Tell the Truth Monday: LSU has a lot to build on
LSU is 1-0 in the SEC.
It gets a sparring match against New Mexico this Saturday night at Tiger Stadium before playing 6 consecutive games against SEC competition.
So Saturday is an opportunity to work out some kinks, just as the 65-17 sparring match against Southern provided a useful bridge from the 24-23 loss to Florida State in the season opener to the 31-16 victory against Mississippi State in the SEC opener last Saturday.
It’s Tell the Truth Monday, which means it’s time to examine the good and the bad from Saturday night at Tiger Stadium.
It’s generally easier for the coaches to drive home points to players in the wake of a victory than it is in the wake of a loss.
Such is the case after Brian Kelly improved to 1-0 in SEC games and 2-1 as the Tigers head coach.
The truth is this game looked for a long time like it would require a brutal bit of truth-telling on this Monday.
But the good outweighs the bad, as is usually the case after a victory.
The biggest truth is Kelly has himself a gamer in quarterback Jayden Daniels.
Daniels is a playmaker, a good decision-maker, someone who rarely if ever gets rattled. He’s clearly the best LSU quarterback of the brief post-Joe Burrow Era.
John Emery’s addition to the running attack is significant. He gives the Tigers a solid stable, along with Armoni Goodwin, Josh Williams and, perhaps, Noah Cain.
The Tigers rushed for 206 yards against State and even though Daniels was again their leading rusher with 93 yards, the running game was productive beyond him.
Louisiana online sports betting is officially live in much of the state. Louisiana joined the handful of other SEC football states with legalized sports betting in January 2022.
Another truth is that Malik Nabers isn’t just physically gifted, he’s mentally tough.
He lost his job as the punt returner after 2 muffs in the season opener.
But after his 2nd muff he caught 2 passes to start a 99-yard touchdown drive.
A week later, Nabers caught 3 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. On Saturday, he had game-highs of 6 receptions and 76 receiving yards. Four of those catches and 51 of those yards came during a 4th-quarter touchdown drive that extended a precarious 1-point lead to 8.
Safety Jay Ward led a spirited defensive performance. He made a game-high 11 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and had a victory-sealing interception.
B.J. Ojulari had 1.5 sacks as did freshman Harold Perkins Jr., who looks like he’s carving out a role in a defense that seems SEC ready.
The coaching staff mostly had a good handle on this game.
LSU did not get off to a good start and looked like it might be in trouble when it fell behind 13-0 late in the 2nd quarter.
But the defense kept the pressure on Will Rogers, and Daniels found a rhythm on offense.
There’s a lot of good stuff in there.
After 3 games and 2 wins the Tigers have a lot to continue to build on.
Tell the Truth Monday always comes with a few buts.
But … the special teams are far below SEC quality.
Sure, the biggest play of the game was the recovery of a muffed punt, but that was a gift from State.
The coverage units and the decision-making were poor.
Here’s another but: The offensive line is a concern.
Kelly seemed to think he had figured out his starting 5 and top rotation players after the Southern game, then starting right guard Anthony Bradford didn’t dress for an as-yet undisclosed reason.
The offensive line had 3 false starts in the early going on Saturday, though it did play better as the game went along.
The truth is that the line has to fuse together into a consistent unit before October gets here.
If Daniels keeps running as frequently as he has had to so far –- both by design and out of necessity –- and keeps taking as many hits as he has taken, it’s going to take a serious toll by the time we reach the end of November.
But the biggest truth of all on this Monday is that LSU is growing and off to a winning start in the SEC.
And that’s the biggest but of all.