Up #1: Danny Etling's 1st half
We're not here to tell you it was perfect, but LSU has found Danny Etling to be the Tigers' quarterback at this point. Etling started 6-for-8 for 100 yards and a touchdown. Etling directed another scoring drive for LSU in the second half and ran in a touchdown on a keeper, but other than a first down completion called back due to holding, Etling threw an interception and fumbled.
Les Miles said after the game that it was exactly the same offense LSU has been running and all the pieces are the same. Etling's decision making to check the ball downs and work to his second and third reads were impressive for someone who hasn't played a full-speed game in over a year. While the second half was a regression, there were positives to go off of from the first half and that should give Tiger fans some hope that LSU's offense can step up in SEC play and give LSU a capable passer.
Up #2: The Backups
Etling, along with running back Derrius Guice and tight end Desean Smith made big plays for the Tigers. The backups for the Tigers shined on Saturday night with Guice rushing for 155 yards and a touchdown and Smith hauling in a 46-yard touchdown pass. Guice had just two carries for three yards and a fumble last week while Smith had tweeted earlier this week about how well Cam Newton uses his tight end Greg Olsen. Etling did just that, finding Smith on his second read for his first touchdown in 721 days. If LSU can get Smith more involved with Etling at the helm, that'll be huge for opening up the passing game for LSU's receivers and potentially getting an extra defender out of the box trying to defend the run. Guice has shown flashes of talent and his opportunities last week against the Badgers were disappointing, but he showed exactly why LSU can lean on Guice as the Tigers get into SEC play. Darrel Williams also added 51 yards on six total touches in the game, which showed LSU's depth even more. Offensively, LSU's backups performed well on Saturday night against the Gamecocks.
Up #3: Big Plays
While LSU's defense gave up a few big plays on third downs, LSU made some splash plays to show how well LSU can potentially attack teams in the SEC. While LSU's offense is still a question mark in general prior to entering SEC play, LSU's defense has forced five turnovers in two games and scored a non-offensive touchdown in each — two on Saturday night if Donte Jackson's kickoff return for a touchdown wasn't called back due to holding. LSU had 12 plays of 10 yards or more on the night plus Tre'Davious White's dazzling punt return for a touchdown. LSU was full of big plays when the Tigers needed them on Saturday night. In SEC play, the Tigers will need to continue to rely on those type of plays in all facets of the game.
Down #1: Malachi Dupre
Les Miles said in his post-game press conference that he's not sure what's causing Malachi Dupre to not come down with some of the catches expected of him. Dupre has dropped numerous balls in the first two games and one was a sure-fire big play on a corner route tonight from Etling on one of his first throws. Dupre has all the talent in the world, but he's got to get himself into a bit of a groove here as LSU enters SEC play. Dupre tweeted after the game that he can only go up from here and that's true. If he can shake this funk, he's certainly capable of a big year still. After a nice opening game against Wisconsin, it's worth mentioning that Trevon Dural had one catch for five yards against Jacksonville State.
Down: #2: Defending Jenkins
Les Miles said it following the game that defending Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins was not easy. The Gamecock quarterback is an FCS All-American and Miles said that team can "play in any league." Well, the Tigers had some troubles defending Jenkins' ability to tuck it and run and in turn, found themselves looking into the backfield, which led to a few big plays by the Gamecocks. Jenkins burned LSU a few times with the zone read and took it straight up the middle a few times on the Tigers' defense. Early in the game, the Gamecocks attacked the middle of LSU's defense without Travonte Valentine, but later in the game, Jacksonville State just went with Jenkins no matter LSU personnel. A dual-threat attack from the quarterback position will be something to watch as LSU goes on through this season.
Down #3: Containing the Edge Rushers
LSU did a good job protecting Etling early in his outing, but as the game progressed, the Tigers had trouble stopping Jacksonville State from getting pressure on LSU's transfer quarterback. Etling was stripped of the ball as K.j. Malone got beat by a Gamecock defender. As he continued on in the game, Etling saw more pressure. LSU's tackles will have to continue to improve as the season goes along and the talent at opponent's defensive lines improve. If LSU can't keep the quarterback clean, it's going to have a tough time creating a passing game and space for Leonard Fournette and Guice to run.