Saturday night’s home opener saw improvement across the board for the LSU Tigers. The defense improved. Special teams continued to be one of the strongest units on the team. And yes, the offense improved. All this improvement led to LSU’s 29-7 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs and a 3-0 start to the season.
Throughout the night the Tigers defense made play after play, creating five turnovers and harassing Mississippi State’s quarterbacks all night long. The only flaw in an otherwise dominating performance was the first drive of the second half. LSU’s defense knocked out starter Chris Relf midway through the drive and the Bulldogs inserted freshman Tyler Russell. Russell came in and threw the ball effectively, finishing out the drive with a touchdown and bringing Mississippi State as close as they would get all night.
The defense made an adjustment and proved to be too quick and too disruptive for Mississippi State to get anything going. Defensive coordinator John Chavis dialed up blitzes on every down it seemed, whether it was a run or pass. Chavis’ personnel suit this style of play to a T, especially on passing downs when he can bring his nickel and dime packages on the field. When you can replace a down lineman, usually Levingston, and a linebacker, Francois, with Ron Brooks and freshman sensation Tyrann Mathieu, it incorporates speed and physicality on the edges. Mathieu has been the star of the freshman class and continues to have a nose for the football. Through his first three games he has created turnovers, broken up passes, and been a tackling machine on special teams. He reminds me of Patrick Peterson, Chad Jones and Laron Landry all sprinkled into one. Yea, he’s that good through three games.
Talk about good, how about the performance by the Tigers senior placekicker Josh Jasper? Jasper connected on a record five field goals, his longest from 51 yards and was the Tigers only scoring threat of the first half. Jasper, along with the defensive performance, was all that LSU would need to get the victory on Saturday night. The offense, criticized all season long, was just lagniappe for the night but did show signs of improvement…….between the 20’s.
If there was criticism to be had, it shouldn’t be focused on the quarterback as much as it should be on the redzone offense. Granted, Jordan Jefferson is a big part of that. Better execution in the run game as well as being a little more creative in the passing game would have benefited a great deal. But it’s hard to complain about improvement, even if it’s baby steps.
The offense had no turnovers when the game was in doubt. (Alfred Blue fumbled late when the Tigers were running out the clock) Jordan Jefferson protected the ball and managed the game and at the same time looked to have gained some confidence going forward. While he still doesn’t throw the ball down the field, he did give us a glimpse of what this offense is capable of when he does.
On the ensuing drive after Mississippi State scored its only touchdown, Jefferson stretched the defense over the middle, scrambled to buy time and found secondary targets, and ran the football with more authority. All on one drive. If the offense can do more of that, this team will be dangerous.
Improvement one step at a time. One game at a time.