Texas is back? Nah, more like LSU offense has arrived
Everything about the situation said to run the ball.
Clinging to a 37-31 lead and facing third and 17 with 2:38 left, handing the ball off, winding down clock and turning the game over to the LSU defense was the logical move. It made sense to force Texas to take another timeout so that it would have one left and trust that the Tigers could get a defensive stand to beat a top 10 team on the road.
The only problem with that logic? It didn’t take the 2019 LSU offense into account.
It didn’t factor into the equation that Joe Burrow, a week removed from setting the program’s single-game passing touchdown record (in the first half), had already clinched LSU’s fourth 400-yard passing game in school history and first since 2001.
It didn’t factor into the equation that for the first time in LSU history, three different receivers had 100 receiving yards in the game game.
It didn’t factor into the equation that Burrow lived for that moment. That is, the “watch what I do to take the air out of your stadium” moment.
Well, LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger took those things into the equation. That’s why he gave Burrow the chance to stare down six Texas rushers, throw off-balance with a blitzing safety approaching and hit Justin Jefferson in stride so that he could take it 61 yards for the LSU dagger. I mean, touchdown.
Kirk Herbstreit said it best on the broadcast immediately following the long touchdown pass.
“This is 2019 LSU. This is Joe Burrow. Forget that. We’re here to win. We’re here to play for championships.”
Say it louder for the people in the back, Kirk.
On a night when college football fans wanted to know if Texas was back or if LSU would trust its new RPO-based offense with new passing coordinator Joe Brady, the latter won out. Clearly.
The offseason decision that Ed Orgeron knew would define his 2019 team paid off in a major way. No, it didn’t yield a victory against Alabama (yet), but it did produce the next-best thing for the Tigers’ College Football Playoff chances.
Saturday night’s win in Austin was the LSU offense’s coming out party to the world. The message was clear as ever. This ain’t your dad’s LSU offense. This ain’t even your older brother’s LSU offense. This is the modern, secondary-carving, take-no-prisoners LSU offense.
It was more of the same juggernaut offense that we saw last week against Georgia Southern. Doing it on the road against No. 9 Texas, however, felt just a wee bit different.
Joe Burrow waved goodbye to Texas fans late in the 4th 👋 pic.twitter.com/HGOtITdRjp
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 8, 2019
It’s 2019, when LSU can barely crack the century mark rushing, allow over 500 yards of offense to Texas and … win? Yep. Get with the times.
With Burrow running the show, Ensminger calling the plays and Brady’s offensive blueprint on display, the Tigers look dangerous. Like, dangerous enough to take down a certain team in the SEC West, which LSU hasn’t beaten since 2011.
Or perhaps that’s getting ahead of myself. After all, that’s been said before. But for all the times that’s been said, this type of offense has never been at the root of why “this could be the year.” Bunch formations, fullbacks, two-receiver sets and predictable play-calling was at the root.
There’s nothing conservative about this LSU offense anymore. It attacks. It attacks again. And then it attacks some more. Both times that Texas pulled within a score in the second half — not including that TD in the final 30 seconds — LSU responded with 6-play, 75-yard touchdown drives. Both of them took less than 3 minutes. Both featured one run play.
I can’t imagine there have been many times when LSU fans felt like their team had a passing game that was unstoppable. That includes when Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry were in Baton Rouge. But on Saturday night, you would’ve thought those guys were wearing LSU jerseys. That’s a credit to the likes of Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall, all of whom caught seemingly everything in sight.
That was the type of game that existed in some alternate universe that LSU wasn’t a part of throughout this pass-heavy decade. Sure, LSU has been in shootouts before. But the combination of the monster passing numbers with the stakes — picking up the most impressive win of any team in the country so far — made it feel different.
Then again, beating top 10 teams is more of the same for Ed Orgeron. He’s now 6-2 against the top 10 in the Associated Press Poll since shedding the interim tag in the start of 2017. Needless to say, that was the best offensive showing in any of those games. That was the most LSU scored against a ranked opponent since putting up 54 at Texas A&M in the 2016 regular season finale.
That game was what helped Orgeron get the LSU job. It was the same LSU job that Tom Herman turned down to go to Texas. At the time, Tigers fans wanted Herman because of his track record on offense. Orgeron, a defensive line specialist, wasn’t expected to help turn around the LSU offense.
It’s true that Orgeron isn’t the offensive mastermind. But he deserves credit for dipping into the transfer market after spring camp in 2018 and ultimately landing Joe Burrow. Orgeron also deserves credit for making the decision to cut bait with Matt Canada and to instead trust Ensminger. And Orgeron deserves credit for recognizing that LSU wasn’t going to get any better offensively without someone like Brady on board.
Orgeron had a short, simple message as he started his media availability following Saturday night’s win in Austin.
“How about our offense?”
Yeah. How about it?