By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
NEW ORLEANS — The new look at LSU is – after a single game, at least – a good one.
Matt Canada’s offense produced in his debut, Dave Aranda’s defense continued its dominance from a season ago, and Ed Orgeron’s regular season debut as the Tigers’ full-time head coach outperformed any imaginable script, as No. 13 LSU rolled past BYU in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, 27-0, behind 25 players seeing their first action as Tigers.
It was the familiar names, however, who filled up the stat sheets. Derrius Guice rushed 27 times for 120 yards and accounted for LSU’s first two touchdowns of the game, scoring on runs four yards and one, respectively, within the first four minutes of the second quarter. Danny Etling, who finished 14-of-17 passing for 173 yards, hit D.J. Chark (four receptions, 77 yards) for a 52-yard strike to set up the second touchdown, while Guice carried 10 times for 49 yards on LSU’s 13-play, 66-yard drive to open the scoring.
In total, Guice carried 20 times in the first half, grinding BYU’s defense into a tired, forceless unit one carry after another. For the game, LSU outpossessed BYU 41:54 to 18:06.
“Never,” Guice said, asked if he’d ever had that kind of first half work load, “but I’ve got to be ready for it. That’s why we have our summer conditioning. That’s why we practice outside every day.”
In all, LSU outgained BYU 479 to 97. Orgeron preached a balanced offensive attack all fall, but the Tigers ran the ball 57 times to just 18 passes, a sign not of aerial imprecision, but of dominance on the ground.
“We tried to be 50-50,” said Orgeron, “but it was one of those nights we were going to be physical. We felt they were giving us the run, and we took it. We wanted to out-physical them.”
“We’re going to do whatever the defense gives us,” added Etling. “They were daring us to run the ball, and we did it.”
LSU’s defense matched its offense in dominance. Aranda’s men gave up just 97 yards – negative-5 rushing, the fewest conceded by an LSU defense since 1982 – and six first downs. An interception from redshirt freshman Andraez ‘Greedy’ Williams – starting in place of junior Kevin Toliver, one of 13 Tigers total to miss the game through suspension – set the table for the Tigers’ second scoring drive, while senior linebacker Corey Thompson registered a pair of sacks. The names on defense were new, but the performance bested anything from last year’s defense, which surrendered the fewest touchdowns in the nation in 2016.
“We lost a lot of guys to the NFL,” said defensive end Christian LaCouture. “There are a lot of guys that stepped up. They understand their role and want to do great things. When it’s gametime, they’re ready to go.”
Thompson, a sixth-year senior who’s battled injuries throughout his time in Baton Rouge, also played with his hometown on his mind. He and LSU’s other Houston natives were set to play in their home city, but Hurricane Harvey and its historic flood forced the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff to move to New Orleans.
“Corey has battled from injuries,” said Orgeron. “He’s from Houston, moved from safety to linebacker. He’s fast, he’s quick. Barring any injuries, Corey should have an excellent year.”
Canada’s offense wasn’t flawless: LSU scored just three touchdowns in six redzone trips, settling for a pair of chip shot field goals from Jack Gonsoulin, and twice the Tigers came away scoreless after passing the BYU 20. LSU’s first drive stalled due to three penalties, and Orgeron’s crew was flagged 10 times for 86 yards on the night.
But Canada’s new-look attack, featuring multiple pre-snap shifts and motions, proved an egalitarian one, as eight Tigers received carries and eight caught passes. Darrel Williams finished with 92 yards on the ground, adding LSU’s final touchdown, a one-yard plunge in the fourth quarter, and Derrick Dillon converted a pair of key third downs on passes from Etling to set up LSU’s first touchdown of the night.
“There were some miscues down at the goal line, but a lot of it is just first game stuff,” said Etling. “It’s good to get that out of the way, get that on film. You want to cut down on those mistakes, but all in all I thought it was a pretty successful night.”
- In 2016, #LSU converted just four first downs through the air on third down with 7-9 yards to go. The Tigers did it twice in the first quarter tonight.
- With his 120 yards on 27 carries, Derrius Guice surpassed Billy Cannon on LSU’s all-time rushing list.
- Of Etling’s three incompletions, two were intentional throw aways near the goal line, and another was a dropped pass.
- LSU held an opponent under 100 yards of total offense for the first time since 1973.