The Joe Burrow Show made its Tiger Stadium debut in front of a less-than-capacity crowd, and while LSU’s performance as a whole left a lot to be desired, the Tigers’ new headliner played just enough of the hits.
Under constant duress from a steady pass rush, Burrow threw for 151 yards and accounted for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) in the first half to help drag No. 11 LSU past FCS foe Southeastern 31-0 in their home opener on Saturday night.
LSU managed just 63 total yards of offense in the second half and didn’t fully wrap the game up until a gift of a turnover set up the final score. Any plans to get game reps for back-ups went by the wayside thanks to a wholly uninspiring second half.
“I think we were flat,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron conceded. “Felt it going out that we were a little flat. It was a short week. I’d like it to not be expected, but we were. We’ve got to do a better job of getting ready.”
His defense resented that implication a little bit.
LSU pitched its first home shutout since 2014 against UL-Monroe as Southeastern didn’t cross the LSU 40-yard line until the middle of the third quarter and the Tigers racked up five sacks and two takeaways in their first game since losing edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson to a knee injury.
“The defense didn’t come out flat,” linebacker Devin White interjected. “He must have been talking about the offense because the defense came out and got some stops. No points, but maybe at the end I felt like the defense got flat.”
The Tigers could have blown the game open and began playing its underclassmen back-ups were it not from a concerning performance from the offensive line. Missing both starting tackles, LSU appeared quite susceptible to pressure off the edge, at times forcing Burrow to run for his life.
On paper LSU (2-0) remains unbeaten with a top-10 win under its belt, though they haven’t been particularly impressive to the eye test. Several questions will have to be answered in practice this week before LSU hits the road for its Southeastern Conference opener at Auburn next week.
“We were just out of sync a little bit,” Orgeron said. “Their defensive line was penetrating. We didn’t protect Joe, and when we did protect Joe, we dropped some balls. We just weren’t very good on offense tonight, but we got the job done.”
Southeastern actually moved the ball better in the early going of the first quarter, but sacks from Rashard Lawrence and Breiden Fehoko set up third-and-long. White then stripped a ball carrier and Andre Anthony recovered it to set LSU up in plus territory in a scoreless game.
Burrow quickly cashed the takeaway in for points, finding Ja’Marr Chase on a nine-yard scoring strike for the first touchdown of their LSU careers. Chase caught the pass near the sideline and managed to sidestep through two Lions before lunging into the end zone.
Set up on another short field, Burrow drove LSU to double the lead on the ensuing possession. He converted two third downs with his legs during the 46-yard scoring march, including a one-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal after keeping the ball on a read option.
“I thought we played really well in the first quarter,” Burrow said. “Came out attacking, had the right mindset. Then in the second quarter our mindset kind of let off the gas a little bit. We can’t do that in big games and we know that. We’re going to have to get a lot of things addressed in practice this week.”
The offense went stagnant for much of the second quarter aside from a 50-yard field goal from Cole Tracy, but a swarming defense kept Southeastern from getting anything going.
Then, right before halftime, a strike of lightning dropped out of the storm skies.
LSU took over inside its own 5-yard line with less than a minute left and appeared content to run the clock out, but three chunk runs from Nick Brossette (19 carries, 137 yards) changed the equation. A 24-yard strike from Burrow to Foster Moreau set up a chance to heave it into the end zone.
Burrow dropped back, bought some time and hoisted a throw into the middle of the end zone. Wide receiver Stephen Sullivan, listed at 6-foot-7, elevated above two defenders and essentially rebounded the 40-yard Hail Mary to put LSU ahead 24-0 as the intermission horn sounded.
The Ohio State transfer couldn’t remember hitting on such an end zone heave in a live situation going back to his high school days, but he’s had practice. Apparently LSU works on Hail Marys in practice every Monday and Thursday.
“It worked,” Orgeron said.
Neither team scored in the third quarter as pressure allowed by — and penalties called on — the right side of LSU’s offensive line stalled a promising drive early in the quarter.
Southeastern bid twice to end the shutout with drives deep into LSU territory, but both ended in giveaways. Greedy Williams stepped in front of a receiver for his first interception of the season and JaCoby Stevens scooped up an aborted snap to keep the zero on the board. Clyde Edwards-Helaire cashed the latter in for his first career touchdown.