|Freak stuffs a 4th and 1 attempt|
LSU's game against Idaho resembled their first game against North Texas. The Tigers came firing out of the gates and jumped to a 14-0 lead. Then, the team seemed to take the foot off the gas a bit and lost some focus. Idaho responded with an interception near their goal line and turned it into a touchdown. They also had a nice touchdown drive. But, LSU woke up, stepped on the gas again and rolled to a 63-14 victory.
Unfortunately, one of the big take aways from this game is an injury to running back Alfred Blue. While LSU has given no official word, the rumor mill indicates that Blue will be out for an extended period of time. LSU certainly has the depth at running back to where an injury to Blue won't affect the offense too much. But it does put a dent in the depth that the team likes to rely on.
Zach Mettenberger looked very sharp once again. Much was made of his performance a week ago against Washington when he was near perfect. He followed that up with a 17 of 22 performance against Idaho. The one big negative is that for the second time this season, he threw an interception in the red zone. That simply can't happen, and I believe Mettenberger will continue to settle into this offense and realize that kicking a field goal should often be considered a victory. Overall, Mettenberger had a great night but his one mistake was a huge one.
I continue to be impressed with the play of Anthony Johnson. Freak looks like a different player after losing some weight in the offseason, and he's making big plays every week. On Idaho's opening drive of the game, Johnson completely blew up a 4th and 1 attempt.
I talked about Kevin Minter last week too, but he had another great game on Saturday. He's really coming into his own as a player and currently leads the team in tackles (21), tackles for loss (3) and pass break-ups (3). The scary part is that he still has plenty of room for improvement.
The offensive line dealt with some shuffling on Saturday night. Elliott Porter started the game at center in place of P.J. Lonergan; however, Lonergan did come into the game later. Also, left tackle Josh Dworacyzk left the game after getting dinged. Alex Hurst took his spot at left tackle and true freshman Vadal Alexander came in to play right tackle. Dworacyzk was struggling a bit, and Les Miles seems to indicate that it was because of the injury. Both Dworacyzk and Lonergan are expected to start against Auburn. As a whole, the offensive line was just OK against North Texas and Idaho, yet they played great against Washington. I don't think that's a coincidence. I think the group was much more focused against a quality opponent, and it showed on the field.
Safety Ronald Martin had a phenomenal game, subbing in for Craig Loston, who continues to battle turf toe. Martin recorded a pair of interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. He was around the ball all night. He finished with five tackles and half of a tackle for loss. As for Loston, he's unfortunately struggling with yet another injury. He has battling some kind of "nick" since he arrived to campus in 2009.
Mike Ford looked fantastic returning kickoffs, and Les Miles said that he'll stay in that role. He's got good speed and isn't afraid to hit the seam at full speed. He had returns of 28, 42, and 29 yards on Saturday.
Russell Shepard played a nice game and showed signs that he could contribute to this team after all. He still had a terrible drop, but he made some very good catches too. He also got some work from the backfield and carried the ball three times for 24 yards. I'm not a huge fan of Shepard taking reps away from LSU's talented running backs; however, it's nice to know that he can be effective out of the backfield. By motioning from a receiver position into the backfield, he can change the dynamics of a play in a hurry.
Arkansas is in real trouble. They hired John L. Smith and retained their staff in hopes that continuity would salvage the 2012 season, which they had very high hopes for. In case you haven't noticed, that hasn't worked out too well. Now the team is in shambles and quarterback Tyler Wilson, who didn't even play on Saturday, called out his teammates to the media for quitting while getting blasted 52-0 by Alabama. Meawhile, their recruiting is in the crapper because nobody wants to commit to a school who doesn't know who the coach will be next year. It's tough to see Arkansas rebounding and having a good season at this point. I see at least four more losses on their schedule and once Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis leave, what then? Needless to say, their next hire is crucial.
Florida won their second straight conference road game, and they look infinitely better than they did in their season opener. They play Kentucky this week before having a week off to get ready for LSU on October 6 when both teams will likely be undefeated. Florida is running the ball well so far this year and Mike Gillislee is leading the SEC in rushing. Combined with a solid defense and a mobile quarterback who is improving, they will be an awfully tough out in a few weeks.
Tracking The Stats
Again looking at rushing differential, LSU continues to dominate. After a differential of +211 against Idaho, LSU's season average is now +222.33, good for fourth in the nation and tops in the SEC. Nationally, they trail Georgia Tech, Air Force and Florida State. Auburn is 92nd nationally at -41.67, so this stat seems to be well in LSU's favor for the weekend. Since the beginning of the 2010 season, LSU has been outrushed just four times, and they have lost three of those games. The one anomaly is the 2010 Ole Miss game which LSU won 43-36 despite being outrushed 236 to 212.
LSU has moved up to 12th nationally in passing efficiency differential, at +63.66. That's good for second in the conference behind Alabama (+104.82) and just ahead of Florida (+62.83) and Georgia (+59.04).
LSU dominated Idaho in starting field position, aided by two defensive touchdowns. LSU averaged a start on Idaho's 49 yard line while Idaho averaged a start from their own 21 yard line. For the season, the numbers are now 40 and 23 in LSU's favor, giving them a ridiculous 17 yard advantage in starting field position.
Despite missing on another red zone scoring opportunity due to an interception, LSU was much improved at converting red zone chances into touchdowns against Idaho. Of seven trips to the red zone, LSU converted six of them into touchdowns. Their red zone scoring percentage for the season is now 14 of 17 (82%) and their touchdown percentage is 11 of 17 (65%).