REPORT CARD: LSU 45 ULL 3

The 2006 season got off to a "normal" start for the LSU Tigers on Saturday night as coach Les Miles opened his second season as head coach with a 45-3 thumping on the Ragin' Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette. The opener was quite a bit different from Miles' first game ever as the Tiger head coach, which was played 2,000 miles away from home, a home which lay in ruins after Hurricane Katrina.

Miles got the luxury of enjoying some home cooking in his season opener pounding a defenseless opponent into submission. The Tigers' head man got to tinker with his team in all three phases of the game, play lots of different players, experiment with different packages in unique situations – and do all of that without the threat of actually losing the game.

 

Miles played all three quarterbacks, a plethora of running backs and every wide receiver in a uniform. Bo Pelini got to take his specialized 3-3-5 defense out for a spin against an opponent that had no chance of breaking through.

 

And the Tigers were able to tweak their special teams, which wasn't short of its share of blunders, and got to do so with out it affecting the outcome of the game.

 

In essence, Saturday's contest versus ULL was the type of game Miles and the Tigers should have played in 2005 against North Texas. But due to Hurricane Katrina, the clash with the Mean Green was postponed to late October and LSU faced a season opener on the road with the 14th-ranked Arizona Sun Devils.

 

One has to wonder had LSU had things go smoothly last year, would the Tigers had ever lost to Tennessee in that dreaded collapse on Monday night, which wouldn't have been on Mon day had things gone according to plan.

 

One can only imagine what could have been had LSU not lost to the Vols, had that open date instead of a later game with North Texas and entered the SEC Championship Game undefeated with fresher legs.

 

While no one will ever know if things might have been different a year ago, there is no question the "tune-up" game versus the Cajuns was just what the doctor ordered, especially with upstart Arizona coming to town this week. Much less the huge task in two weeks at Auburn.

 

 

The Offense:

 

JaMarcus Russell proved why he is the Tigers' No. 1 quarterback slicing up the Ragin' Cajun defense to the tune of 253 yards on 13 of 17 passing with a career-high three touchdown passes.

 

Russell was as sharp as ever and his first TD pass to Brandon LaFell, a 58-yard bomb on the third offensive play of the game, was even more remarkable considering he was in the process of getting hit.

 

Matt Flynn was efficient in mop-up duty. Flynn completed only 3 of 5 passes for 36 yards including a long of 17 yards. However, he did rush four times for 24 yards. Ryan Perrilloux was in for the final four snaps of the game. While fans wanted to get excited about eh redshirt freshman phenom getting in the game, it is hard to get a read on him after handing off twice, completing a 10-yard pass and falling down on his first snap.

 

The wide receivers may have played a big role in making the quarterbacks look really good. Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis each had four catches, Bowe with a touchdown, and Early Doucet was nipping at their heels with three snags a score. Brandon LaFell had only one reception, but it was the 58-yarder on the Tigers' third offensive play.

 

The running game got off to a slow start with Justin Vincent getting the starting nod. But things picked up when Alley Broussard stepped into the lineup to lead the Tigers on the ground with 46 yards on eight carries. Jacob Hester got some looks at tailback as did true freshmen Charles Scott and Keiland Williams. As a whole, Tigers rushers gained 170 yards on 36 carries.

 

The offensive line played fairly well in protecting the Tiger signal callers, allowing just one sack. The blocking could have been better for the running game, but it is hard to complain about a 42-point victory.

 

Grade: A-

 

 

The Defense:

 

Most everyone knew coming into the game the Ragin' Cajuns were a one-dimensional team.

 

For heaven's sake, ULL threw just three touchdown passes all season long in 2005.

The Tigers focused on the Cajuns ground attack, mainly tailback Tyrell Fenroy, and LSU was largely effective. Fenroy managed a respectable 52 yards on 12 carries, but as a whole the ULL offense gained just 176 yards in all.

 

Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini tossed in a 3-3-5 look, in which a defensive end would stand in at middle linebacker. Ryan Willis actually started the game as the Tigers' Mike Linebacker. Chase Pittman also rotated in at that position as well.

 

LSU stayed in the 3-3-5 look most of the game, but did shift into a 4-3 from time to time. Miles said the shuffle was designed to scramble blocking assignments for the run-oriented Ragin' Cajun offense.

 

Jonathan Zenon got off to a fast start stepping in for Ronnie Prude at cornerback. Zenon had two interceptions, one of which he returned 20 yards for a touchdown.

 

Grade: A+

 

 

Special Teams:

 

Boy, do the Tigers miss Skyler Green?

 

LSU has enjoyed a long line of standout return specialists. Eddie Kennison, Kevin Faulk, Dominick Davis, Skyler Green.

 

This season, the Tigers are returning kicks by committee. As many as four different players have been listed as possibilities at kick returner including Chevis Jackson, Daniel Francis, Early Doucet and Trindon Holliday.

 

Both Jackson and Holliday punt muffed returns Saturday as the return game is a far cry from where it was with the electrifying Green back there.

 

Colt David extended his streak of 41 straight PATs, which is seventh longest in school history. And Ryan Gaudet converted his first field goal attempts, a 33-yarder, since the 2004 season.

 

But the gaffs in the returns game were glaring problems for special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto. Had the opponent been different, those blunders could have cost the Tigers the game.

 

Grade: C-

 

 

Coaching:

 

Miles had been criticized for lacking a demand of discipline from his players. But the Tigers looked awfully disciplined and focused for Saturday's season opener. It was a complete game victory, and aside from a slow-developing running game and few "oopsies" on special teams, it was an impressive performance.

 

The tweaking of the defensive alignment was an interesting wrinkle and the balance of run and pass offensively was largely effective. The special teams do need some work though and will affect this grade. Boo-boos in that third phase of the game can prove costly down the road.

 

Also, kudos to Miles for holding wide receiver Dwayne Bowe out of the first two series, punishment for the altercation at last January's Peach Bowl.

 

Grade: B+


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