Grading the Tigers

It wasn't pretty but LSU opened the 2009 campaign with a 31-23 victory over Washington in Seattle. After reviewing the film a couple of times, it's time to hand out the grades.

Les Miles moved to 5-0 in season openers since he’s been at LSU, and he’s also kept his unbeaten streak against non-conference opponents alive at 20 games.

 

While Miles is happy to be 1-0 on the year, he can’t be pleased with the way the Tigers played in all facets of the game on Saturday as they looked unenthused and a step slower than you would expect. Could that have something to do with a tougher fall camp? Possibly so, but they better get their legs back, and quickly.

 

The offense struggled at times against a much-lesser opponent, and the defense yielded 478 yards of total offense. Add in a sub par performance from Derek Helton and the punting game, and there wasn’t a whole lot to be excited about.

 

LSU’s offense was on the field only 23:08 compared to Washington’s time of possession of 36:52. As a result, the Huskies ran 83 plays while the Tigers managed only 48 snaps and gained only 321 yard of offense.

 

That made for a long night for the defense, but much of that was due to their inability to stop the Huskies.

 

There was some improvement after halftime, however, so it wasn’t all doom and gloom on the defensive side of the ball.

 

After giving up 296 yards in the first half, the troops did play better in the second half, only allowing 182 yards while on the field for 17:05– with 81 coming on the final drive of the game after LSU iced it and was in a prevent defense. UW amassed only 44 total yards in the third quarter alone, but some credit goes to the LSU offense for eating up 4:31 off the clock on a 9-play, 86-yard drive that ended with Terrance Toliver’s second touchdown of the game.

 

LSU also allowed Washington to convert only 4-of-10 third downs in the second half whereas the Huskies converted 7-of-9 in the first 30 minutes. Still, it wasn’t the kind of performance that John Chavis will smile about.

 

Offensively, LSU averaged 6.7 yards a play, but went three and out on four occasions. The offense looked out of sync and really did not look comfortable in their no-huddle, check with me attack.

 

There were a lot of questions as to how LSU would fare on defense under Chavis, and after Saturday there are many more questions than answers.

 

Let’s take a closer look at each position.

 

Quarterback

Making just his third start on the college level, Jordan Jefferson was one of the few bright spots for the Tigers. While he looked a little starry-eyed on several occasions, the young sophomore took care of the ball and made good decisions.



Jordan Jefferson managed the game well in leading the Tigers to victory

Jefferson completed 11-of-19 passes for 172 yards with three touchdowns, and most importantly, no interceptions or fumbles. He made some big throws when they were there and really only forced one that should have been picked off.

 

Jefferson threw the ball away when nothing was open and showed that dimension that really makes him the quarterback he is – his ability to make plays with his feet. He finished with 42 yards on eight runs, and he didn’t lose any yardage on any runs as his only loss of the evening was for eight yards when he was sacked.

 

Being a gamer is another quality that makes Jefferson stand out and he showed that with his second half performance. After going 3-of-8 for 65 yards and a TD in the first half, Jefferson was 8-of-11 for 107 yards and the two big touchdowns to Terrance Toliver and Brandon LaFell.

 

Another solid outing for the youngster from Destrehan, but he better learn to slide or run out of bounds, because if he continues to take shots when he takes off then his outings will be cut short at some point this season.

 

Russell Shepard didn’t see the field as it’s apparent the staff doesn’t want to give SEC foes anything to prepare for. The same could be said for the offense in general.

 

Grade: B

 

 

Running Backs

Charles Scott’s first carry went for 21 yards but he gained only 31 on his next 11 totes and fumbled inside the red zone at the Washington 18-yard line. He didn’t appear to be running with as much power as he did last year, but granted a lot of that falls on the play of the offensive line because there wasn’t room to run.

 

Keiland Williams, on the other hand, did hit the holes hard and looked very comfortable and at ease. He ran seven times for 51 yards – 7.3 a carry – and his runs were for 7, 2, 9, 1, 9, 7 and 16 yards.

 

Neither Richard Dugas nor James Stampley opened up many holes when they were at fullback, and that’s an area that is going to have to get stronger with the way Les Miles like to pound it between the tackles.

 

Grade: B-

 

 

Receivers

While Jordan Jefferson was a bright spot on offense, the shining star on Saturday night was junior wide out Terrance Toliver. The Hempstead, Texas-native had the first multi-touchdown game of his career and provided several big plays when the Tigers needed them.

 

With 1:15 left in the second quarter, Toliver found a hole between the corner and safety then raced about 35 yards for a score that broke a 10-10 tie. He struck again with 5:50 left in the third for a 39-yard touchdown and finished with four receptions for a game-high 117 yards and the two scores.

 

Toliver’s speed and 6-foot-5 frame make him a dangerous vertical threat and it was good to see Gary Crowton utilize Toliver’s strengths. Another game like that and Brandon LaFell will find life a little easier as teams will have to pay closer attention to Toliver.

 

LaFell also had four grabs for 34 yards and caught what turned out to be the winning touchdown.

 

One thing that LSU doesn’t do often is the quick short passes, and with the amount of space that LaFell and Toliver eat up in a hurry it makes you wonder why?

 

Grade: B+

 

 

Offensive Line

The pass blocking was much better than the run blocking, but if it weren’t for Jordan Jefferson’s ability to get away from the rush, Washington would have had more than one sack.

 

As for the run blocking overall……The line looked very lethargic and wasn’t getting a push at all for much of the night. Crowd noise may have affected the line some, but there is no excuse for the lack of holes and push against Washington’s front.

 

A false start by Ciron Black on 3rd and goal from the 2-yard line on the opening drive really hurt, but that falls on Jordan Jefferson's shoulders.

 

Grade: D

 

 

Defensive Line

One sack and zero hurries – Enough said!


LSU has to get more production from its front four

The front four did register four tackles for loss, but Jake Locker had extremely too much time to survey the field and throw the ball. The edge presence wasn’t there and LSU is going to have to get better production off the end. Chancey Aghayere and Lavar Edwards relieved Rahim Alem (3 tackles, 1 TFL) and Pep Levingston (1 tackle), but were as equally ineffective as Edwards logged one stop and Aghayere was shut out. Mike Brockers and Sam Montgomery could bring some speed off the corner and that’s something that LSU didn’t have on Saturday.

 

Drake Nevis (4 tackles, 1 sack) was a bright spot for the tackles, as well as true freshman Josh Downs (1 tackle, 1 TFL). Al Woods (4 tackles) and Charles Alexander (2 tackles, 1 TFL) clogged the middle at times but they got pushed around too easily on other occasions.

 

With Alexander and Woods starting, LSU just doesn’t have the quickness that they need up front. How long can they fend off Nevis and Downs, who blew his guy off the line and into the backfield a couple of times?

 

There was better pressure in the second half, but much of it came from Nevis. Nevis gets an “A” but that’s it.

 

Grade: D+

 

 

Linebackers

John Chavis wanted more speed on the field and he got that with Harry Coleman at the Sam linebacker spot. Coleman missed a couple of tackles but that should come around with more experience and as he gets used to wrapping up and playing with less space in front of him.

 

Jacob Cutrera’s pick-six was just what the Tigers needed to infuse some life into the team, and Perry Riley and Kelvin Sheppard both had their moments. Some missed tackles and some bad angles taken on guys who do not have the type of speed and quickness that LSU will soon see is something they need to work on.

 

All in all, Cutrera (5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT for TD), Riley (6 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 forced fumble), Sheppard (4 tackles) and Coleman (7 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU), were the most effective group as a whole. The pass defense wasn’t great, but how much was due to the soft coverage and was that their fault?

 

Grade: B-

 

 

Defensive Backs

Missed tackles plagued the secondary as Chad Jones missed several and Chris Hawkins had his problems in run support as well.

 

Patrick Peterson made several nice plays in coverage and saved a touchdown on a screen pass to Johri Fogerson on a big 3rd and 12 from the UW 34.

 

Neither Danny McCray nor Brandon Taylor looked confident at strong safety and that could be a problem. Or could it possibly open something up for Craig Loston?

 

The defensive backs didn’t get a lot of help as Jake Locker had time to eat a lunch in the pocket, and the soft coverage allowed Locker to take advantage of the short passing game. The scheme in the secondary was eerily similar to what was all too common last year.

 

Peterson’s play keeps this group from getting a lower grade. But once again, how much of the ineffective play was due to scheme?

 

Grade: D+

 

 

Special Teams

LSU didn’t skip a beat with Josh Jasper handling the kicking, but 32 yards a punt – a long of 38 yards – and poor hang time from Derek Helton isn’t going to cut it.

 

The return game was non-existent due to Washington’s sky kicks, and coverage from LSU was decent as Johri Ferguson had a big 18-yard punt return to the LSU 24-yard line that led to a 34-yard field goal. 

 

This could have been a “F” had it not been for a good showing from Jasper.

 

Grade: C


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