Rapid Reaction: LSU sloppy but not because of Bama hangover
There was no hangover.
But there was premature relaxation.
No. 1 LSU started with no lingering effects from its 46-41 victory against Alabama a week earlier.
The Tigers bolted from the gate and switched to cruise control, but the Rebels offense looked fantastic in the second half and LSU escaped from Oxford with a 58-37 victory Saturday at Ole Miss, a win that was way harder than it looked to be at first.
The start suggested the Tigers adhered to the 24-hour rule after last week’s victory. (OK, maybe they spent an extra day or so savoring the end of the eight-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide.)
But it was clear that LSU spent the week after Alabama focused on the task at hand – taking care business at Ole Miss.
It wasn’t necessarily all that focused on the Rebels, but it was focused on taking the next step forward – regardless of the opponent.
Joe Burrow, for the most part, had one of his Joe Burrow-est games of the season. Next month’s Heisman Trophy winner continued to complete passes at a ridiculously high percentage, accumulating impressive single-game yardage and touchdown totals in half a game while breaking more single-season records.
He broke the LSU single-season record for touchdown passes in October.
On Saturday night he broke the LSU single-season record for passing yards in mid-November.
By the time he collects the Tigers second Heisman Trophy in New York he will have broken every positive single-season record that a quarterback can possess.
At halftime he had completed 22 of 24 for 319 yards and three touchdowns. But Burrow also threw two interceptions in the second half, on consecutive drives. Burrow only had 4 interceptions all season coming into Saturday. He wound up with 489 yards passing and five TD passes.
Ja’Marr Chase remained Burrow’s favorite target, snagging his 12th touchdown catch of the season to tie yet another single-season LSU record and his 13th to break it. Chase wound up with 8 catches for 227 yards and 3 touchdowns including a 61-yarder in the fourth quarter to give LSU a 21-point cushion.
Justin Jefferson, Terrace Marshall Jr. and Thaddeus Moss kept grabbing Burrow passes too.
By the way, Jefferson caught his 10th and 11th touchdown passes of the season so the 24 that he and Chase have as a tandem is also a school record.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire continued to break tackle after tackle after tackle, building on the legend of his four-touchdown game against Alabama, which head coach Ed Orgeron called “one of the best efforts I’ve ever seen of a football player in my 35 years of coaching.” Edwards-Helaire had 172 yards on 23 carries including a 49-yard touchdown run which finally put the game completely out of reach.
The Tigers offensive line continued to be erratic. Three-fifths of the line was different than the usual starting unit because right tackle Austin Deculus was injured, left tackle Saahdiq Charles was held out and left guard Adrian Magee slid into Charles’ spot.
Burrow had minimal pressure in the first half and Edwards-Helaire had room to run, but the pressure on Burrow and the holding penalties increased in the second half.
The line is still a work in progress and the Rebels didn’t provide the stiffest challenge.
And that brings us to the defense. LSU has not stopped opposing offenses with the consistency or forcefulness that it generally has in recent seasons.
It had shown signs of progress for much of the last month even though Bama put up big numbers in a desperate attempt to catch up with Burrow.
The Tigers were getting more impressive up front. They were winning at the line of scrimmage much more recently than they were earlier in the season.
Then came the second half and suddenly Ole Miss quarterback John Rhys Plumlee was threatening to become a late entrant in the Heisman race.
After rushing 5 yards for Ole Miss’ only score in the first half as LSU rolled to a 31-7 halftime lead, Plumlee sprinted 46, 60 and 35 yards for second-half touchdowns.
Burrow responded with more and more yards and touchdowns to keep the Rebels at bay.
But Burrow did show he’s human, throwing two interceptions in a span of four passes that made things a bit more interesting in the fourth quarter.
Still it was another remarkable performance by Burrow, though the team effort was marred by the defensive collapse in the second half.
And that can’t be blamed on an Alabama hangover.