LSU's halftime adjustments on defense key second half dominance of Ole Miss

After coming down to earth a bit after the first half that saw LSU's defense surrender 21 points, Dave Aranda made adjustments and fixed the issues, leading to a smothering second half performance.

Two games worth of shutting down high-flying offenses generated some confidence for LSU’s defense. A first half Saturday against a different animal altogether brought the Tigers back to earth a bit.

With Chad Kelly’s hot hand setting the tone, Ole Miss came out swinging in the first quarter and found holes an LSU defense that entered the game having allowed only six offensive touchdowns. Rebels quickly added to that total with a 77-yard drive on their first chance with the ball and Kelly was a major cog, picking apart LSU’s unsettled secondary time after time.

In the first 30 minutes, Ole Miss was as troublesome for the Tigers as any offense has been all season with 221 yards and 21 points, three of those resulting from another long drive (80 yards). Kelly was the SEC leader in total yards per game (343.7) and passing yards per game (308.2) when the game began Saturday night and appeared to be well on his way to reaching those stats if not a lot more. He threw for 102 yards in the first quarter and had 152 by halftime, along with 35 rushing yards. of that sat well with the LSU defense. Not Kelly’s production and certainly not the 21 points at halftime, more than the Tigers had surrendered in any of their first six games.

“We came in (at halftime) and were kind of upset because they had a touchdown on their first drive and they scored 21 points,” defensive tackle Davon Godchaux said matter-of-factly.

So the Tigers didn’t just mad or get even. They did both and in the process, got a lot better.

Halftime tweaks created misery for the Rebels’ prolific offense, with linebackers Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith essentially playing the football equivalent of man-to-man defense on Kelly to neutralize what he normally does.

One LSU linebacker shadowed anything Kelly did in the backfield, the other lent a hand in pass coverage, especially on underneath routes. Riley turned in one of the best games of his career with 14 tackles, 1½ tackle for loss and an interception. Beckwith chimed in with 9 tackles and broke up a pass.

With those two frustrating Kelly and bogging the Rebels’ tempo offense down, Godchaux also disrupted things from an end spot with 9 tackles, a sack and a QB hurry.

Kelly passed for only 57 yards in the second half and was a mediocre 19-for-32 passing, largely because he hardly ever found calmness in the pocket. The Tigers notched two sacks and three quarterback hurries, but Kelly never had the time he wanted to diagnose a ferocious defense and it showed.

It was Riley and Godchaux stuffing Ole Miss running back Judd Akeem on third-and-1 on the opening series of the third quarter that began a span of three consecutive futile Rebel offensive series: 3-and-out, 3-and-out, 3-and-out. On those nine snaps, Ole Miss produced 18 yards.

That trend continued until the Rebels’ final drive when they carved out 50 relatively meaningless yards, the last 12 on a run right before time expired.

Only because of that 50-yard drive did Ole Miss crack the 100-yard barrier in the second half to finish the game with 325 – 151.6 below its season average.

In three games since LSU made a coaching change, LSU has allowed only 7 points in the second half.

“Dave Aranda is pretty sharp,” LSU coach Orgeron said of the Tigers’ low-key defensive coordinator. “He makes adjustments when they come off the sideline. He fixes things. Not necessarily changes to the defense, but he may change out leverage, may play off, may play press, change the technique.”

Added defensive end Arden Key, “We just had to settle down and get comfortable out there. We felt like we were hyped up in the first half and were making mistakes. So we came in at halftime and got on the drawing board and fixed it.”

Fixed it and dominated, which is a theme the LSU defense continues to lean on.


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