The scoring barrage by the Tigers was quite remarkable considering what happened in the first 38 minutes on Saturday night, but make no mistake about it, what transpired in the first two and a half quarters was disturbing and embarrassing.
The easy answer is the Tigers came out flat after leaving everything on the field the week before in an overtime loss to No. 1-ranked Alabama.
It’s understandable that the Tigers could trail the Trojans at the half before a pep talk and some adjustments at the intermission. But 24-3?
Then for Troy to take the second half kick and march 79 yards in 10 plays to tack on another score was the nail in the coffin. Or so it seemed.
LSU did what few of the 15-20,000 fans sitting in the stands thought was possible, making the biggest comeback in LSU history.
As bad as the coaches and players tanked the first half and half of the third quarter, they made everyone who sports the purple and gold colors bearing LSU proud with the way they finished.
They were resilient and never gave up even when the deck was stacked against them and the task seemed insurmountable.
The fact that they were in that situation in the first place can’t be forgotten, but just when it seemed that this team had thrown in the towel on the 2008 campaign, it does something that may not only help them with the three remaining games this year, but also as they start looking ahead to the 2009 season.
After reviewing the film on Sunday here is our take on what we saw.
After going 2-of-8 for 11 yards and with his longest completion going to the other team for a 22-yard pick six, Jarrett Lee was booed heavily in the first half. His seventh interception returned for a touchdown and his sixth in the last six games had some wondering if the redshirt freshman was done for the night.
Jordan Jefferson got his chance to lead the offense, but anyone who thought that the true freshman signal caller was going to be a savior for LSU’s struggling passing game was slapped back to reality early on when Jefferson struggled with getting the ball to his receivers.
Instead the savior was Lee, who completed 18-of-26 in the second half for 205 yards and a touchdown that narrowed the gap to only a two touchdown lead for Troy.
Jefferson showed that he can make some plays with his feet as he has some speed to get to the corner, but he is nowhere near being ready to take the reigns from Lee.
He was 1-of-6 passing on the night for 5 yards, and he added 17 yards on seven totes including a 3-yard touchdown run on 4th and 2 that got the Tigers into the endzone for the first time all night with 1:26 left in the third quarter.
Lee was handicapped by the play-calling in the first half and his pick-six was a horrible decision, but the young man battled and fought back.
Breaking down his stats from each half, I’d give Lee a “C”, but the play-calling was not his fault and his second half performance gave him some bonus points.
Charles Scott made some nice second half runs and finished with 90 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, which is good, but far from great. He went over 1,000 for the season and with three games remaining he is well within reach of passing Kevin Faulk’s 1,282 yards from 1996, which would give him the second highest rushing total in a season in LSU history.
The running game could not muster much offense early on, but a lot of that falls on the offensive line that had a disappointing night, and the eight and nine defenders in the box.
Quinn Johnson’s two touchdowns could not have come at a better time with Dominique Allen sitting in the stands.
Receivers and Tight Ends
Brandon LaFell’s career night of 12 receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown saved the day for LSU. He was the only viable threat outside of Terrance Toliver (4-54), who finally seems to be getting into a groove.
There is absolutely no excuse for Demetrius Byrd making only one grab for nine yards. Even worse is the way he was arguing with receivers coach D.J. McCarthy when he failed to pick up a ‘hot route’.
The line did not open up any holes until the second half and the quarterbacks were sacked once and hurried three other times.
This group looked uninspired like the rest of the team in the first half, but played much better in the second stanza when Troy stopped putting eight and nine in the box on a regular basis.
A lack of intensity by a veteran group that is supposed to be one of your strengths is inexcusable.
The stat line shows a sack by Tyson Jackson and seven hurries from the defensive front. That’s not bad when your quarterback is rolling out and making a lot of three-step drops.
However, the way that Troy ran the ball right at these guys in the first half was alarming. This group has underperformed all season with the amount of talent that is there.
LSU used to swat some passes down at the line, but you rarely see the d-linemen even getting their hands up. When your quarterback is getting rid of the ball quickly you must do anything you can to alter the passes. If you’re not getting to him then get your hands up. It’s that simple.
The Tigers got some pressure in the second half, but much of that was due to blitzing rather than play from the guys up front. LSU should be getting more production from its front four. It’s that simple.
Against a spread like Troy, the linebackers aren’t going to make a lot of plays, but this group did a decent job of keeping the plays in front of them.
Darry Beckwith made eight stops and Jacob Cutrera made only one, but it may have been a game-saver.
Cutrera stopped DuJuan Harris for no gain on 3rd and 1 that forced Troy to go for it on fourth down and the Trojans didn’t convert.
LSU got the ball with 12:54 left on the clock and seven plays later the Tigers moved to within 31-24 on Quinn Johnson’s touchdown run with 10:33 left.
If Beckwith would have made a few more plays in the first half when Troy was running the ball then this grade would be higher.
The corners starter playing tighter man coverage late in the first half, but giving eight and nine yard cushions was too much early on and even later in the game.
The defensive backs broke up 14 passes and Chad Jones had his best game as a Tiger with nine stops, two passes broken up, two hurries and the big interception.
There still isn’t enough jamming going on at the line, but that’s by design so you can’t fault the players for that.
Their improvement in the second half in coverage and with pressure was a pleasant surprise.
The kick coverage was atrocious.
The punting was decent considering the conditions and since none were returned, but 37.5 yards a kick isn’t anything to write home about.
Colt David’s 52-yard field goal was the highlight, but LSU still gets nothing from its return game.