6/27/16 5:45 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Grass is cut, garden is prepped, tomatoes are blanched, coup is cleaned and bags are packed. River City, here we come…
By the time most of you are reading this, my family and I will be on our way to a much-anticipated vacation getaway. Thanks to all of you who sent suggestions on what to see and do in the San Antonio area. Much appreciated!
While I’m out this week, we’ll keep these reports rollings with a multi-part series on LSU football statistical trends and observations, which we’ll begin today, as well as our countdown to Game Day. Then, if there are any other newsy bits to touch on (you know there will be!), my buddy Mark will cover them so that we don’t miss a beat.
LSU Football Statistical Trends and Observations:
Part 1: Rushing Offense, Run to Pass Ratio
After having increasingly heavy run-to-pass ratios in 2012 (60/40), 2013 (62/48) and 2014 (69/31), the Tigers actually ran the ball a smaller percentage of time last season (64/36) than they did the year before. But, when you look deeper into the stats, you see that a higher percentage of throws doesn’t necessarily equal a more effective Tiger offense.
In LSU’s three November losses last season, the Tigers passed the ball 53% of the time. Against Alabama (54 rushing yards) and Arkansas (59 rushing yards), the Tigers were forced to pass due to an ineffective running game. In the loss vs. Ole Miss, LSU did run for 184 yards, but two interceptions and a fumble ultimately forced the Tigers to pass more in that contest. Things were vastly different in LSU’s nine wins as the Tigers relied heavily on the run and passed the ball only 30% of the time. Of course, some of that had to do with eating up the clock late in the game with handoff after handoff. LSU averaged a robust 309.4 yards per game in those victories, but when the Tigers faced teams that were tougher against the run, they were forced to turn to their passing game and came up short. In my opinion, this can be attributed, in large part, to not having utilized the short to intermediate passing game enough early in the season.
With a seasoned offensive line, one of the best stables of running backs in the country led by Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette, and a still somewhat unproven quarterback, it could be tempting to lean very heavily on the run game early this season, but I think that would be a mistake. LSU should look to establish a strong passing game early if for no other reason than to help prepare Brandon Harris and the receivers for later in the season when they face tough running defenses like Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas. A successful aerial attack early on, particularly in the short to intermediate passing game, would give LSU’s offense a valuable boost of confidence and give future opponents a reason to think twice before stacking the box.
Now, a quick note about our countdown before jumping to it: If you are one of our early morning readers, you’ll get a strong sense of déjà vu when reading today’s countdown topic. That’s because yesterday morning I got my days mixed up and mistakenly posted the following write-up instead of the one I was supposed to use for No. 69. At about 6:50 a.m. I realized the error and posted the correct write-up. Sorry about that!
With 68 days remaining until LSU’s season opener vs Wisconsin, let’s continue our countdown by looking at a special 68-yard play that helped set the tone for a historic win. I’m referring to Cedric Donaldson’s 68-yard interception return in the Tigers’ 28-21 victory over No. 1 Florida in 1997. After an excellent Kevin Faulk punt return and subsequent Herb Tyler option TD, Florida’s QB, Doug Johnson, threw an interception that Donaldson returned 68-yards all the way to the Florida 7-yard line. Tommy Banks scored from there to give LSU a 14-0 lead less than halfway into the first half. Even after Florida evened the score at 14, Donaldson returned an interception 31 yards for a TD and 21-14 lead. Mark Roman intercepted Johnson on the ensuing Florida drive, and Herb Tyler had his second TD of the game to put LSU in command at 28-14. After a Florida TD and subsequent LSU punt, Florida still had a chance to tie the game, but Raion Hill picked off Doug Johnson and LSU was able to run out the clock and come away with its only home win over a No. 1 ranked team in school history. For a reminder of what a special game that was, check out these video highlights.
Since I didn’t leave you with any Sunday morning coffee reads yesterday, I’ll make up for it today with a few very good links.
The first two come from The Advocate’s two-part Q&A with LSU baseball coach Coach Paul Mainieri. In Part I, Mainieri addresses the question about whether he overachieved this year, the lack of an established fourth starter, Nolan Cain’s third-base coaching, and more. In Part II, Mainieri looks ahead to next year and dishes out some good information about incoming freshmen who could help shore up LSU’s bullpen.
And in this article by Tiger Rag, editor Cody Worsham recounts the story of LSU legend Pete Maravich’s remarkable freshman season that was nearly lost to history.
Lastly, I’ve updated our Ticket Exchange with a few new listings.