LSU football: Most complete offensive effort of the season a big step for Tigers
LSU put together a balanced performance on offense Saturday night.
Granted, it was against one of the weaker defenses in the SEC in Ole Miss. But with the end of the first half of the season arriving next week, it was time for the Tigers to show they’re capable of having the offensive balance necessary to be an SEC contender.
LSU had climbed to No. 5 and had some positive moments rushing the ball and occasional ones throwing it as it went 4-0 and claimed two wins against Top 10 teams (preseason No. 8 Miami in the season opener and then-No. 7 Auburn 13 days later).
But it hadn’t put together a performance in which it was able to run and pass well throughout the game.
Then the Rebels came into Tiger Stadium.
When it was all said and done, the Tigers had accumulated a season-high 573 yards, rushing for a season-high 281 and passing for a season-high 292.
LSU’s beat-up, ever-changing offensive line was composed of the fifth different starting unit in as many games and had to adjust more when center Lloyd Cushenberry III, one of the mainstays, was shaken up.
But the line set the tone early, and coach Ed Orgeron and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger chose to take the fight right to the Rebels.
Nick Brossette (20 rushes, 72 yards, one touchdown) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (11-67-1) continued as a solid one-two punch, but a total of eight Tigers ran the ball, and the group averaged 5.6 yards per carry. A significant twist came as quarterback Joe Burrow was the most productive ballcarrier, gaining 96 yards on 9 carries and scoring on a 35-yard run.
Burrow was an equal opportunity passer, connecting with nine different receivers. Justin Jefferson stood out the most, gaining 99 yards on 5 catches and scoring twice. Stephen Sullivan matched Jefferson’s 5 catches and gained 50 yards, freshman Ja’Marr Chase found the end zone for the second time this season and another freshman, Terrace Marshall Jr., gained 52 yards on his only reception.
The most complete offensive effort, though, was marred by the first multi-turnover game of the season as Burrow and Brossette both lost fumbles. A persistent rain and slippery football made ball security more challenging, but Orgeron is still going to harp on those two giveaways after LSU had turned the ball over just once in the first four games.
As for the Tigers defense, it was business as usual. LSU kept Ole Miss out of the end zone in the first half as the Tigers rolled to a 28-6 halftime lead. Grant Delpit went all Greedy Williams and made an interception on the first series of the game.
The Rebels got in the end zone just once and managed a total of 328 yards.
All in all, it was a mostly complete performance, but LSU did follow a familiar pattern by hitting a lull after a very impressive start. It’s a pattern that the Tigers have established on a weekly basis.
After scoring touchdowns on four consecutive possessions, the offense was slowed by the turnovers, and the defense wasn’t able to bottle up the Rebels’ explosive offense for the entire game.
LSU hadn’t turned the ball over this season until Burrow lost a fumble while being sacked a week earlier against Louisiana Tech.
With the Tigers leading Ole Miss 28-3 and driving in the second quarter, Burrow lost another fumble, but the play was negated by a penalty on Ole Miss, who wound committing 17 infractions for 167 yards. Burrow lost another fumble later in the possession, producing LSU’s first red zone failure of the season.
The lost fumble started LSU’s latest lull. Ole Miss kicked a field goal to make it 28-6 at halftime. The Tigers’ first possession of the third quarter ended with a Brossette fumble and another red zone failure, and the second possession ended with a punt. An Ole Miss touchdown made it a two-score game at 28-13.
Ole Miss had turned a 25-point deficit into a 13-point deficit with more than a quarter to play, not unlike Miami turning a 30-point deficit into a 16-point deficit with nearly nine minutes remaining.
But just as Louisiana Tech scored 21 straight points to get within three and LSU answered with a touchdown, the Tigers answered the Rebels’ push with a touchdown.
Ole Miss kicked another field goal to get within 19 points with most of the fourth quarter remaining, but LSU answered with another field goal and Burrow’s 35-yard touchdown run.
With the exception of the Auburn game, in which LSU scored the first 10 points, Auburn scored the next 21 and LSU scored the last 12, none of the Tigers’ lulls have put them in serious danger of losing.
The Tigers have yet to play a full 60 minutes, and with Florida, No. 2 Georgia, Mississippi State and No. 1 Alabama coming up in succession, they’ll need to put a complete effort together soon if they’re going to continue this undefeated run.
But Saturday was significant because it was LSU’s most complete offensive performance so far, and it maybe moved them closer to that complete, 60-minute team effort.