9/24/17 1:00 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
A win is a win and I’ll gladly take it, though last night’s 35-26 win over Syracuse wasn’t exactly confidence-inspiring. Remember when I wrote a few days ago that there are no quick-fixes for some of LSU’s problems, particularly depth in the trenches? Well, that ugly truth revealed itself last night and will almost certainly be a recurring theme throughout the season. But for now… for today… I would rather revel in the fact that LSU hung on to win last night’s nail-biter than to focus on the fact that this team has issues that could make for a long season. There will be plenty of time for that.
The Tigers scored on the first offensive play of each half, but the rest of the game was a mixed bag, at best. Here’s a quick rundown of how it played out:
Aside from the opening play – a one-yard TD run from Derrius Guice following Andreas “Greedy” Williams’ interception – the Tigers’ offense sputtered for most of the half. At the end of the first quarter, the Tigers had a dismal 11 yards passing and zero rushing yards.
In the second quarter, an impressive 6-play, 71-yard drive highlighted by a 43-yard Steven Sullivan touchdown reception gave the Tigers a 14-3 lead just before the break.
The Tigers struck fast to start the second stanza on an absolutely beautifully thrown 87-yard touchdown pass from Etling to Drake Davis to give the Tigers a comfortable 19-point lead, but Syracuse didn’t flinch. Instead, the Orange answered with an impressive drive ending in a 30-yard halfback pass for a touchdown.
At that point in the game, Danny Etling seemed to have found a groove and had completed six of his previous seven passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns, which made it a surprising time to see Coach Orgeron turn to freshman quarterback Myles Brennan. After the game, Coach O implied that the decision to play Brennan then had nothing to do with Etling’s play, but that he wanted to give Brennan some significant playing time in a critical situation to see what he could do. Turns out he did pretty well. On his opening drive, Brennan did a great job of picking up a blitz on third down and connected with running back Derrell Williams for a short completion that resulted in a 43-yard gain. On the following play, Williams made it a 28-10 LSU lead on a 20-yard TD run.
After giving up a safety when Darrel Williams was bottled up in the end zone, Syracuse followed with a 72-yard scoring drive late in the third quarter to make it 28-19. Surprisingly, LSU stuck with Myles Brennan and he ended up throwing an interception (the Tigers first turnover of the season). At first, the play looked like a typical freshmen QB mistake, but upon further review, it might have been a freshman WR mistake as Dee Anderson appeared to have incorrectly run his route. Regardless, the Orange would go on to score a touchdown and make it a 2-point game on an 80-yard scoring drive that was kept alive by a roughing the passer penalty on freshman K’Lavon Chaisson.
Tigers and Tiger fans were finally able to collectively exhale after Etling reentered the game and orchestrated a 7-play, 56-yard drive ending with a DJ Chark 20-yard jet sweep touchdown run to make the score 35-26.
• Offensive Line: The most concerning thing about this game, by far, was the play of the O-line. The Tigers were once again beaten at the point of attack, and that was against a defensive front that is not nearly as strong as the majority of fronts LSU will face from here on out. If there’s any silver lining with regard to the O-line it’s that Adrian Magee got some playing time at right guard and seemed to help.
• Derrius Guice: The one-time Heisman hopeful was pretty much a non-factor in the game, rushing for only 14 yards on eight carries. It seemed obvious to me that Guice wasn’t at full health, though after the game Orgeron said he is “fine” but that they limited his carried for precautionary reasons.
• Defensive Line: Rashard Lawrence returned after missing the last two games with an ankle injury and his presence was a big help. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury to his other ankle during the game and didn’t play much of the second half. Here’s hoping he can be back at full health for two weeks against Florida. If this unit can ever get to full strength with Lawrence and Ed Alexander at full health and the return of Frank Herron, it could be considerably better, but until then it’s mediocre, at best.
• Defensive backfield: This unit had too many busted assignments (again), and took another hit when strong safety John Battle left the game with an injury. After the game, Coach O said Battle’s injury isn’t serious, which is good to hear considering LSU is already without starting free safety Ed Paris.
• Punts & Punt Returns: DJ Chark made some poor decisions fielding (and not fielding) punts, and Josh Growden had a horrible night punting the ball, so much so that he was replaced by walk-on Zach Von Rosenberg who was much better.
• Penalties: LSU had no first-half penalties and only three on the night. Yes, that penalty by Chaisson in the third quarter was a killer, but still, there was much improvement on this front. Kudos to Coach O and the staff for that.
• Danny Etling: Considering that he was feeling heat most of the night, Etling finished with a pretty good stat line: 10-of-17 for 188 yards and two TDs. His 87-yard TD pass to Davis marked a career-long for the senior.
• Myles Brennan: While the timing of it may have been questionable, it was great to see Brennan get some meaningful playing time. No, I don’t think he did enough to win the starting job, though I do think a good argument could be made that his poise and quick release greatly benefitted LSU’s short passing game, which could go a long way in mitigating LSU’s offensive line/pass protection issues.
• Darrell Williams: Darrell Williams: Williams made himself some NFL money last night with 142 all-purpose yards, 92 rushing and 50 receiving. On a night where Guice was limited, Williams picked up the slack in a big way.
• Young Receivers Emerging: Coach O said LSU would use new personnel this week, and no place was that more obvious or effective than at wide receiver. Steven Sullivan recorded his first career touchdown with his second career catch on the aforementioned 43‐yard catch from Etling. Drake Davis was on the receiving end of Etling’s 87-yard completion to start the second half. By the way, that touchdown marked the longest passing touchdown since September 6, 2014, when Travin Dural caught a 94‐yard pass from Anthony Jennings against Sam Houston St.
• Andreas “Greedy” Williams: Greedy continued to show he has that “it” factor and ended with seven tackles, four solo tackles, one interception, and one pass breakup. Unfortunately, he was also beat on a deep TD pass in the fourth quarter that pulled the Orange within two.
• Other individual performances: Several other Tigers played their hearts out: Devin White, Corey Thomson, John Battle, and Rashard Lawrence, to name a few. Oh, and Cameron Gamble did a nice job on kickoffs.
• Red Zone Offense: The Tigers were 3-for-3 in the red zone with three touchdowns.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Give LSU some credit for rebounding from last week’s demoralizing loss and doing what it had to do to win. And give Syracuse credit for being well-prepared and playing a hard-fought game. But, with that said, the hard truth is that LSU barely squeaked out a win against an Orange team that is probably weaker than all but one team remaining on LSU’s schedule. Fortunately, that one team is LSU’s next opponent, Troy, which gives the Tigers a bit more time to work out kinks and get healthy.
Here are LSU’s video highlights, Coach O’s Post-Game Comments, and the complete boxscore.
That’s it for now, folks, but I invite you to email your comments and questions so that I can select a few to include in tomorrow’s Monday Morning Mail Call.