Rapid Reaction: When the LSU passing game is clicking, nothing else seems to matter
LSU’s passing offense has made the rest of the team’s shortcomings seem insignificant.
When you’re averaging 52-plus points and winning every week and doing so by an average margin of more than 30 points, little concerns don’t become big concerns.
But when the scoring pace slows and the score becomes tighter, relatively minor concerns can become, well, more concerning.
For the No. 2 Tigers, the 36-13 victory at Mississippi State (3-4, 1-3) Saturday afternoon was a solid enough performance that moved them to 7-0 and 3-0 in the SEC.
But it took the passing game longer than usual to get going and so other areas seemed more problematic until Joe Burrow got untracked. When his day ended, Burrow had 4 touchdown passes, raising his season total to 29 and breaking the school record of JaMarcus Russell and Matt Mauck.
LSU moved the ball into the red zone on its first 3 possessions and remained perfect in that area of the field for the season. But 3 consecutive field goals were certainly uncharacteristic and a 3-0 lead after one quarter and a 9-0 lead a few minutes into the second weren’t all that comfortable for the highest-scoring team in the country.
So when the Tigers’ defense missed tackles, as it has done with some regularity this season, and couldn’t generate a consistent pass rush from the defensive line, as has been the case most of the season, and the offensive line had trouble opening holes for the running game, as has happened before, and Cade York was shaky even while making 3 consecutive field goals, those imperfections stood out more than usual.
They stood out even more after State drove 75 yards for a touchdown, as Florida did 4 times a week earlier, to get within 9-7 midway through the 2nd quarter.
Then the passing game clicked.
The Bulldogs didn’t cover Racey McMath and Burrow found him on a crossing route that turned into a 60-yard touchdown.
York, who had made field goals from 20, 23 and 25 yards, pushed the extra-point wide right, reinforcing concerns about his reliability.
But Jacoby Stevens made a 1-handed interception for LSU’s 2nd takeaway of the half and Burrow followed with an 8-yard touchdown toss to Ja’Marr Chase. Just like that, the Tigers had a 22-7 halftime lead.
It wasn’t the most comfortable lead, but the arrival of the familiar passing game provided comfort that exceeded the modest margin.
Despite stalling near the goal line 3 times, the offense still scored on all 5 of its 1st-half possessions and was nearly on pace to reach its gaudy scoring average.
After a 3-and-out on the first possession of the 3rd quarter, the LSU offense started looking like the LSU offense.
On the second possession, Burrow stepped away from the pass rush to throw a 37-yard touchdown to Derrick Dillon.
Then came the record-setter on an 18-yarder to Justin Jefferson. That made it 36-7 after 3 quarters and it was getting harder to find any shortcomings in the Tigers performance. Burrow left shortly after, having completed 25-of-32 throws for 327 yards.
It was Burrow’s 5th 300-yard game this season and 5th time throwing at least 4 TD passes.
Next up is an SEC West showdown against Auburn next Saturday.
In that game and every game the rest of the way, Burrow will set a new school record with each touchdown pass he throws.
And each time he throws one, it will make it a little easier to overlook whatever imperfections crop up from other areas of the team.