No. 10 LSU (3-0) got past ULM (2-1) Saturday night in Tiger Stadium by the final score of 31-0, but it took longer than expected for the Tigers to separate from the Warhawks.
Here are the most relevant notes, updates and takeaways from LSU’s win.
Defense shines despite influx of second-teamers playing
- It’s a great sign when you can put in players usually reserved for platoon or reserve duties and nary a beat is missed. That was the case early and often for John Chavis’ bunch going against the ULM offense. LSU held the Warhawks to a measly 93 yards of offense on 48 plays (1.9 yards per play), clogging running lanes all night and proving to be way too talented in the secondary for ULM’s passing game.
And the Tigers did it with Duke Riley, Deion Jones and Davon Godchaux all getting their first career starts and Rashard Robinson not featuring until the third series. Securing a shutout for a second straight game is very impressive, but to me it doesn’t hold a candle to building depth while still maintaining a certain level of superiority over your opponent. All of this bodes extremely well for the defense, on each of the three levels, as it heads into SEC play and for the extended future beyond the 2014 season. LSU’s schedule doesn’t always allow for it, but this time around, Chavis is able to provide on-the-job training. The dividends paid will be clear soon, if they’re not already.
Few injuries to speak of but overall a good bill of health
- Neither Kwon Alexander (neck stinger) nor Lamar Louis played in tonight’s game, and Les Miles confirmed in postgame interviews that it was intentional with the outside linebackers. Miles: “They were held out with the idea they could’ve played.” Both are expected back versus Mississippi State.
The same can be said for center Ethan Pocic (ankle). Usual starter Elliott Porter returned for this game, making it easier to rest Pocic, but Miles said he too will be available versus the Bulldogs. Another player who didn’t go: tight end Logan Stokes.
Elsewhere: fullback Connor Neighbors (multiple injuries) started and played with no limitations after missing the second half against Sam Houston State … Defensive tackle Quentin Thomas (bicep) gave way to Godchaux in the starting lineup, but Thomas did come in and play a fair share … Several others also had moments of injury – WR Trey Quinn, S Jamal Adams and OT Jerald Hawkins. All three came back in the game after brief breathers on the sideline.
Tigers flexing muscle from fullback position, repeatedly
- Carrying over a theme from the Sam Houston State game, LSU’s offense continued to get creative at fullback after starter Connor Neighbors. In fact three of the Tigers’ four touchdowns came courtesy of quick-hitting fullback dives to players listed on the roster and depth chart as tailbacks. Freshman Darrel Williams, who has thrived versus admittedly lesser competition the last two weeks, accounted for two of the TD plunges – once from 22 yards away and once from a yard out. Senior Kenny Hilliard had the other from four yards out of a heavy set.
The long-term takeaway: It’s easy to get a little carried away over Williams (and I have been impressed), but this feels more meaningful for Hilliard once SEC play is ushered in beginning next week. Hilliard is a tough man to stop in tight spaces, and it forces the defense to focus on another element while a talented back is dotting the I-formation behind him. Good on Frank Wilson, Cam Cameron and the Tigers for working this in regularly. Now we’ll see how they manipulate it in league play.
Also worth noting that the rise of Hilliard and Williams at fullback is coming at the expense of sophomore Melvin Jones. None of this inspires a ton of confidence in Jones as the heir to the FB throne come 2015.
Washington does it all (almost) as sixth lineman
- Redshirt senior Evan Washington displayed his versatility against ULM in a big way. Position coach Jeff Grimes worked him in at both guard spots in the opening half Saturday night, keeping Vadal Alexander and Fehoko Fanaika fresh but also ensuring Washington is game-ready with the meat of the schedule forthcoming. Then, when Jerald Hawkins went down briefly in the second half, Washington made an appearance at right tackle. Considering he also had the chops to play left tackle a year ago as La’el Collins’ immediate backup, that makes him a valuable man for Grimes. Goes to show that even if you don’t win a position battle, you can still be a key contributor, particularly at a position as rugged and unpredictable as offensive line.
There will be no redshirt for Garrett
- Middle linebacker Clifton Garrett made his purple-and-gold debut versus ULM. The freshman from Illinois only featured on the punt team, however, so we still haven’t seen the nation’s No. 1 linebacker from this past class on the defensive side of the ball. The tally for LSU true freshmen to play this season is now at 17, easily the most in the Miles era.