Grading the Keys to Victory: LSU
I. Survive the First Blow
USC not only survived the first blow but actually delivered it, marching down the field midway through the first quarter on a 12-play, 67 yard drive culminating with a 1-yard Mike Davis touchdown run. The score was only the second touchdown LSU had given up this season and the first time they trailed on the year. South Carolina was not, however, able to capitalize on the momentum gained, as LSU scored on a Trinton Holiday run just a minute and a half later.
II. Make the Big Play on Defense and Special Teams
Cliff Matthews did get his hand on a Patrick Fisher punt while nearly blocking another, and Chris Culliver showed he is every bit as explosive as advertised on a 44-yard kickoff return, but the field goal block team also surrendered a touchdown on a perfectly executed fake field goal before the half.
The story of the day on defense was missed opportunities, as Emanuel Cook dropped a would-be interception that could have gone for a touchdown, and the defense failed to recover a Jared Mitchell fumble. Both plays would have been huge for the Gamecocks' chances to upset the number two team in the nation.
III. Stop the Run
South Carolina did not do what it needed to in the front seven, surrendering a season high 290 yards on the ground. The LSU running back by committee backfield averaged 5.8 yards a carry on 50 attempts. The read-option reared its ugly head again as LSU's dual-threat quarterback Ryan Perrilloux and the LSU offense used it with success against a South Carolina defense that missed Jasper Brinkley for much of the day. The front seven showed its youth, as even when they were able to penetrate the LSU backfield they often found themselves out of position to make a tackle. They also struggled with the speed of Trinton Holiday who scored from 33-yards out.
IV. Blake Mitchell Must Have a Good Day
Mitchell led the team to the first score of the game, but he also failed to find a rhythm against the hard-hitting LSU secondary. Mitchell didn't have any help, as South Carolina had no running game to take some pressure off him and a number two receiver has yet to step up. Further more, Jared Cook missed most of the day after taking a helmet to the chest and likely would have been a big part of the offense.
While Mitchell's teammates did him no favors, he did not have good numbers, completing 7-16 passes for just 70 yards and an interception that was just as much the receiver's fault as his. Mitchell was benched in favor of Chris Smelley, who will start Saturday's SEC home opener against Mississippi State.
V. Step Up on the Offensive Line
The offensive line struggled to produce any running room for Cory Boyd and Mike Davis, who started the day as the running back tandem with the eighth most yards in the country. Boyd and Davis combined for only 27-yards on 22 carries.
The line's struggles blocking the big, talented LSU defensive linemen can be summed up with one sequence of plays. With a little over 10 minutes to go in the third quarter, South Carolina started a drive on its own 21-yard line and completed a pass for eight-yards to the South Carolina 28. The next three plays all featured Coyd Boyd runs that went for one-yard, no gain, and no gain as South Carolina turned the ball over on downs, unable to pick up two-yards with three-plays to do so.
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