Thomas' Take: Grading Georgia

LSU went between the hedges and pulled out a thrilling 20-13 victory to remain undefeated. After reviewing the film, Scouting Analyst Jason Thomas hands out his grades on what may be one of LSU's biggest victories under Les Miles.

The LSU Tigers have done it again. Once again, LSU has taken conventional football wisdom and thrown it out the window. The Tigers dominated the first half in a fierce road contest against the Georgia Bulldogs.

Georgia was only able to convert one first down in the first half on Saturday. Furthermore, it could be suggested that the lone first down was a mirage, a blown call by the officials. On the play in question, A.J. Green from Georgia certainly could’ve been called for offensive pass interference. He was not and the Bulldogs were able to move the chains.

Meanwhile, LSU rambled up and down the field between the hedges as if they were playing a friendly scrimmage with an overmatched junior college team. Georgia’s defense had been advertised as porous and they certainly were willing to play the part in Athens on Saturday.

But the Bulldogs were able to stop the Tigers when it counted the most. Four trips into the red zone for LSU yielded only six points at halftime.

The exact opposite happened in the third quarter. Georgia came out and moved the football effectively while LSU seemed to fall apart. This is where the old football wisdom comes in.

If you take a team that dominates a half of football, and blows chance after chance to score touchdowns, and then you have a team come out of the halftime tunnel and start playing like the Bulldogs were…you’re in for some trouble.

When Georgia scored in the early minutes of the fourth quarter to take a 7-6 lead, I had an old friend send me a text. He said that not only was the game over, but the season was lost. I suggested he get some Prozac and call me in the morning.

Admittedly, I didn’t think LSU had much of a chance after that score. The offense had somehow bogged down after free wheeling up and down the field in the first half. I didn’t turn off my television though, if you catch my drift.

And from the muck a true sophomore and an old wily senior tailback led the Tigers to victory. After spending three quarters without finding the end zone, LSU scored 14 points late in the fourth quarter to win the game. Unbelievable! A great win for this particular LSU team, but there are still many questions lingering for LSU fans and coaches.

Let’s take a look and see how the Tigers graded out in Saturday’s thrilling victory.



It was an uneven performance by the true sophomore on Saturday. Jordan Jefferson certainly threw the ball accurately and with confidence. He finished the day with 18 completions on 27 attempts for 212 yards and one interception. He also carried the ball 16 times for 58 yards.

There were some dropped balls, so it’s fair to say that Jefferson threw the ball with great accuracy. However, his one interception was awful. The Georgia defender clearly baited the young quarterback into a mistake. It’s not surprising, but it is the worst interception I’ve seen Jefferson throw so far.

Later, on a third down back in the red zone, Jefferson’s pass to Tolliver was way too high. Clearly he was worried about turning the ball over, but the early interception made him overly cautious, and hesitant.

Jefferson then started holding the ball too long and his indecisiveness led to six sacks on the day. The offensive line wasn’t great, but some of those sacks certainly could’ve been avoided. While the young quarterback is progressing at a reasonable pace, he has to throw the ball away when he’s uncertain, or check it down if that’s an option, or simply tuck and run. He’ll get it.

Another disturbing revelation came while watching Jefferson run the option. On one play, he completely missed an opportunity to dive forward for a first down. On another, he didn’t press the line of scrimmage at all. In short, he looked lost running the option on Saturday. He hasn’t so far, and it’s curious that he struggled so mightily.

It also wouldn’t hurt for someone to coach him up on the fake pitch. All good option quarterbacks will fake the pitch to the tailback, make the defender commit, and use that moment to advance forward. He is not an option quarterback by trade, but he has the skills to be efficient.

With a young quarterback you’re going to have some growing pains. It should be stated that when all the chips were down, and he had to step up his game, Jefferson played like a senior. He was absolutely clutch in the fourth quarter leading the Tigers to two touchdowns, throwing rocket balls all over the field, and running when he had to.

It seemed too early in his career for Jefferson to put the team on his back, but that’s what he and Charles Scott did. You can’t coach nerves of steel.

Then there’s the other quarterback, Russell Shepard. Shepard continues to progress as a college player. He did suffer the fate of another body slam at the hand of an SEC defender. He runs with great ferocity, but sometimes he forgets how little he is. Linebackers and safeties can literally pick him up and slam him to the ground.

On the play where he got slammed, the ball came loose. It was ruled a fumbled and spotted back at where the ball went out of bounds, but it was not a fumble. Shepard carried the ball six times for 32 yards.

He and Holliday were finally paired in the backfield and they executed the read option flawlessly. LSU should’ve done more of that, especially when the offense became stagnant in the third quarter.

Shepard only carried the ball one time in the second half, but it was down on the goal line. He seems to be the forgotten man sometimes and he needs to see the field more.

Grade B


Running Backs

Watching Charles Scott run on Saturday was a bit surreal. He looked like the old back from 2008. There were a few more gaps to slip through, but Scott ran with so much power and determination. It makes you wonder if maybe he hasn’t been a little dinged up. No word on that, but he just seemed like a different player on Saturday.

The Tigers celebrate Charles Scott's game-winning score

Maybe he was just biding his time. Either way, he played his best game of the season. Scott carried the ball 19 times for 99 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the game off, by running through two Georgia defenders and racing 33 yards to the end zone.

Besides the obvious touchdown, Scott stepped up and provided the leadership that LSU has been lacking. Like Jefferson, his play clearly said that we are not going to lose this game. Not on my watch.

Throughout the contest, Scott was able to move the pile for three to four yards at a time. On a few occasions, however, he wasn’t able to convert short yardage situations.

There was no sign of the I-formation with Scott and Keiland Williams on Saturday. In fact, Williams only carried the ball two times for three yards.

Williams is known as the speed back between the two, but his play has dropped off significantly in the last two contests.

Grade A


Wide Receivers

It was an up and down game for the LSU wide outs. Terrance Tolliver made some huge plays and really has a knack for catching the football. While many college players still catch the ball with their bodies, Tolliver can be seen repeatedly catching the ball with his hands.

Several catches Tolliver made were in heavy coverage, and again he was able to snatch the ball with his strong hands. He finished the game with six receptions for 72 yards.

Brandon LaFell and Richard Dickson both had three catches. LaFell had 52 yards while Dickson had 31. Both had key drops late in the game, though, and in both instances the players let the ball come into their bodies.

Fortunately, true freshmen Rueben Randle did not drop the ball. Randle only recorded two catches for 28 yards, but both were big plays. His first reception was particularly significant as the Tigers were facing a third down and long.

Randle lined up in the slot to Jefferson’s left. As he came free on the route, the ball was delivered hard and behind the true freshmen. In a nice display of athleticism, Randle was able to reach back and literally snatch the ball out of the air.

Without that catch, LSU would’ve punted, and who knows what may have happened.

How do you cover all the weapons LSU has on offense?  How does offensive coordinator Gary Crowton get everyone involved? It’s a great problem to have, but one that will leave the coaches open to criticism on a weekly basis.

Why didn’t Shepard get more touches? Why didn’t Randle play more? Where’s Holliday?

You see my point? LSU needs to integrate an offensive system that involves everyone, but that’s easier said than done.

Grade B-


Offensive Line

Where to begin? For starters, three different offensive linemen literally got sick on the field on Saturday. No word on if the players had a virus or what was ailing them.

Was the whole offensive line sick? Your guess is as good as mine.

How did they play? Better.

That doesn’t mean that they played well. There was more room to run on Saturday than there was against Mississippi State. The line was able to get some push on short yardage situations, but also failed to move the line of scrimmage on a fourth and inches, and on another third and one.

They did protect Jefferson long enough when they had to, so there’s that.

The line seemed confused by a few stunts, and on a few separate plays, a defensive linemen was able to blow by an LSU offensive linemen with a simple speed rush or swim move.

If they were sick as a unit, it might explain their spotty play.

They simply have to play better to beat Florida.

Grade C


Defensive Line

This is another unit with an uneven performance. For the third game in a row, LSU did not record a sack. There’s no record of even any quarterback hurries, but that’s misleading.

Rahim Alem was able to hurry Cox on one particular play that should have resulted in a safety.

The line was also able to keep the Georgia rushing attack under wraps for most of the day. If nothing else, the Tigers held the line at the point of attack.

They did not push the Bulldogs back, but they didn’t get pushed back either.

They have to get more pressure on the quarterback and it’s time to start sending some blitzes. None of the four starters on the LSU defensive line has shown an ability to rush the passer consistently.

Grade C



The linebackers were active and worked well with the defensive line to shut down the running game of Georgia.  The linebackers combined for a total of 18 tackles.

Kelvin Sheppard had a solid game recording five tackles with three solos and two assist. Sheppard also recorded two tackles for a loss.

One play sticks out as Georgia tried to fool the LSU defense with a reverse. Sheppard had weak side responsibility, stayed at home, and stopped the play for a huge loss.

Harry Coleman and Perry Riley also had solid games. Coleman recorded four solo tackles and one assist for a total of five. Riley contributed two solo tackles, but put the game away with a nice interception on the sideline.

The linebackers had their best game of the season, and it was a fine illustration of how to play assignment football.

Grade B+

A.J. Green catches a late touchdown pass over Chris Hawkins

Defensive Backs

Patrick Peterson drew the spotlight as he spent much of the game following A.J. Green around. Peterson played Green as well as you could hope. He was beat deep early in the game, but Joe Cox misfired on the deep pass.

Peterson gave up one long pass to Green, but again offensive pass interference could’ve been called. I was curious to see if Peterson would follow Green from side to side. He did on some plays, but not on others.

Now that LSU has committed to truly having Peterson as a shut down corner, they need to stick with it.

Sometimes he was man to man, and then sometimes LSU was in a zone. On the touchdown pass to Green, late in the game, LSU was in zone.

Chris Hawkins could not have played that ball any better. In fact, if you want to see a textbook definition of how to defend that pass, watch what Hawkins did.

It came down to raw athleticism, though, and Green was able to out jump and overpower Hawkins for the score. Hawkins did absolutely nothing wrong, but that same play was thwarted twice by Peterson. Why wasn’t Peterson guarding Green man to man with the game on the line?

It was a solid outing  by the defenders as a whole. Chad Jones only recorded two tackles after his huge game the week before. He did, however, have a nice punt return.

Grade B


Special Teams

I suggested last week that a dry field may be the answer to LSU’s problems on special teams. Well for one week at least, the answer is yes. A dry field does make a difference.

Josh Jasper continues to impress kicking two field goals of 23 and 42 yards, respectively. Colt David was the best kicker in LSU history. Jasper has a long way to go, but he has only missed one field goal and that was on a bobbled snap.

What might’ve been a position of weakness for LSU is now a position of strength. Every time Jasper goes on the field to kick, you feel as if he’s going to come through.

Trindon Holliday had the big kickoff return at the end of the game. Holliday and Jones also both had good punt returns.

LSU had three punt returns for 44 yards, and two kick returns for 89 yards. It was the best game so far by the special teams. They certainly contributed immensely to the LSU win.

Grade A

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