Most LSU fans are no stranger to hangovers, and if they are they got a taste of what they feel like Saturday night during the first half of LSU’s 58-14 victory against FCS foe Northwestern State.
The Tigers, especially those of the defensive variety, looked all out of sorts a week after defeating Texas on the road.
LSU looked sluggish at its best and completely out of sorts at its worst in the first half, failing to get in the end zone on its opening offensive drive and falling behind 7-3 as the Demons marched down the field for an 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took nearly 5.5 minutes.
That was the score at the end of the first quarter, leaving many an LSU fan as confused as the Tigers seemed lost on the field of play.
Luckily for the defense, the Tigers’ offense began to look like it’s (newly) old self after settling for that field goal. They marched down the field on the ensuing drive and in a matter 8 plays and 151 seconds, LSU was back in control of the game.
LSU’s defense gave up another touchdown later in the second quarter on a blown coverage that left the receiver wide open, and Joe Burrow threw his second interception of the season before the Tigers went to halftime in dire need of something to change.
“At halftime we were like ‘We can’t do this. We can’t have the same (performance) we had in the first half,’” said LSU linebacker Jacob Phillips. “We had to come out and get a shutout.”
Orgeron said he remained calm at halftime despite the defense performing below LSU’s standard, though he said defensive coordinator Dave Aranda was hard at work, furiously making adjustments to ensure the Tigers didn’t let the Demons continue their offensive success.
“Coach Aranda was calm,” said LSU safety JaCoby Stevens. “Everybody on the coaching staff was very calm. He came in and made the adjustments. … That’s why Coach Aranda is one of the best (defensive) coordinators in this conference and in the nation.”
Acording to Stevens, the most significant difference on defense in the second half was how the Tigers approached third down.
The Demons converted three of their first four third-down attempts and four of eight for the half.
Instead of going with the newly-popularized green package and rushing NSU quarterback Shelton Eppler, LSU opted to let its coverage speak for itself.
That adjustment seemingly made all the difference as NSU converted just two more third downs for the rest of the game and the Tigers shut the Demons out in the second half.
The third quarter completely flipped the script of the game and changed the narrative of how the Tigers will be perceived after this game.
Going into halftime, question arose of how good this LSU team really is and if the defense is equipped to keep up with its new, lightning-paced offensive scheme that scored all of its touchdowns with drives of under three minutes.
After outscoring the Demons 27-0 in the third quarter and dominating both sides of the line of scrimmage for 15 minutes, the Tigers led 51-14 and all was well.
“Give credit to our defense for shutting them down in the second half,” said LSU head coach Ed Orgeron. “The first half they had 278 yards and the second half they only had 78. All the credit goes to Coach Aranda, he worked really hard at halftime and the players listened to him and they got the job done. I’m really proud of them.
During that pivotal third quarter, LSU outgained 241-61 in yards of total offense, the only gaff coming on special teams when kicker Cade York mist and extra-point attempt (because it wouldn’t truly be a hangover game without mistakes in all three phases).
LSU’s defense almost made it through the entire third quarter without allowing a first down. The Tigers forced three consecutive three-and-outs before allowing a third-down conversion on the final play of the period.
“We had confidence in Coach Aranda to put us in the best position,” Stevens said. “He’s great at knowing his personnel and knowing what they can and cannot do. So whatever he calls, we’re 100 percent confident that we know we can execute what he wants us to do.”
For every defensive shutdown in the third quarter, LSU’s offense reached the end zone.
The Tigers scored four touchdowns on a combined 22 plays and just more than eight minutes of time on the field to pull away from the Demons and put the storyline of the game back in their hands.
After the game, a reporter informed wide receiver Justin Jefferson that quarterback Joe Burrow has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
“This is the third game,” he asked, incredulously. “I don’t know how many yards he’s going to finish out with. But I’m definitely excited for him. He’s definitely going to set records this year. He has to be.”
The fourth quarter was just icing on the cake.
Trey Palmer returned a punt 54 yards for LSU’s first special teams touchdown of the season, freshman running back Tyrion Davis-Price ran in his second touchdown of the night and the LSU defense allowed just 17 total yards.
Now the Tigers will prepare for another opponent it will likely be heavily favored to beat, as they get Vanderbilt on the road in their first Southeastern Conference game of the season.
It will be an opportunity to ensure the totality of LSU fans — and themselves — that they’ve sobered up and that the first two quarters of Saturday’s game isn’t indicative of more deep-seated issues.
Orgeron seems confident enough.
“We needed a game like this,” he said. “It was good.
Photo Credit: Terrill Weil