"Everybody Eats" | Tigers Feast in Fast Spread Attack
Thaddeus Moss awkwardly and eagerly choked down a hot dog, as the press waited to pepper him with a dozen different questions about the obvious metaphor literally at hand.
After fans and reporters spent months chewing on LSU’s offseason offensive mantra –“Everybody Eats” – their first taste on Saturday night left everyone wanting more.
Moss and his teammates, most of all.
Feast on these stats: 472 yards of offense; 350 passing on 30-of-39 completions to 14 different receivers; 79 plays in 31:28 of possession; touchdowns from five different players; zero sacks allowed.
In other words, everybody ate.
“That was the motto from when (passing game coordinator Joe) Brady first got here: Everybody eats,” said Moss, who grabbed two passes for 61 yards in his LSU debut. “To finally be able to put that on the field and show everybody catching the ball, everybody getting touchdowns.”
Joe Burrow dined the finest of any Tiger, finishing with more touchdown passes – 5, tying a single-game school record – than incompletions (4). The senior quarterback connected on 23-of-27 passes for 278 yards and led LSU to touchdowns on their first five drives.
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) September 1, 2019
“He was on fire,” said head coach Ed Orgeron.
Burrow paid his compliments to the chef. It was the menu of plays provided by Brady and offensive coordinator that made life easy for him on Saturday.
“Whenever they call a play and you have an answer to every coverage, every blitz they can give you, you feel good as a quarterback, as long as you can handle it mentally,” Burrow said. “I know I can handle it mentally. Whatever I see against the defense, I have answers for it.”
He dined quickly, too. In building a 42-3 halftime lead, the Tigers ran 39 plays in 14:10 possession, a scorching pace of one play every 21.8 seconds – nearly five seconds quicker than last season’s average.
“A lot of times, we’re trying to go so fast, I’ve got to get the referee out of my way,” said center Lloyd Cushenberry.
Referees weren’t the only people on the field the line moved. The Tigers didn’t surrender a sack, giving Burrow plenty of time to sit in the pocket and survey his options. It was the translation from practice, where Orgeron has called the offensive line the most improved group of fall camp, to the game, a year after the Tigers showed inconsistency in the passing game.
“I remember when we struggled against Southeastern Louisiana last year,” said Orgeron.”We were much better tonight.”
There were plenty of pancakes for the big boys to much on on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the line’s protection set the table for the rest of the offense, and the receivers, in particular, were happy to pick up the scraps. Justin Jefferson picked up where he left off in 2018, grabbing five passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, while Ja’Marr Chase started the scoring for the Tigers on the first drive.
But sophomore Terrace Marshall might’ve had the best of the buffet, turning all three of his catches into touchdowns. Marshall missed his senior year of high school with an ankle injury that limited him as a freshman last season, meaning the first of his three scores tonight was his first in three years.
Go hungry for that long, and it’s necessary to gorge when the chance presents itself.
“I waited for this moment,” Marshall said. “It was special.”
Burrow was thrilled to connect with Marshall, embracing him as they ran off the field following his first score. After touchdown number two, however, his teammates were hoping Marshall would be a little more generous.
“I was very excited for him because he didn’t have any touchdowns last year,” Jefferson said, “so for his first game back to have three, that’s crazy.
“We were joking on the sideline, like, ‘He can’t score no more.’ After the second one, we were like, ‘Joe, don’t throw it to him no more.’”
Burrow didn’t take the joke seriously. Instead, he found Marshall once more to complete the three-course meal.
Marshall might’ve done the bulk of the work in the end zone, leading the charge on a night where the Tigers finished 7-of-7 inside the red zone. But he was more satiated by the balance of the attack.
“It speaks volumes,” Marshall said of LSU’s spreading of the ball. “It lets you know we’re going to give a team effort and everybody is going to eat on the team. It’s a taste of our team chemistry.”
The running backs made sure they got their fill, too. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (31 receiving yards, 45 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown) and Lanard Fournette (three catches for 16 yards, six carries for 19 yards and a score) each found their way into the end zone.
Moss didn’t score, but he felt similar emotions to Marshall simply by returning to the field after missing 2018 with a series of injuries. And if any position symbolizes the transformation of the Tigers’ offense, its the tight end. Gone, it seems, are the days where his primary role is to block in the power running game – though that task will be required at times.
In are the days of the tight end as a target, a seat at the table where there’s plenty of pigskin being served. And Saturday night, the spread was spectacular.
“I’ve gotten used to saying that,” Moss said, asked if it felt weird to finally say LSU was playing in a spread offense. “I guess Tiger fans should get used to hearing it.”
And with that, Moss finished his interview, just in time to turn his attention back to important matters.
“I’m starving,” he said, leaving the locker room in search of a hot dog.
Saturday’s feast was fun, but he’s still hungry. So is his quarterback.
“Hopefully we can keep building on this thing,” Burrow said. “I wanted 60 tonight. We didn’t end up getting it, but hopefully we get that eventually.”