10/18/17 5:25 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
In today’s report we’ll begin looking ahead to this week’s battle in Oxford, but with the release of this new outstanding hype video from last week’s Comeback Game (a.k.a. Rally in the Valley) I’m not quite ready to go there yet. Man, what a game! And what a video! I couldn’t help but get les frissons (goosebumps) at the 2:40 mark when Connor Culp nails the go-ahead field goal, or at the end when Rashard Lawrence, who played the game with two bum ankles and a case of strep throat, is running with the LSU flag in tow, looking like nothing would have stopped him from playing. These Tigers gave it their absolute all last Saturday, and as a result, not only did they notch their place in the LSU record book with the biggest come-from-behind SEC win in Tiger Stadium history, they kept all of their season goals within reach and completely changed the complexion of the season. Next up, the Tigers need to keep up that intensity when they travel to Oxford for a contest that would have all the makings of a trap game (coming off an emotional win with Alabama on the horizon) if it were not for the fact that Coach Orgeron has something to prove against his former school. LSU’s players and staff know how much a win over Ole Miss would mean to Coach Orgeron on a personal level, whether he’ll admit it or not.
Now let’s move on with our normal order of business by taking a look at how LSU (5-2, 2-1 SEC) and Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2 SEC) compare statistically. To note: Ole Miss has only played six games since they had a bye week between losing at California and at Alabama. The only common opponent LSU and Ole Miss have played so far is Auburn. Ole Miss lost that game 44-23.
• The most staggering statistic above is the number of points Ole Miss’ defense has allowed per game (37). While the Rebels have been able to light it up through the air with Shea Patterson at quarterback, their defense has not been able to slow opponents down.
• Where the Rebel defense struggles the most is in stopping the run. Ole Miss has allowed nearly 240 yards per game on the ground, and the Rebels haven’t had a game this season where they’ve limited an opposing tailback to less than 75 rushing yards. While LSU has averaged 191 yards per game on the ground, it’s doing most of its damage with jet sweeps. The Tigers averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in between the tackles against Auburn.
• Despite Ole Miss’ deficiencies on defense, the Rebels are still 3-3 on the season. You can thank Patterson and his explosive plays for that. Patterson and Ole Miss average 357 yards per contest through the air. While Patterson has the athletic ability to extend plays in the backfield, the offense has soared through the air thanks to athletic wide receivers on the outside like D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge (all three receivers have more than 350 receiving yards already). Patterson, by the way, has a 160 passer rating, which is the best in the SEC.
• The Tigers are giving up just a little more than 200 passing yards per game, and last week’s brilliant performance from LSU’s defensive backs certainly helped that statistic. In that contest, LSU held Auburn to a 34% completion rate, which is the lowest LSU has held an opponent to since 2011. Ross Dellenger of the Advocate pointed out that Auburn was just 4 of 21 against LSU’s defensive backs in downfield man coverage.
• The second most startling statistic, though it shouldn’t be, is Ole Miss’ run-to-pass ratio in terms of yards. For years, the Rebels struggled to consistently run the football during the Hugh Freeze era, and this year is no different. A whopping 77% of Ole Miss’ total yards this season have come through the air.
• Both LSU and Ole Miss have struggled in penalty yards and third-down conversions. Both teams rank near the bottom of the conference in each category, though it should be noted LSU has cleaned up a majority of its penalty problems that hurt the team earlier this season.
• Ole Miss has a much better percentage in terms of red-zone scoring, but LSU has a 10 percent better average in scoring touchdowns in the red zone. In 23 trips to the red zone this season, Ole Miss has scored just 13 touchdowns. LSU, on the other hand, has scored 16 touchdowns in 25 trips.
• Special teams aided LSU tremendously in its comeback win against Auburn, and all of a sudden LSU’s special teams numbers are quite impressive considering the unit’s rough start. LSU is second in the conference in yards per punt return with 18.8 and is averaging 21.1 yards per kickoff return. LSU also improved its field goal percentage dramatically with Connor Culp’s clutch kicks, while Cameron Gamble has been launching most his kicks deep into the end zone. Also, LSU’s two-punter approach has been a big improvement. While all that should make Tiger fans feel much better about this unit, Ole Miss still has a slight lead in overall field goal percentage and yards per punt.
• Here’s a special teams stat that doesn’t show on the chart but is worth remembering: LSU is one of only seven teams who have played seven games without allowing a kickoff return of 30 or more yards. In six games, Ole Miss has allowed three returns of 30+ including a TD return versus South Carolina.
Now for a quick update on yesterday’s football practice: According to The Advocate, offensive tackle Toby Weathersby participated in drills for the second day in a row and was in full pads, albeit in a gold non-contact jersey. Weathersby began the season as LSU’s starting right tackle before suffering an undisclosed injury (presumably a concussion) against Florida and missing the Auburn game. Joining him in wearing gold were OLB Corey Thompson (stinger), ILB Donnie Alexander (undisclosed), S Grant Delpit (undisclosed) and S Todd Harris (undisclosed). Left tackle KJ Malone (knee) did not practice. Also worth noting, quarterback Justin McMillan was working the Wildcat.
In other football news, LSU linebacker Devin White was named the Badnarik Award Player of the Week. As mentioned yesterday, White had a career-best 15 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, one sack and a quarterback hurry in Saturday’s win, his fifth straight game with double-digit tackles. Through seven games, White leads the SEC in both tackles (77) and tackles per game (11.0). He ranks third nationally in total tackles.
While White and DJ Chark have received a lot of well-deserved praise this week, one player who I think hasn’t received the recognition he deserves is wide receiver, Russell Gage. This cat was all over the field Saturday. Not only did he have this 70-yard jet sweep and this incredible TD catch in the corner of the end zone that was remarkably reminiscent of Demetrius Byrd's TD catch against Auburn ten years prior, he also was a monster on special teams. Gage pummeled Florida returner Brandon Powell for a 1-yard loss on one punt and downed another inside the 5 to pin the Gators deep on their final drive.
• One national site that hasn’t overlooked Gage’s big game is SaturdayDownSouth.com. In this article, they write that Gage on the jet sweep is one of scariest sights in SEC.
• USA Baseball has named LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri the manager for the 2018 Collegiate National Team. This will be Mainieri’s second coaching stint with Team USA after serving as an assistant coach on the Collegiate National Team in 2015. “Words cannot adequately describe how honored and proud I am to have the opportunity to lead the USA Collegiate National Team in the summer of 2018,” Mainieri said in a press release issued by LSU. “It has been a goal of mine since I went into coaching thirty-six years ago to one day coach our nation’s team and to now have that dream realized is almost overwhelming. When you pull that jersey on over your head and it says ‘USA’ across the front, your emotions are impossible to describe. We live in the greatest country in the world and I am so proud to be an American, and I also love college baseball. To combine those two things is as good as it gets for me.” Well said, Coach!
• Lastly, I’ll be updating our Ticket Exchange page later today, so if you have LSU tickets to sell please send me your info.