To say there were some questions surrounding the LSU Tigers heading into Saturday night’s matchup against Mizzou at Death Valley would be an understatement.
After firing longtime coach Les Miles on Sunday and learning that star RB Leonard Fournette wouldn’t be able to play later in the week, the Tigers entered the game in less than ideal shape.
But in their first game under interim coach Ed Oregon, LSU showed up to play.
The Tigers ran for 418 yards — more than in any game under Miles — while pummeling Missouri 42-7 in Baton Rouge. The Tigers totaled 634 yards, their fourth-best performance since 2000.
Mizzou was a trendy upset pick after a week of turmoil at LSU, but the home Tigers quickly proved those people wrong, controlling the game from the outset.
Here are a few things I liked and a few things I didn’t from Saturday night’s 42-7 beatdown:
What I liked
1. Derrius Guice for Heisman! Leonard who? LSU didn’t miss Leonard Fournette at all. Backup RB Derrius Guice rushed for three touchdowns in the first half — the first multi-touchdown game of his career.
Guice finished the game with 17 carries for 163 yards — an average of 9.6 yards per touch.
Darrel Williams added 130 yards and three scores.
Even if Fournette misses next week’s showdown against Florida, the Tigers will be in good hands with Guice.
2. LSU’s offensive line dominated: There’s a chance Mizzou’s defensive line might be overrated. There’s an equally good chance LSU’s offensive line might be underrated.
Everything LSU wanted to do in the first half against Mizzou, they did. The visiting Tigers couldn’t stop anything defensively.
For a unit that finished among the country’s best in 2015, the Mizzou defense needs to find some answers if the Tigers are going to go bowling this winter.
3. It was time for Cam Cameron to go: As much blame as Les Miles got for the Tigers’ struggles, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron should get even more.
It was amazing to see what LSU could do with some competent play calling against Mizzou. Imagine if Steve Ensminger had been calling plays all year.
QB Danny Etling and the receivers looked better than they have all season and the stats of Guice and Darrel Williams on the ground speak for themselves.
The short, quick passes worked wonders against Mizzou, as did nearly every run play Ensminger dialed up. Even though Etling only threw for 216 yards and no touchdowns, he controlled the game through the air and didn’t turn it over.
What needs work
1. Mizzou was intimidated by Death Valley: Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s offense looks good against bad teams, but has struggled against tougher opponents and on the road so far this year.
QB Drew Lock, who has looked great in wins over Delaware State and Eastern Michigan and decent against Georgia, was only 9-for-19 for 82 yards and an interception in the first half Saturday. He finished with 167 yards passing.
WR J’Mon Moore lost his cool at the end of the first half, getting into it with CB Tre’Davious White after a meaningless catch to end the second quarter.
All in all, LSU dominated the first half, completely demoralizing the visiting Tigers.
2. What was up with Michael Scherer? Mizzou LB Michael Scherer’s name was mentioned a lot Saturday night, but not for good reasons.
He was frequently out of position on running plays and, even when he was in position, was getting called out for missing tackles.
Scherer is a solid player, so this was likely just a blip on the radar, but he’ll need to have a big game next time out to restore his confidence.
3. Don’t play scared: Down 28-0 with 3:50 left in the third quarter, Mizzou coach Barry Odom decided to punt from inside LSU territory.
Granted, P Corey Fatony, who was one of the only bright spots for Mizzou, pinned LSU at their own three-yard line, but that sort of scared play calling rarely leads to victories.
In a tough environment on the road, Mizzou can’t be afraid to go out and try to make a play when trailing late.
What’s next: LSU (3-2) will take on Florida in a big SEC East-West rivalry next weekend in Gainesville. The game can be seen at noon Eastern time on ESPN.
Mizzou (2-3) will also face Florida in Gainesville for its next game. The Tigers have a bye next weekend before taking on the Gators on Saturday, Oct. 15. The start time and TV details of that game are to be determined.