REPORT CARD: LSU 45, Arizona 3

There were high expectations for the LSU Tigers coming into the 2006 season. With a dearth of talent returning at offensive skill position and the nation's best secondary, LSU was viewed as a program that had what it took to be one of the nation's best teams.

Aside from shoring up who would play quarterback, plugging some holes on the offensive and defensive lines and developing some depth at linebacker, the Tigers were – for the most part – loaded at every spot.

 

But after two games, back to back 45-3 victories, some think the Tigers may be better than previously advertised. While the level of competition has been well below that of SEC quality, the way in which LSU beat up on Louisiana-Lafayette and Arizona showed just how good this team is (could be).

 

There was little no doubt going into either contest that the Cajuns of Wildcats could even stay on the field with the Tigers. It was pretty obvious coach Les Miles and his team weren't as much playing their opponents as they were fine-tuning things to make sure all cylinders are clicking when hey head to Auburn this weekend.

 

Miles was asked after Saturday's game how did he feel about his team's approach to the first two games knowing that Auburn loomed on the horizon. Miles said the team "no doubt" was focused on only Arizona and he was impressed by their focus.

 

Sure it's coachspeak. Of course, Miles is going to say that knowing everyone has Auburn in the back of their minds. But it was pretty evident by the performance on the field the Tigers were all business versus the Wildcats.

 

All of that brings the question, is this possibly the best team ever at LSU?

 

Sure that is a pretty broad question and to pose it after just two wins over a couple of patsies may seem a bit premature, but it is a question that will be asked many times this year.

 

Thinking back to the 2003 national championship team, those Tigers won with a killer defense. They were average at best on offense, Matt Mauck was an adequate quarterback, they played running back by committee and the only real star was Michael Clayton, that is until Justin Vincent blew up in the last two games.

 

Looking at the 2006 version of the Tigers, LSU is again loaded defensively, and now they have a ridiculously high-powered offense at its disposal as well. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell is by far at his best. The running backs are playing well and LSU's receivers are big, fast and physical.

 

The Tigers are going to learn a lot about themselves after the trip to Auburn. But there is no doubt Miles' club is as well-prepared as they could possibly be heading into this showdown.

 

But before the focus turns to Auburn, it is time to evaluate the Tigers performance versus the Arizona Wildcats.

 

 

THE OFFENSE

 

While all eyes have been focused on the quarterback race and the right arm of JaMarcus Russell, running back Jacob Hester stood up and grabbed everyone's attention against the Wildcats.

 

The junior from Shreveport got 14 touches in the game, rushing eight times for 43 yards and a touchdown. He also led all receivers with six catches for 53 yards and another score, a five-yard pass from Russell.

 

Over the summer, Miles said Hester was challenging for playing time at tailback. However, no one thought the multi-talented fullback would actually get legitimate snaps at the position, especially with the talent back there. But Hester got plenty of looks on Saturday and projects to be a regular contributor on offense.

 

Justin Vincent looked much better running the ball versus the Wildcats with eights carries for 31 yards. Alley Broussard also chipped in eight carries for 30 yards, including a tackle-breaking 17-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

 

Charles Scott burst onto the scene with a 38-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Jimbo Fisher inserted a couple of end-around formations and Trindon Holliday broke the first one for 34 yards on LSU's third play of the game.

 

The offensive line played well not allowing a single sack. However, Peter Dyakowski broke a bone in his hand, but is not expected to miss the Auburn game.

 

Russell threw his first interception of the season just before halftime. But the junior signal caller did complete 13 of 20 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns including a 29-yard beauty to Dwayne Bowe.

 

LSU did cough up the pigskin twice, both of which could have led to touchdowns. Broussard and Early Doucet each put the ball on the ground. Doucet's fumble came after picking up 31 yards on a catch from Russell.

 

Overall, though, the offensive was nearly flawless.

 

Grade: A-

 

 

THE DEFENSE

 

Arizona came into Tiger Stadium talking about its defense.

 

Mike Stoops, the former defensive coordinator of the Oklahoma Sooners, is developing the Wildcats into a defensive-minded program in the highly offensive Pac-10.

 

But Stoops was the one who got schooled on Saturday as Bo Pelini showed him a thing or two.

 

The Tigers limited the Wildcats to 152 total yards of offense, including all of 28 yards on 26 plays in the first half. LSU hit, harassed and finally knocked Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama out of the game with a plethora of punishing hits. Tuitama was sacked three times in the game and hit several other times as well.

 

Jonathan Zenon logged his third interception of the young season, returning it for his second touchdown of the year. Craig Steltz and LaRon Landry each got in on the pick action.

 

Darry Beckwith, who was on the delivery end of a couple of vicious hits on Arizona offensive players, led the Tigers with nine tackles and one sack. Jessie Daniels was next with five stops and Glenn Dorsey and Curtis Taylor each logged four tackles a piece.

 

The Tigers' streak of not allowing a touchdown remains in tact as it has now reached 14 quarters. LSU held Arizona out of the end zone late in the fourth even after they had first and goal at the three.

 

Grade: A+

 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

 

The return game was the biggest concern coming out of the ULL game.

 

The Tigers fumbled two punts in the season opener, a hiccup that could prove costly in a big game, like the one this weekend. But versus Arizona, Chevis Jackson did a solid job of fielding every punt, six in all, and averaged 9.7 yards per return.

 

Colt David converted a 21-yard field goal on LSU's first drive and he banged through six extra points raising his streak to 47 consecutive extra points made. That ties David with John Corbello for the third longest streak in school history.

 

The only blemish on the Tigers' special teams resume' was a partially-blocked punt, which was Chris Jackson's only punt of the game. Arizona nearly blocked the punt deep in LSU territory. But somehow Jackson managed to get the kick off.

 

You can bet Auburn is studying where the Tigers punt protection broke down.

 

Grade: A-

 

 

COACHING

 

The final score isn't indicative of how well Miles and his coaches led the team and the players played in the game.

 

Miles came into the game wanting to effectively run the ball and establish some balance in the offense. With 431 total yards, including 231 rushing and 230 passing, that alone proves Miles accomplished that goal.

 

Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini had a good plan in terms of pressuring Tuitama, forcing him to throw three interceptions and shutting down anything the Wildcats attempted.

 

As far as Miles' past history with Stoops, the second-year Tiger coach conducted himself with the utmost class and chose not to run the score up on his former Big XII nemesis.

 

Grade: A+


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