Rapid Reaction: LSU gets bounce-back win, but let's not get carried away
No. 20 LSU bounced back.
The Tigers played better in their 41-7 victory at Vanderbilt on Saturday than they did in a 44-34 home loss to Mississippi State a week earlier in Baton Rouge.
They did what they needed to do, but it was hardly a chest-thumping performance.
In fact the biggest factor in the Tigers’ improvement might have been simply the quality of the respective opponents.
There was a significant talent gap between LSU and Vanderbilt that didn’t exist between LSU and State.
So the Tigers blocked better and ran the ball better than they did in the opener. John Emery Jr. took the lead role this week and provided a spark.
That made things easier for Myles Brennan, who seemed more comfortable in his second career start than he did in his first. Brennan threw a career-high 4 TD passes.
This time, Brennan didn’t have to throw constantly to try and bring the Tigers from behind. He was able to pass out of favorable down-and-distance situations, be patient and operate under minimal duress after being sacked seven times a week earlier.
He took advantage by throwing 4 touchdown passes – 2 to Terrace Marshall Jr. for the second consecutive week and 2 to Jontre Kirklin, who gave new meaning to the term “late bloomer” by catching the first 2 touchdowns of his career in the second game of his senior season.
Derek Stingley Jr. was back from the illness that kept him out of the opener and that provided a spark for the secondary. The pass defense was much better than last week, but that was pretty much unavoidable after being historically bad in allowing 623 passing yards to State.
LSU’s defense kept the limited Commodores offense in check. Vanderbilt didn’t run the ball with any consistency, though it did have a few nice gainers.
The Tigers applied pressure consistently on true freshman Ken Seals, but didn’t take the ball way, which was the only thing the defense did well in the opener as it forced 4 turnovers by State, until Todd Harris made an interception in the 4th quarter.
The Tigers had a 21-7 lead after a methodical first half and received the kickoff to start the second half. But they went 3-and-out when Brennan was stopped for no gain on 3rd-and-1.
On their next possession they drove into Commodores territory and Cade York kicked a 53-yard field goal for a 24-7 lead. Stingley’s 48-yard punt return to led to York’s 31-yard field goal and a 27-7 lead midway through the quarter.
Then on a flea-flicker, Brennan found Kirklin for a 29-yard touchdown on which Kirklin did some nifty footwork to come down in bounds in the back of the end zone.
On the Tigers’ second possession of the game they focused on Emery and he responded with two rushes for 31 yards and an 11-yard pass reception.
That led to a wide receiver screen that Kirklin turned into a 28-yard touchdown.
LSU put together another scoring drive early in the second quarter and Brennan found Marshall for a 16-yard touchdown pass on third-and-6.
The Tigers took over at their 40 after stopping Vanderbilt on a fourth down, but Brennan threw an interception as his pass was badly overthrown and behind Racey McMath.
That gave the Commodores a lift and Seals connected with Cam Johnson for a 40-yard completion. On third-and-goal, Seals completed the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Ben Bresnahan to cut the lead to 14-7.
LSU came right back as Brennan and Marshall teamed on a 51-yard touchdown for a 21-7 lead.
Donovan Kaufman caught the ensuing kickoff deep in the end zone and returned 58 yards. Vanderbilt drove to a first-and-goal at the 9, but stalled and Pierson Cooke was wide left on a 22-yard field-goal attempt, leaving LSU with a 21-7 halftime lead.
That sequence kind of summed up the game. Things turned out well for the Tigers, thanks in part to the Commodores.