REPORT CARD: LSU vs. North Texas

If there was ever a time for the LSU Tigers to get well, it was last Saturday.

In a game that was originally scheduled as the Tigers' season opener, LSU finally met up with the North Texas Mean Green in a contest postponed after Hurricane Katrina.


North Texas, usually a powerhouse in the Sun Belt Conference, was never expected to challenge LSU all that much. In reality, the game against the Mean Green was supposed to be the Tigers' tune up game before No. 15 Arizona State visited Tiger Stadium in week two.


Things didn't quite go according to plan. Not even close really.


Six days before LSU was set to tee it up against North Texas, Katrina slammed into the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast reducing a 200-mile area to ruins. With New Orleans flooded and most of southeast Louisiana without power, LSU officials postponed the game with North Texas to a later date to be announced later.


LSU was idle in week one and was unable to play its week two contest against Arizona State in Baton Rouge. That game was subsequently moved to Tempe, where LSU came from behind to beat the Sun Devils 35-31.

LSU willed its way to that win in the desert, but after another idle week, the rust really showed as the Tigers blew a 21-point second half lead losing to Tennessee on a Monday night.


However, LSU had no time to reflect on the loss. The Tigers traveled to Starkville for a date with Mississippi State only five days later.


Somehow, some way, LSU managed wins against the Bulldogs, then at Vanderbilt before coming home for a tough, two-game stretch against nationally-ranked Florida and Auburn.


It wasn't pretty or anywhere near efficient, but LSU managed to scratch out wins against both the Gators and Tigers.


Needless to say, when the time came to finally catch up with the Mean Green, the Tigers couldn't have been happier. Four of the Tigers first six opponents had been ranked in the top 20 at the time of the game. Due to the hurricane and re-scheduling of games, following the open date following the Arizona State game, LSU would be forced to play 10 straight games.


While fans might not have been too excited about sitting through what would be a certain blowout, coach Les Miles and his team would no doubt look forward to working out some kinks, getting some other players some reps. With Appalachian State still to come, LSU will hunker down for the stretch run in the SEC with upcoming games at Alabama and Ole Miss and in the regular season finale against Arkansas.


A blowout was predicted and that was just what the 88,000-plus that turned out received to the tune of 56-3. Not since Nick Saban's debut in 2000 had LSU beaten a team so badly. Saban hammered Western Carolina 58-0 in his first game as the Tigers' head coach six seasons ago.


In this game, coach Les Miles was looking to attain several goals, the first being to win the game. That wasn't a problem as LSU dismantled a very bad Mean Green team y 53 points.


The next was to get second teamers and seldom-used reserves live game action. While the game was closer than many had hoped later in the game than people expected, a reserve cast of characters got in the game most of the fourth quarter and rolled up some pretty fair offensive numbers.


Overall, mission accomplished was LSU got to play lots of players and rolled to a gaudy lopsided victory. However, a week after the Tigers seemed to have played a rather clean game against Auburn in terms of penalties and turnovers, LSU was back to its old tricks getting penalized 12 times for 118 yards against North Texas.



The Offense


The LSU offense performed well as expected against an over matched opponent.


The Tigers scored on every first half possession except one and held a comfortable 28-3 lead by halftime.


On the ground, LSU got a bit of a scare in the first quarter when Joseph Addai came up gimpy that is after he scored the Tigers first touchdown of the game. Justin Vincent, who led all LSU rushers with 70 yards on 12 carries, played as well as he has since his freshman year. Shyrone Carey picked up 44 yards on eight carries and did an adequate job on special teams. Jacob Hester even logged some significant carries in running for 29 yards on five carries.


LSU has relied heavily on its running game in SEC action meaning it might not hurt for the Tigers to get a little extra work in on the passing game against North Texas.


LSU quarterbacks completed 24 of 28 passes with JaMarcus Russell leading the way throwing for 244 yards, a career-high, on 17 of 21 passing. Matt Flynn played all of the fourth quarter, threw three touchdown passes, and was perfect hitting on 7 of 7 passes for 139 yards.


On the receiving end, Craig Davis seems to be back to 100-percent after a string of injuries. Xavier Carter got in on the action – finally – catching a fourth quarter touchdown pass. Early Doucet logged the first, two-touchdown game of his career. Doucet had TD catches of 40 and 6 yards.


The only significant injury of the entire game came on an already injury-riddled offensive line. Left guard Brett Helms left the game with a twisted left knee. He did not return.


Overall, LSU rolled up 566 total yards of offense, including 383 through the air, the most since the Tigers put up 444 against Illinois in the 2002 Sugar Bowl.


The Tigers had their "A" game, but penalties add a minus.


Grade: A-



The Defense


The LSU defense hasn't been as sharp the last few weeks.


Against Auburn, the Tigers surrendered a 100-yard rusher for the first time this season when Kenny Irons ripped off 218 yards on the ground. North Texas possessed two quality running backs in JaMario Thomas and Patrick Cobbs. Neither running back collected close to 100 yards, but Thomas did net 83 yards on the ground on 26 carries.


Plus, the LSU defense had its sack-streak snapped. The Tiger stoppers had gone 43 straight games with a sack, a streak dating back to a 2002 game against The Citadel. North Texas quarterback Daniel Meager worked primarily from a three-step drop and tossed a lot of screen passes resulting in the LSU defense failing to notch a sack.


While the lengthy streak came to end, the Tigers kept the Mean Green out of the end zone holding North Texas to a 50-yard, Nick Bazaldua field goal. Twice the Mean Green had the ball deep in Tiger territory, including inside the LSU one yard line. But the LSU defense rose to the occasion keeping North Texas without a touchdown.


The Tiger defense had gone two straight games without forcing a turnover. Craig Steltz recorded his first career interception for LSU's only turnover of the game. LSU hasn't forced a fumble since the Vanderbilt game.


Overall, the defense was dominating in the most important stat column – the scoreboard. However, LSU lacked style points in allowing more yardage than they should have from the 117th ranked offensive unit in college football. Granted, the Tigers held the Mean Green to 10 yards below their season average of 216.


Grade: A-



Special Teams:


In blowouts of this kind, special teams can sometimes disappear, especially when you punt only once and return two kickoff, one of which was to start the second half.


Chris Jackson punted one time for 35 yards and did not attempt a field goal. Colt David made all eight extra point attempts.


Kyle Williams accounted for the biggest special teams plays of the game, a blocked field goal with 7:10 left in the second quarter.


Grade: A





In games like these, a coach need not do anything special, just make sure the game is secured and manage getting enough players quality minutes.


A key decision in the game came early in the first quarter. Joseph Addai came up gimpy on the Tigers second possession of the game. While Addai was all right and could have come back in the game, Miles sent the senior running back to the locker room – his night being finished.


There was some concern that Miles didn't get backup quarterback Matt Flynn into the game soon enough, but Miles wanted to have a decisive lead before pulling his starter Russell. The Tigers scored with 30 seconds left in the third quarter making the score 35-3, which was enough to empty the bench.


While everyone has gotten A's, why not give one to the coaches.


Grade: A

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