Some of them are accompanied by my Tuesday Reaction three days after the game (“TR”) while others include Les Miles Quotes (“LMQ”), given by the LSU head coach at his weekly Monday press luncheon.
FIRST QUARTER NOTES
- Sione Teuhema is out there on the opening kickoff return for LSU. His exit from the Coach O doghouse continues to be quicker than that of Deondre Clark.
TR: Teuhema played before Clark at defensive end as well throughout the ballgame Saturday. We did not see freshman Isaiah Washington (left hand/wrist) at all. So the rotation at defensive end, for now, is still primarily three deep – starters Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal followed closely by freshman Arden Key. Teuhema is fourth, but there’s a big gap in playing time between third and fourth. Curious to see where Washington eventually lands in pecking order.
- LSU doesn’t have to throw to score on opening drive, paced by 71-yard Leonard Fournette run on first play from scrimmage. But I’m more impressed with scoring play – a Brandon Harris down-the-line option keep. The Tigers’ offense in red zone will be much more complete, effective with this in the arsenal.
LMQ: “Well, I think better teams score in the red zone, tight season. I think we're a team that can run it in those situations. I think we're also diverse enough to be able to throw and run, and so we give the opponent's defense a number of issues to deal with: mobile quarterback, a quarterback that can throw it, and a running game that we can put some big men in front of you and block you.”
- The defense, to no surprise, starts off in a nickel look. Auburn is trying to stretch LSU horizontally, but it’s not working as home Tigers responding with great safety play. Both Rickey Jefferson and Jamal Adams helping on tackles near line of scrimmage.
- This LSU dime look we’re seeing early is a great usage of personnel. It’s a 4-1-6 alignment with Deion Jones as the only linebacker in to go with three corners (Tre’Davious White, Kevin Toliver and Dwayne Thomas) and three safeties (Adams, Jefferson and Corey Thompson). Also, Kendell Beckwith is playing as a rush end, opposite Key.
TR: Two games in this is probably the best schematic tweak from seasons past under John Chavis. Those LSU defenses used Mustang (3-2-6) looks as a one-size-fits-all to go up against both spread run teams and spread pass teams. Well, we saw in the State game, in which the quarterback run was a bigger threat, LSU morph into Mustang. Now we see what new coordinator Kevin Steele will do against a team more prone to passing from the spread. It’s a great example of some of the new defensive staff’s more flexible mentality. Great use of Beckwith, too, enabled by trusting Jones in coverage at linebacker.
- LSU already blocking the bubble screen better early in this game. Good correction from opener. Players like Colin Jeter, Dillon Gordon and John Diarse were in there blocking for early pass wide near the line of scrimmage.
TR: Too many times in Starkville Malachi Dupre ended up on his own trying to lead block for quick passes to Travin Dural. The concepts via personnel were better conceived versus Auburn, even as the perimeter blockers led the way for jet sweeps (and not just spot passes or bubble screens). Trey Quinn was also a part of this blocking mix early on, and that may be a part of the way he earns playing time in 2015.
- Final passing line at end of first quarter for Harris: 5-of-5 for 31 yards, TD. No pass has traveled more than about five or six yards through the air, but very effective (behind strength of running game).
SECOND QUARTER NOTES
- Adams makes a nice interception to begin the quarter. LSU’s first turnover of the season is greatly aided by solid man coverage from freshman corner Kevin Toliver. Adams just plays centerfielder and jumps over the top.
- The defense starts to sub in some extra rotational players at about the 13-minute mark of the second frame. Donnie Alexander gets his first burn of the season in there next to Duke Riley at linebacker while Frank Herron and Greg Gilmore give the starters a breather at defensive tackle.
TR: Good to see the second-team linebackers in a nickel look in there. Especially with Jones out for a half (see “Fourth Quarter Notes” below) at Syracuse, those two figure to be leaned on more heavily. Still not sure the defensive depth up front is sufficient enough for fans to exhale, but the commitment to giving starters a break by the staff is a good sign. Long season.
- Trent Domingue makes the first field goal attempt of the season for LSU from 32 yards out. Experience, good. Distance of try, doesn’t quite tell us as much.
- With about seven minutes to go in the half, Donte Jackson came in for a full series as the LSU nickel back, spelling Dwayne Thomas. His speed is definitely helpful out there against a team running and passing sideways. Might break into more of a regular role for him. Will be monitoring.
TR: Still thinking this could foretell an eventual change on the depth chart, or possibly a timeshare, at nickel back. Thomas wasn’t great in coverage at Mississippi State and in general hasn’t been the dynamo through two games he was in 2014, when he exploded out of the gate before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the fifth game. The veteran from New Orleans can continue working into shape during the next five weeks, but Jackson is beginning to merit more time on defense.
- Josh Boutte appeared for one snap at the end of the first half, in at right guard for Will Clapp. True freshman starter Maea Teuhema stayed in at left guard. Appears Boutte is clearly a backup at this point, not rotational.
LMQ: “I thought for a freshman he [Teuhema, making his first career start] played extremely well and has quickness and moves his feet and has the ability to use his hands. Yeah, I think he's a quality addition to the line.”
THIRD QUARTER NOTES
- There aren’t many words for what Fournette is doing right now. Defenders are literally going over him, under him and he’s going through them, too. Unstoppable. Major credit to the offensive line as well. Not a doubt they love blocking for this guy.
LMQ: “The thing that makes him special is he's a very humble man. He is a great teammate, leader. He wants to achieve as a group and as a team. His teammates enjoy him and root for him to have the kind of days that he's had.”
- Davon Godchaux registers a sack at about the 10:30-mark of the quarter. Great sign that Steele is ramping up the pressure with a lead, not playing it safe. To date one of the biggest shifts we’ve seen yet away from Chavis.
TR: LSU finished with five sacks on the day, running its two-game total to eight. Godchaux has three of those eight quarterback takedowns himself. He’s headed for an absolute monster season. It also is welcome news that the Tigers’ defense is back to dictating terms to opposing offenses. The front four is capable of getting pressure on its own, but Steele is making life miserable on SEC offensive lines so far with blitz calls.
- Wide receiver Tyron Johnson came in for his first action of the season midway through the quarter and caught a short pass behind the line of scrimmage. He’s the ninth LSU true freshman to burn a redshirt this season.
- With about five minutes to go in the third quarter, Frank Herron registered a big sack, strip and recover. For me this is one of the biggest revelations of the ballgame. LSU building some depth on the defensive line. Long time coming for Herron.
LMQ: “Frank Herron came in – sacked, forced a fumble, and then recovered the fumble. That play so reminds me of, there was a play not long ago that Drake Nevis (made) where just everything basically he could do to get to the passer, and then striped the passer and found the ball. I was just really happy for him [Herron]. He's a wonderful man and working hard and really improving every day. You can look forward to seeing him play often.”
- Running back Derrius Guice starts to get more carries toward the tail end of this quarter. He really doesn’t go down easily. Not quite as big as Fournette, but it’s impressive how consistently he churns those legs.
TR: Guice played in the first half, lining up in the slot, and caught a quick spot pass. It was positive to see his usage from the more traditional LSU I-formation in the second half. Guice needs to get used to running the ball and blocking, not just catching passes. Opposing defenses need to occasionally see something else on film from him, too.
FOURTH QUARTER NOTES
- Harris scores his second rushing touchdown of the game on a one-yard naked bootleg keeper. Tigers continue to impress with red-zone calls today – option early down the line, a couple of bootlegs, one ran and one thrown for six. This is an improvement over years past.
- With just under six minutes to go, Debo Jones was ejected for a targeting hit. He won’t be able to play in first half of the Syracuse game. Thinking that most benefits junior Duke Riley.
LMQ: “We'll field another linebacker. Certainly Duke Riley will play in that mix. Lamar Louis is also another guy that will play in that mix. It's interesting, we haven't had a targeting foul in three years, which is the length of time of the rule, and we've coached hard against it and we've worked hard against it. It's a pain to have a quality player now standing on the sideline, but I think it's a quality rule and I would want that rule enforced as it was.”