5 things I need to see from LSU against Texas A&M
LSU hasn’t won consecutive games yet this season. It has a chance to do so Saturday.
The Tigers went on the road last week and beat Arkansas. They’re back on the road this week to face No. 6 Texas A&M.
LSU is a 2-touchdown underdog, so a victory will require its best effort of the season – a performance better than the one last week, a better one than it had in a 41-7 victory at Vanderbilt, a better one even than the one in a 52-24 thrashing of South Carolina.
It can be done, but it won’t be easy.
Here are 5 things I need to see from LSU against Texas A&M:
1. A very good start
LSU players have heard their coaches preach to them before games against outmanned opponents – “Don’t let them feel like they belong.”
Now the Tigers are on the other side of that. They aren’t less talented than the Aggies, but they are less accomplished this season.
The Aggies are 5-1 and figure to have a much stronger belief system than the 3-3 Tigers have.
But LSU should enter this game feeling some confidence because of its win last week. The Tigers should be sharp. The Aggies haven’t played in 3 weeks. They could be a bit rusty.
If A&M comes out and immediately demonstrates its superiority, whatever new-found confidence LSU has could dissipate quickly.
But if the Tigers have the better start, they might realize they do belong.
A 3-and-out, a takeaway, a drive to points, a big play in the kicking game – any one of those things could get LSU headed in the right direction.
2. More Tyrion Davis-Price, please
I’m not going to quibble if John Emery II has a big game or Chris Curry does or some running back tandem does.
But head coach Ed Orgeron called Davis-Price the “spark” that the offense needed after the sophomore rushed for more than 100 yards against Arkansas.
Davis-Price ran hard and he ran well. He gave the offense confidence as he took advantage of a good game from the offensive line. He seems the best bet to do what the Tigers need to do.
Against Arkansas he helped the Tigers possess the ball for nearly 42 minutes. A repeat of that is probably unrealistic against A&M, but a significant advantage in time of possession is a must.
The only reliable means for adequate defensive play by LSU this season has been for the offense to hold the ball enough to keep the defense on the sideline for well more than 50% of the game.
3. Winning the special teams
LSU has been up and down on offense and almost exclusively down on defense.
The special teams, though, have been reliable. Kicker Cade York, punter Zach Von Rosenberg and return specialist Derek Stingley Jr. are all outstanding.
Stingley is expected back after suffering a blow to the head that sidelined him against Arkansas. If he is held out of return duties, the Tigers have depth there.
The coverage units have mostly been solid, though a few early-season kickoff returns were worrisome.
A big play by the special teams, a field-position advantage thanks to Von Rosenberg and a perfect night from York can go a long way toward equalizing this match-up.
4. Pressure and contain Kellen Mond
LSU has had all kinds of problems on defense, but the line has shown improvement of late.
Mond gets rid of the ball quickly. If the Tigers are going to disrupt his rhythm, the front 4 is going to have to do it.
But that’s not enough.
Mond hasn’t run much this year and was a complete non-factor against LSU last year, but he can take off running at any time and create big plays. LSU will have to be ready to surround him when he does take off.
But that’s not enough.
The Tigers have had tackling issues. It won’t be enough to surround him, they have to actually get him to the ground.
Pressure him, surround him, tackle him.
5. Show lots of pride
Forget the 3-3 record and all the bad moments thus far.
You’re LSU. You won the national championship less than 11 months ago.
You’re coming off a win – on the road, no less. You owned these guys (50-7) last year.
You won last week, they haven’t won in 3 weeks. (Never mind the scheduling quirks.)
You haven’t lost in a month. (Never mind the scheduling quirks.)
This is all about believing.
Sure they’re 5-1, but 3 of those wins came against the same teams you’ve beaten – Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Arkansas.
The point is, it’s LSU and Texas A&M.
Since they joined the SEC you’ve won 7, they’ve won 1 – and they needed 7 overtimes and a bunch of help to win the 1.
Act like you believe.