Tell The Truth Monday: Believe it or not, there were some silver linings for LSU
Trying to find silver linings in LSU’s season-opening performance was kind of like trying to find fans in the Tiger Stadium stands on Saturday.
Fans were there, but they were scattered about and greatly outnumbered by empty seats.
There were good parts to the Tigers’ performance, but they were scattered about and greatly outnumbered by the bad parts.
The 44-34 loss to Mississippi State was bad and ugly, but there was still some good.
Tell The Truth Monday won’t be pleasant for the LSU players or coaches, but head coach Ed Orgeron will be able to cherry-pick a few things to inject some positivity into preparation for the game at Vanderbilt next Saturday.
Defense forced turnovers
New defensive coordinator Bo Pelini’s scheme is aggressive and is noted for producing turnovers and it did just that – taking the ball away 4 times, leading to 17 points.
Jabril Cox’s pick-6 gave the Tigers their first points of the season while the offense was impotent to start the game.
After LSU fell behind by 2 scores for the first time, the defense helped turn things around. Freshman Eli Ricks’ interception set up a touchdown and JaCoby Stevens’ strip sack and recovery set up a tying field goal in the 4th quarter.
The Tigers nearly made it 3 consecutive turnovers, but replay rightly overturned an apparent KJ Costello fumble and ruled it an incomplete pass.
LSU still had a chance to win deep into the 4th quarter and that would not have been true without the takeaways.
Ali Gaye’s pressure from the edge
We already mentioned key plays by Cox, who looks like he’ll be a leader of the defense, Stevens and Ricks.
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But no one stood out on the defense in a positive way more than Gaye, a JUCO transfer.
He had a sack and another tackle for loss among his 3 tackles and added 3 pass break-ups and consistent pressure. It seemed as though he was held on nearly every play on which he did not record a stat.
His debut conjured up images of Keke Mingo and Arden Key.
Damone Clark’s tackling
Clark stepped into his new role as a top linebacker on the defense and made a career-high 11 tackles, 1.5 for loss and a sack.
Too many tackles were made after passes were completed, but too many potential tackles were missed by others as well.
Clark’s sure-handedness prevented things from being even worse.
Zach Von Rosenberg’s punting
Von Rosenberg, who turned 30 last week, might have been the most consistent Tiger of all.
He averaged 49.4 yards on 7 punts, 5 of which were downed inside the 20. He backed up Mississippi State throughout the first quarter, but the LSU offense couldn’t take advantage.
Cade York’s place-kicking
The sophomore didn’t face huge challenges, but he was still a bright spot.
He made all 4 of his extra-point attempts and both of his field-goal attempts, from 40 and 26 yards.
He did everything he was asked to do. If more players had done the same, the performance would have been appreciably better.
Arik Gilbert had a good debut
The touted freshman tight end received as much praise as anyone during the preseason.
He got off to a good start, catching 4 passes for 37 yards and a 2-yard touchdown on which he bailed out Myles Brennan on a risky toss.
Gilbert’s performance wasn’t quite one for the ages, but he didn’t do anything that would suggest the lofty expectations for him are unwarranted.
Terrace Marshall Jr. and Jaray Jenkins
It wasn’t a great day for all of the wide receivers, but Marshall and Jenkins brought some life to the passing game after a slow start.
Marshall is the top returning receiver and she showed signs of being the leader of a youthful group. He caught 8 passes for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Jenkins generally is overlooked in favor of younger players when estimations of the group’s potential are made, but he outperformed more highly touted prospects. The 3rd-year sophomore from Jena, La., had 5 catches for 85 yards.
No he wasn’t Joe Burrow. No he wasn’t great. At times he was poor. He has to get better.
But there was a silver lining to even his performance. Forget the stats; there were a lot of stat-padding calls in the waning moments that led to 345 yards passing with 3 TDs.
Brennan was starting a football game for the first time in 4 years. Burrow wasn’t any better in his first start at LSU after a similar period of inactivity – 11-of-24, 140 yards, 0 touchdowns or interceptions.
Brennan had virtually no running game to work with and he was sacked 7 times. So it was a rough day all around, but he played better as the game went along and kept fighting.
Generally, his decision-making was solid, his accuracy was good though not great and he made enough plays to bring the Tigers back to a tie in the 4th quarter.
His performance, like that of the whole team, wasn’t good enough, but neither was it devoid of positives worth considering as LSU moves on to Week 2.