Well now, that feels better doesn't it? A week ago, we saw a ho-hum performance against North Texas where LSU's team looked like it was merely going through the motions for the majority of the game. We were left with a lot of questions and even a few concerns. The season ending injury to Chris Faulk during the week only added to those concerns. But as expected, LSU ramped up the intensity against Washington and in doing so, they answered a lot of those questions and eased some concerns. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it was an absolutely dominating performance. And it was noteworthy. The defense was suffocating, and the offense balanced a devastating run game with some very effective passing.
As always, here are some thoughts:
- One concern after North Texas was LSU's ability to protect the quarterback. They did much, much better this week. In fact, it was very good. Mettenberger was not sacked or hurried once, and the only time I remember him getting hit at all resulted in a roughing the passer penalty. I thought Mettenberger had a much better day, too. If not for some drops by his receivers, he may have had just one or two incompletions in the entire game. He was very sharp.
- Another concern from Week One was that LSU didn't get enough pressure on the quarterback. LSU improved this week with four sacks and seven quarterback hurries. However, I still see plenty of room for improvement. After seeing this quote from John Chavis in a story from ESPN.com, I'm not as concerned:
And here's the scary thought for opponents: LSU did most of its pressuring with but four men.
"Not a lot of pressuring," Chavis said. "Not as much as we will as we continue to grow."
Of the four sacks, three came from defensive ends, including the first of the season by All-America candidate Sam Montgomery. Montgomery, quiet in the season opener, also had 1.5 tackles for loss and the defensive line had four between them.
The defense, it turns out, wasn't ready for some of his wrinkles. But they will be.
"It takes time to become a good pressure team," Chavis said. "We're not far away."
- Needless to say, it wasn't the best day for Odell Beckham Jr. He fumbled the opening kickoff, and that seemed to rattle him...because he dropped a couple of passes shortly after. He did make one tremendous catch along the sideline for a first down but the usually sure-handed sophomore wasn't himself on Saturday. His drops seemed to rub off on the other receivers too. Russell Shepard missed a sliding catch in the endzone that he absolutely should have made. You have to wonder how many more opportunities Shepard will get? James Wright also had a drop on a quick pass that was just a lack of concentration. So not the greatest night for the receiving corps, but it was good to see James Wright have a bit of a breakout game with five catches for 75 yards.
- As expected in a blowout, the turning point of the game was very early. I thought Brad Wing's first punt was the difference. After taking a 3-0 lead and forcing a punt, Washington seemed to have a little something going. That is...until Brad Wing boomed a 62 yard punt that, in a very Wing-esque fashion, bounced sideways and rolled out of bounds at the four yard line. Washington goes three and out and punts back to LSU, who scores a touchdown two plays later.
- While LSU has missed Tyrann Mathieu's pass rush ability, they have not missed a beat in replacing him in coverage. Tharold Simon is who we hoped he would be, at least so far. And Jalen Mills has been very impressive on the other side. He showed some toughness by coming up to make a solid tackle on Washington tight-end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He later had a nice pass break-up on third down to force a punt. And he also intercepted a pass on fourth down to stop a Washington drive. Athletically, he may not have the ceiling that guys like Patrick Peterson or Mo Claiborne had, but he's playing extremely well, and he looks like a guy that will be a very good player for many years. I definitely like what I've seen so far from both Mills and Jalen Collins.
- Through two games, LSU's linebacking play has been excellent. Kevin Minter may have played the best game of his career on Saturday, and I thought Luke Muncie and Lamin Barrow were good too. The youngsters continue to look strong in providing depth. Watching these guys, it's hard to believe that LSU started Karnell Hatcher and Stefoin Francois for much of last season. This year's defense will likely be more linebacker friendly than the last two seasons, which leaned more on guys like Honey Badger and Ron Brooks. You'll have to go back to 2009 for a good comparison, when LSU's top four tacklers (Sheppard, Riley, Coleman, Cutrera) were all linebackers.
- We saw Spencer Ware for the first time this season, and not surprisingly, he looked good. I thought he looked a little slimmer and a bit quicker than last season and that will serve him well. On his first touch, he absolutely trucked a Washington defender.
- Arkansas. LOL.
Tracking The Stats
- Against Washington, LSU's average field position was their 33 yard line while Washington's was their 26 yard line. For the season, the numbers are now at 33 and 24 respectively.
- LSU again enjoyed a dominant rushing differential, rushing for 242 yards and holding Washington to just 26 yards. Two games into the season, LSU is third in the nation in rushing differential, averaging +228. They are behind Air Force (+247) and Kansas State (+231). One surprise is to see Ole Miss fifth in the nation at +215. I know you're wondering....Alabama is 28th in the nation at +110. Last in the SEC? That would be Auburn at -107.5, good for 107th nationally. Dead last in the country? Our friends at Tulane at -250.
- Another important differential to track is that of passing efficiency. How efficient is your passing game versus your opponents? This has been an extremely accurate indicator of success through the years. Currently, LSU ranks 16th in the nation here with a passing efficiency rating of 151.36 and a pass efficiency allowed rating of 92.67 for a differential of +58.69. That's good for fourth in the conference behind Alabama (+98.52), Tennessee (+95.06), and Mississippi State (+70.14). TCU leads the nation with a completely ridiculous differential of +277.01.
- LSU had two more drives stall out in the red zone that resulted in field goals instead of touchdowns. Perhaps I'm nitpicking here, but last year LSU had one of the best red-zone touchdown percentages in the nation. They converted 72% (44 of 61) of their red-zone trips into touchdowns and 93% (57 of 61) into points. That means they failed to get points down there only four times all season. In 2012, it has already happened twice, and LSU's touchdown percentage is only at 50% (5 of 10).
- Through two games, Alabama has surprisingly given up eight sacks. Western Kentucky sacked A.J. McCarron six times. Florida takes the prize though. Jeff Driskel was sacked eight times by Texas A&M. LSU has been sacked just twice so far this year.