between he and LSU's two main receivers isn't quite at the level it was to start the season. It was also obvious again, for the second straight game that Mettenberger's trust in Beckham can get him in trouble. No. 8 will put it just about anywhere for OBJ.
In summation, Mettenberger wasn't bad, but it was kind of like a shooting guard in basketball who reaches 30 points but takes 25 shots to get there. Eventually he got his, but it wasn't as crisp or efficient as LSU has been in 2013.
- LSU's previously perfect kicker had a very imperfect night.
Imperfect is putting it mildly, too. Colby Delahoussaye, who entered the Furman game 9-of-9 on field goal tries (including a make from 49 yards in Athens) and had also connected on all 41 of his PAT attempts, pushed an extra point left versus the Paladins and also missed a 31-yard chip shot, both in the first half.
He didn't come out for warm-ups after halftime and Delahoussaye was not seen again for the rest of the night. Kickoff specialist James Hairston took his duties, booting extra points in the second half. Following the game, Miles said Delahoussaye was nicked early last week but that he had shown good progress and seemed fine later in the week. Obviously he re-aggravated his situation (early word is a pulled muscle).
- The true freshman count reached 13 against Furman.
Two true freshmen started on Saturday – Ethan Pocic at center and Tre'Davious White at cornerback. Eleven more played, some more than others: QB Anthony Jennings, CB Rashard Robinson, S Rickey Jefferson, OLB Duke Riley, DE Tashawn Bower, FB Melvin Jones, DE Kendell Beckwith, OT Josh Boutte, TE Desean Smith, DT Christian Lacouture and DE Lewis Neal.
Those are likely the only 13 who will burn redshirts for the 2013 season. ATH Jeryl Brazil did play very briefly in the early non-conference slate, but the least of his concerns now is redshirting as he's been indefinitely suspended for the rest of the campaign after a second brush with the law. It's also safe to say at this point that the rest of the frosh will keep that redshirt intact with only three games to go – a number that includes WR John Diarse, DT Greg Gilmore, DT Maquedius Bain and OL Andy Dodd.
- Other non-injury notes …
Both Jeremy Hill (143 yards, 2 TD) and Terrence Magee (108 yards, 2 TD) ran the ball well. If both can keep it off the rug, they'll be the two lead backs, in that order, down the stretch of this season … Speaking of the backfield, with J.C. Copeland out and Connor Neighbors injured early, freshman Melvin Jones filled in at fullback and had a good night. He not only cleared the way for a lot of Hill and Magee's yardage, but he also scored his first-career touchdown, catching a seven-yard scoring strike from Mettenberger late in the game. Not bad for a converted middle linebacker … Corey Thompson and Ronald Martin were the two starting safeties. After LSU was burned a number of times on crossing routes in the first half, the ‘D' seemed to go into more zone and frequently pushed Thompson up into the box … Beckwith played pretty early against Furman, although not all that often. He was exclusively at defensive end. I think we can stop all the speculation now about linebacker – KB's future is at end. He even played there in some non-pass situations in the fourth quarter.
- Injury notes …
The following didn't even dress out: LT La'el Collins, FB J.C. Copeland (concussion), OLB Tahj Jones (hamstring) and S Craig Loston. C Elliott Porter did dress out but didn't play a snap. Also, during the game, Neighbors went out at fullback.
What's your take on LSU moving forward?