The numbers don’t lie.
Washington carved up first year LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis’ defense to the tune of 478 total yards – more than any team totaled on the 2008 Tiger defense.
Running back Chris Polk ran wild in the first half. Though he was slowed in the second, Polk finished with over 100 yards on 21 carries. Quarterback Jake Locker added 62 yards with his legs, able to duck and dodge the LSU defensive front for much of the affair.
Through the air, Chavis’ unit gave up 321 yards on 83 plays - nearly double the Tigers’ offensive production. James Johnson and Kavario Middleton each added touchdowns, while Devin Aguilar led all receivers with four grabs for 76 yards.
Though the Tiger defense managed to slow UW head coach Steve Sarkisian’s attack in the second half, the damage to the defense was done. This was certainly not the 180-degree turn that the unit spoke of in the preseason.
From missed tackles to missed assignments, LSU had it all. By halftime, the Huskies had the edge in total yards (296-160), passing yards (183-65), rushing yards (113-95) and first downs (14-10). The most telling number: the Husky offense was a cool 7-of-9 on third down attempts.
The Tiger defense said that number was where their preparation for Vanderbilt began.
“Not getting off the field on third and long, that is unacceptable,” said LSU linebacker Perry Riley. “We are fixing that problem. I promise you will see us do a much better job. Coach really got on us. We had mistakes throughout the game, but we were really exposed on third down.”
Jai Eugene, who rotated with Chris Hawkins as the Tigers’ second and third corners, said that matters were made worse when the Huskies were able to convert many of those third downs with long distances.
“They would have third down and it was 13 or 14-yards,” Eugene said. “We would have tackles for a loss on first or second down, and then they would come back on us with a great third down. There was even a point in the second quarter where we forced three third downs in a row, and we still could not get off the field.
“That is not what we want, and we have to get better this weekend,” he continued. “Coach stressed the issue in practice. Win on third.”
Linebacker Harry Coleman said that around the Tiger complex, especially this past week, third downs are not taken lightly.
“That is the money down,” he said. “We have to get off the field; it is a must. That was stressed since Monday. We have to get better on third down.
“At Washington, it was more of us,” he added. “Every play on film we are lined up wrong, we made the strength call to the wrong side or we missed tackle. And, you know, first down.”
Coleman said that aggressiveness, on all downs, would be the approach on Saturday.
“We have to come into this game playing tighter; not give up easy slants,” he said. “We were not expecting [UW] to come out like that. We will send some different blitzes this weekend and we will be good. The first game everyone is anxious to do well, so this weekend we will settle down and take care of business.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson, who finished with a team-high nine unassisted tackles, said that he brushed the performance off as opening night jitters.
“We will be a little more focused now that we have that first game under our belt,” he said. “With the new coordinator, we are a little more comfortable now as a unit. Coach Chavis put us in the right position, but guys were making common mistakes.
“I was very shocked with some of those guys,” he added. “Chad [Jones] is a very good player, and I don’t know what his problem was. We just need to tackle better.”
The mood of the Tiger defense is a shared sense of disappointment. Saturday, they will get their second chance.
“I still can’t sleep, and I had just one tackle I missed,” Coleman said. “I have been hard on myself. You are your own worst critic. That is how everyone feels. We won, but we felt like we lost.”