Speed Read: Offense Shows Wrinkles, Room to Improve
A 31-0 win over Southeastern kept LSU’s 2018 record unblemished, but the win wasn’t quite perfect, providing the Tigers with positives to build on and plenty of room for work heading into Saturday’s SEC opener at Aubrn.
This week’s Speed Read touches on both the things that worked and the things that need more work.
The Look: Red Zone Wrinkles
The Tigers showcased some of the new looks in Steve Ensminger‘s offense, particularly on the first two touchdowns of the night.
The first saw quarterback Joe Burrow execute a Run-Pass Option (RPO) just the way it’s drawn up. While the offensive line blocked for a Nick Brossette power run, Burrow read the Southeastern defense and opted for the quick pass to Ja’Marr Chase. The freshman wide out did the rest, showcasing his agility and athleticism to shake a Lion defender and leap into the end zone for his first career receiving score.
“I saw the corner off to the boundary,” Burrow said, “so they gave me a little out throw. I took it, and Ja’Marr made a good move on the corner and made the rest happen.”
There was more up Ensminger’s sleeve early. The Tigers’ second touchdown came courtesy of two novel tactics in the Tigers’ playbook: hurry up and zone read. Following a Clyde Edwards-Helaire carry on second down, Burrow and the Tiger offense hurried to the line of scrimmage on third and goal. They then dialed up a zone read, which Burrow kept and carried the final yard for his first career rushing touchdown and a 17-0 LSU lead.
“I think we’re going to do a lot of that going forward,” Burrow said. “The pace really helped us when we went fast today. I’m excited to see what we’re going to do in practice this week.”
The Highlight: Caught!
It’s a play LSU has practiced countless times on Mondays and Thursdays. Too far out for a last-second field goal and with no time for anything else, the Tigers dialed up a Hail Mary on the final play of scrimmage of the first half. Burrow lofted a perfect ball to the end zone, and 6-foot-7 junior Stephen Sullivan went up over a handful of defenders to make the grab for a 40-yard touchdown.
“We practice that all week,” said Sullivan, who had a career-high 54 receiving yards. “I was used to it. It was just like practice.”
“He’s 6-7, so he’s a pretty good guy to have in there,” said Burrow.
Ed Orgeron highlighted Sullivan – whose teammates call him Phony, a play on his first name – as a player he wanted to get involved more going forward.
“I really like Stephen,” Orgeron said. “I think Stephen’s an excellent player. I look forward to us getting the ball in his hands more.”
The Quote: “I’m not a slider…It’s not in my DNA”
Burrow took several solid licks on the night, both in the pocket and while scrambling. Like his predecessor Danny Etling, he’s not one to hit the turf for protection when there are yards to be gained.
“I’m not a slider,” Burrow said. “I’m not going to slide. I told Coach E(nsminger) and all my teammates I’m not a slider. They never really believed me, I don’t think. I don’t think quarterbacks should be able to slide. It’s not in my DNA.”
His head coach might advise otherwise this week in practice.
“It’s going to be hard,” Orgeron said. “We have to protect him. We’re going to have to teach him out to slide. We’re going to have to teach him how to avoid the rush and how to get down when he needs to. We only have two quarterbacks.”
The Number: 0
In keeping Southeastern scoreless, LSU posted its first shutout in Tiger Stadium since Sept. 13, 2014 against UL-Monroe. That marks the first home shutout in Dave Aranda‘s tenure. Here’s what we saw from the defense:
- Well-Dispersed Pressure: The Tigers got five sacks from five players and eight tackles for loss from 10 players. With premier edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson out for the season with an injury, it’s a point of emphasis from Dave Aranda‘s unit to share the pass-rushing duties among the entire defense.
- Standout: Breiden Fehoko spent as much time in the Southeastern backfield as the Lions’ quarterbacks. He finished with 6 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and one sack. ”
He came out on fire,” said Orgeron. “We thought he could handle their center one on one. He did.”
- Quoteable: “Our defensive pass rush is never one guy. It’s always been a team thing. Those guys showed up. We all executed it.” – OLB Ray Thornton (5 tackles, 1.5 for loss, 1 sack)
- Get Greedy: Greedy Williams picked up on last year’s six-interception season with his first of the 2018 campaign. His celebration after – a shrug in honor of former DBU star and famous shrugger Tre’Davious White – was almost as good as his quote.
Enjoyed this exchange with Greedy Williams on his pick:
GW: “I wasn’t expecting any passes thrown my way. I guess the QB made a bad read.”
Me: Is it ever a good read when a QB throws your way?
GW: “Never. No receiver is ever open.”
The Focus: Offensive Improvement
After just 78 second half yards, Orgeron lamented the team’s offensive showing, saying there’s plenty of work to be done before the Tigers head to Auburn next weekend.
“We’re just out of sync a little bit,” Orgeron said. “Their defensive line was penetrating. We couldn’t protect Joe. When we did protect Joe, we dropped some balls. We just weren’t very good on offense tonight.”
Senior guard Garrett Brumfield was blunt about the performance after.
“You don’t want anyone to touch your quarterback,” he said. “Whether it’s scheme, protections, somebody getting beat…you want to eliminate those things so your quarterback doesn’t get it. Of course, we don’t want Joe to get hit. We’ve got to work out any kinks we have to people don’t get on our quarterback.”
On the night, Burrow was officially hurried once, sacked twice, and had seven passes broken up, more than one of which came as defenders crashed into him mid-throw. LSU was without starting right tackle Adrian Magee (injury) and starting left tackle Saahdiq Charles, who did not dress.
“Obviously we missed Saahdiq,” he said. “We missed some balls. We couldn’t protect. They were all over Joe. There was a lot of missed assignments and protections, times we got beat one-on-one.
“I thought we’d play a lot better offensively. I thought the game would be a lot cleaner. Obviously, it wasn’t. We’ll have to go back and look at it and get better.”