10/5/15 5:20 am CDT
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
After a wild weekend in college football in which LSU beat Eastern Michigan 42-22 and four top-10 teams faltered, LSU climbed two spots in the AP Poll to No. 7 and three spots in the Coaches poll to No. 5. A total of six SEC schools made the top-25s, and LSU is the highest ranked of them all. The other four are: Alabama (8/10), Texas A&M (9/11), Florida (11/12), Ole Miss (14/13), and Georgia (19/16). For a complete look at the rankings, click here.
Next up for LSU is an 11 a.m. contest in South Carolina, and LSU has opened as an 11.5-point favorite, per Vegas Insider. In case you haven’t heard, the state of South Carolina is dealing with a massive rain event in much of the state, and at least four people have died in the flooding. Please keep all effected by the storm in your thoughts and prayers. Columbia, the home of the Gamecocks, has already received more than a foot of rain since Friday, but, according to reports, this week’s game between LSU and South Carolina should not be affected.
In yesterday’s report I expressed my disappointment in Saturday’s game, but I want to make it clear that I am not down on these Tigers. Sure, I was hoping to see LSU use the contest to develop more of a passing game, and I kind of felt like they weren’t able to take advantage of a good opportunity to do so. But, after revisiting the game, I now feel a bit better overall about the win. LSU came out strong, scored on their first two possessions, and then substituted heavily on defense, which is something I had hoped they would do. The Tigers ended up scoring on all but four of their possessions – one of which was a fluke interception that we’ll discuss in a moment, and another was the 94-yard drive at the end of the game that ate up eight-and-a-half minutes off the clock before LSU took a knee at the EMU four-yard line rather than punching it in. Sure, it wasn’t the clean blowout that many of us hoped for, and there are a lot of things to improve, but is was a dominating win that gave a lot of reserves some much needed action, and that will be valuable for the Tigers down the road.
As we’ve done every Monday this season, today we’ll “Rewind” and take a look at the game after having enough time to let the initial emotional response wear off. As always, we welcome your comments and feedback. (And thanks to my man Jake Martin for his weekly help with this MMR feature.)
Monday Morning Rewind - Post Eastern Michigan
About that Passing Attack…
Against Eastern Michigan, the LSU Tigers produced 80 passing yards, four completions, no touchdown passes and an interception. Do these numbers signal the end of the world as we know it? Certainly not, but they do create reason for concern, which is why in today’s MMR, we’re going to dive deep into what happened to LSU’s passing game Saturday.
Now, before going any further, I want to say that Harris has shown himself to be a very sound decision-maker this season and I have a lot of confidence in him. However, in Saturday’s game he made a few questionable decisions.
In the first quarter, Eastern Washington loaded the box with eight defenders, daring LSU to throw the football. The Tigers obliged. On a play-action pass, Travin Dural ran a deep post and Malachi Dupré ran a comeback in the middle of the field. Dural took defenders with him down the field and Dupré was wide open, but Harris, who we all know loves to throw the long ball, decided to test the waters with Dural and threw an incomplete pass. The Tigers were bailed out with a pass interference call. Later in the second half, Harris tried Tyron Johnson down the sideline, but he was blanketed by an Eastern Washington defender. The 20-yard pass fell incomplete, while Dupré ran a short five-and-in route and was wide open underneath with plenty of room to run. Harris has a strong arm and is usually quite accurate in his deep passes, often giving Tiger wide receivers the ability to go up and get the ball. However, he can’t fall in love with going deep. In future games, I’d like to see Harris check down to routes underneath and give LSU receivers an opportunity to make plays in the open field. I was especially pleased to see Harris convert a third-and-11 in the second quarter with a big-time completion to tight end Collin Jeter, and I hope to see more of that moving forward.
While Harris did make a few questionable decisions, the wide receivers have to take a big share of the blame for Saturday’s passing woes. Dural struggled more in this game than any other game of his career, as he had multiple uncharacteristic drops. After the pass interference call on the first drive of the first quarter, Dural dropped a pass and then Tyron Johnson dropped another one on the very next play. Dural’s most notable blunder came when he dropped a wide open pass on third down, forcing the Tigers to take a field goal right before the half. Along with Dural and Johnson, Dupré had a drop in the end zone that would have been a touchdown, though in his defense the pass was a bit behind him. The Tigers also had to settle for a field goal on a 3rd-and-7 in the first half after a pass from Harris to Dupré was knocked away by a defender in the end zone. Instead of planting his feet and high-pointing the ball, Dupré tried to catch it in stride. He would’ve had an opportunity to go up and get the ball had he been more aggressive. The reason I wanted to point out these plays is because LSU’s wide receivers are so talented that Tiger fans continually call for them to get the ball more. So when LSU develops a game plan to use them in the passing game, these receivers need to showcase that talent to force the coaching staff’s hand in using them. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham did that in 2013, and with the season still young, I have not lost confidence that this receiving corps will make big plays down the road.
Last but not least, the pass protection upfront suffered because of miscommunication on the line of scrimmage. It seemed to happen more on the left side of the line with Maea Teuhema and Jerald Hawkins. For instance, on Harris’ interception, Hawkins was looking to block an outside linebacker, who ran a delay stunt to the inside. Meanwhile, Teuhema was trying to block an end. To help on the inside, Teuhema passed the end off to an off-balance Hawkins who fell and allowed the interception to take place, as the defender knocked the ball out of Harris’ hand. This was one of a few plays that suggested the Tigers weren’t as mentally sharp as they typically are.
Numbers Game on Defense
We’ve already touched on the offensive side of the ball, so let’s take a look at the defensive side. Some coverage confusion, poor tackling by defensive linemen (and a few linebackers) and, quite frankly, some nice play calls by Eastern Michigan, allowed the Eagles to gain 255 total yards against the Tigers. The coverage confusion came on a long pass that setup a touchdown score. Linebacker Duke Riley was covering a receiver before releasing him and no LSU player in the secondary picked up the receiver. The play set Eastern Michigan with a first-and-goal from the LSU 6. Eastern Michigan running back Darius Jackson broke several tackles throughout the night, and broke tackles of Davon Godchaux and Arden Key on one play, which was an eye-opener. One of those great EMU play-calls I mentioned was a wide receiver screen that was dialed up exactly when LSU blitzed Tre’Davious White from the outside. The play went for roughly 40 yards and set up a score.
As mentioned earlier, another factor contributing to the defense’s lackluster performance was the number of young players seeing action, and that just comes with the territory. We said heading into the game that we wanted LSU to play a lot of reserves in an attempt to develop depth, and they did just that. When you’re playing a lot of reserves, you’re going to have some mishaps. That’s okay, that’s how teams grow, and this was the ideal game to foster that kind of growth. After LSU forced two three-and-outs to start the game, Sione Teuhema, Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron, Duke Riley, and Lamar Louis (who suffered a concussion in the contest), all came out to start the next drive. When the Tigers needed to force key stops, Kendell Beckwith and the other key starters were on the field making plays and taking care of business.
A couple of defensive players who deserve props for their play were Lewis Neal and Arden Key, both of whom proved they can get to the passer. Neal recorded two sacks, while Key generated quarterback hurries, one of which forced the pick six by Deion Jones.
Annnndddd... Just because we can’t get enough of Leonard Fournette
A statistic I saw on Twitter by LSU’s Todd Politz said Fournette has 31 carries this season on second down situations of less than 10 yards to go. During those 31 carries, Fournette picked up 25 first downs and rushed for 302 yards and six touchdowns. I revisited the tape to record every Fournette second down run in Saturday’s game, including two second downs of 10 or greater. Fournette rushed it 10 times and recorded a first down eight of those times. The only two times he didn’t get it was when the yardage was 10 and 12 to go. A lot of credit goes to the amazing abilities of Fournette, but you have to also tip your hat to John David Moore and the LSU offensive line.
Today’s bottom line: LSU is 4-0, ranked very highly in the polls, and is favored by more than a touchdown in next week’s contest against Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks. It’s clearly a great time to be a Tiger!
In closing, it’s time to share with you the results of our Week 5 Louisiana High School Pickem Contest. Last night we analyzed the picks, crunched the numbers, and found that the there are three winners this week as there was a three-way tie between the users “Billy Myers,” “Gashouse80,” and “Scott Murry.” Each of these users correctly picked 43 out of 50 games (86%!). Congratulations, men! If you are one of these winners, please send me a little blurb about yourself and your connection to LA prep football so I can add you to our page of weekly winners. Also, please send me your address so I can send you a couple of DandyDon.com koozies and bumper stickers. (Those will be going out to all previous winners this week.) Voting for this week’s games is now open and we hope many of you will decide to join in the action. Please note that it’s never too late to join our Pickem Contest as we’ll be announcing each week’s winner.