By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Editor’s note: This is the third in a (hopefully) season-long look into LSU’s quarterback play. I’ll be charting every throw made by an LSU quarterback in 2017, with as much detail as possible. If you’d like any particular aspect of the Tigers’ passing game analyzed, comment below or hit me up on Twitter, and I’ll track it. This week: the deep ball.
LSU’s 37-7 loss to Mississippi State revealed – among many other revelations – there are two Danny Etlings: one who is superb when protected, and one who struggles when pressured.
Does this surprise anyone? Apply it to your particular line of work, and it makes perfect sense. I, for example, write far better when there are not 300-pounders charging at me unblocked with the momentum of sub 4.8-40 speed than when there are.
Like any of us, Etling fares better at his particular craft when he has time and space to operate. He is not Johnny Manziel, a craver of chaos who punishes defenses with his ability to thrive while scrambling. Etling is A.J. McCarron: you can win a championship with him, but he won’t win it for you. He requires the right conditions.
Against Mississippi State, those conditions were not present. Etling was under fire for much of the game by Todd Grantham’s defense, and his numbers suffered for it.
Before we get to those numbers, though, here are some others, first. Despite all the pressure, Etling was actually, on the whole, pretty damn solid against State. Here are his adjusted statistics, accounting for, by my count, three dropped passes and an incorrect offensive pass interference call.
Danny Etling vs. Mississippi State, Adjusted vs. Actual
[table] Category, Actual Stat, Adjusted Stat
Attempts, 29, 30
Completions, 13, 17
Completion%, 44.8%, 57%
Touchdowns, 0, 2
Interceptions, 0, 0
Passer Rating, 84.51, 162.4 [/table]
The quarterback remains at the disposal of the players around him. D.J. Chark’s negated touchdown and his dropped would-be touchdown, plus a couple other drops, turned Etling’s game from excellent (despite constant pressure) to awful. Such is life.
A TALE OF TWO DANNYS
Etling entered the State game having done very little laundry all season. Against BYU and Chattanooga, he was pressured on just four of his 31 throws (12.9%).
It took just nine snaps to reach the four pressure mark against the Bulldogs. For the game, Etling was pressured 17 times, throwing the ball 13 times on those pressures, with two scrambling rushes and two sacks taken.
The splits between his stats when pressured and when he had time are remarkable, displaying a gap of how good Etling is when he has time to deliver, and how much his numbers dip when the defenses gets to him.
Danny Etling vs. MSU, Pressured vs. Non-Pressured Attempts
Category, Pressured, Non-Pressured
Attempts, 13, 16
Completions, 2, 11
Completion Percentage, 15.4%, 68.8%
Accurate Throws, 4, 13
Accuracy Percentage, 30.7%, 81.25%
Yards, 17, 120
Passer Rating, 26.37, 131.75
Adjusted Yards, 20, 279
Adjusted TDs, 0, 2
Adjusted Passer Rating, 36.00,259.04[/table]
Danny Etling Accuracy (through first 3 games)
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) September 21, 2017
I’ll pivot away from Etling now to talk about the receivers, who really struggled against Mississippi State, as is evidenced by the adjusted stats used above. LSU had, by my count, three drops and zero contested catches, not to mention a number of penalties.
State’s plan was clear and two-pronged: pressure and press. The first, I’ve laid out above. A quick look at the second.
I didn’t chart the specific number, but on more plays than not, State did a good job of redirecting or disrupting an LSU receiver’s route by simply muscling them. Some might have been penalties, some might not have, but none were called, and LSU did little to counteract State’s press coverage.
This was particularly their plan to defend D.J. Chark. Here, Chark is lined up in the slot with one-on-one man coverage with a safety. Chark’s going to run and out-and-up. If I’m Etling, and I catch this matchup pre-snap, I’m going to Chark, no matter what the rest of the defense does. My best receiver single-covered by a safety? That’s a win.
But watch the bottom of the screen, and notice how Jonathan Abram, the State safety, pushes into Chark’s out, which prevents Chark from getting over the top. It turns into a contested ball that Etling doesn’t put high or wide enough for Chark to get to, but there’s also no separation.
On another play, Chark comes in motion and again is single-covered, but gets bumped five yards into his route, disrupting whatever rhythm he may have had with Etling prior to the contact.
This is part of Chark’s development from No. 3 receiver to No. 1 guy. LSU needs its best receiver and its quarterback to be able to convert big plays like these on a consistent basis. There’s no more room for error.