By CODY WORSHAM
Tiger Rag Editor
Every week, Tiger Rag will post ten plays that help tell the story of LSU’s most recent game. Some of the things, we like. Others, we don’t. Here’s the recap of the Tigers’ 23-20 win over Mississippi State.
1. Like: Key’s Key Play
I knew Arden Key was going to sack Damian Williams on the Bulldogs’ last play after the Bulldogs’ second-to-last play. After a simple stunt with Davon Godchaux, Key (top of the video) broke free into the backfield and smashed Williams, who, consequently, threw quite high on third and 8. (Humorously, Nick Fitzgerald, the quarterback he replaced, caught the pass on the sideline.)
I wasn’t the only one. ESPN, pardon the pun, keyed in on Key before the fourth down snap, sure he was going to get to Williams again.
Williams, too, flushed right almost on the snap, feeling Key inevitably bearing down on him.
LSU ran the same stunt — the inside rusher, Godchaux, goes outside; the outside rusher, Key, goes inside. This doesn’t work because, as many stunts do, it catches the defense by surprise. It simply multiplies a mismatch. Godchaux’s dive into the tackle keeps Key untouched for his first two steps. It’s almost like a pick. And, when he does approach a blocker, he’s matched up against a slower guard, rather than a quicker tackle.
And, to compound it all, Williams’ panic roll to the right creates an angle at which Key can rush untouched. The result, you’ll recall, was a sack.
My only regret here is the slow-mo. It does no justice to just how fast Key closed down on Williams. From the press box, where the depth of the field is less distorted, I can tell you Key was absolutely flying, despite having played so many second half snaps.
2. Like: Fournette’s protection
We know what Leonard Fournette is capable of as a ball carrier. We even know he can be a weapon in the passing game as a receiver.
But check out this block to buy Etling time on his touchdown pass to Chark. He takes on former LSU recruit, Leo Lewis, who blitzes from the Mike spot, and drives him out of Etling’s pocket. Etling also very instinctively shuffles to the side, without leaving the pocket, to create the space needed to step into the throw.
3. Like: Chark’s Footwork
When Etling released the ball, I was certain Chark would run out of real estate. Etling really put some air under the throw, and it didn’t seem like Chark would have the space to catch it and get both feet in.
Boy, did he.
With his eyes on the ball the entire way, to have the vision to know he’s in the back of the endzone and the body control to drag that last toe is remarkable. That’s a next level catch.
4. Like: Etling’s Composure
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The biggest advantage Etling has over Brandon Harris is between the ears. Harris is plenty smart, but Etling has triple the composure. This improvised shovel pass to Travin Dural is the perfect example. Dural said he was “stunned” when Etling flipped him the ball underhand — that’s not the play call — but just as key was Etling’s willingness to step up into a congested pocket, rather than break out and cut off an entire side of the field.
5. Don’t Like: Extra Point Protection
LSU’s special teams continue to make unforgivable, amateur mistakes. Here, Colby Delahoussaye’s extra point is blocked, a point that loomed large as State drove with the ball down 3 — instead of 4 — late in the game.
State finds a breach between Maea Teuhema and KJ Malone on the right side of LSU’s protection. Malone seems to end up with two to block. Teuhema seems to blindly dive downward without blocking anyone.
Whoever is at fault, the Tigers have to fix it. A point can be so costly in SEC football. It was nearly costly at home against the team picked to finish last in the division.
6. Like: Josh + Jamal
I’ll say it now: if Growden doesn’t boot two 60+ yarders in each half, LSU doesn’t win this game. This first half bomb set up LSU’s second touchdown. Yes, it got a good roll, but it also went 50+ yards in the air from the line of scrimmage.
Note who downs the punt: Jamal Adams. How many teams put an All-American safety on punt coverage duties?
Second half, even more critical a time, as Mississippi State has just scored touchdowns on two straight possessions, and another score either sends the game to overtime or the Bulldogs win outright. Growden delivers again, and Adams is there for the tackle, again.
7. Don’t Like: Fournette’s Fumbling
Not much analysis required here. Fournette’s a little rusty from lack of full-contact practice reps. LSU is on the verge of icing this game, should they convert this fourth down, and the junior All-American is stripped a little too easily as he’s spinning into first down territory.
He’ll clean it up.
8. Don’t Like: Two minute offense
To steal a thought from Mike Lombardi from his appearance on the Bill Simmons podcast this week, the most important play in football in the third down red zone play.
At the end of the second half, LSU absolutely blew its redzone play calling, on first, second, and third down.
A nice checkdown from Etling to Fournette put the Tigers inside the 20 with 52 seconds left and a timeout. Considering the clock stops on first downs in college football until the ball is placed and LSU had the ball at the 15 yard line, that’s plenty of time to work the endzone.
But the Tigers absolutely blow it.
First problem? They don’t snap the ball on first down until 40 seconds are left on the clock. That’s 12 wasted seconds. Second problem? It’s a running play, and the clock runs down to 20 seconds for the next snap — another running play. LSU calls timeout on third and 5 with 15 seconds left and now has no timeouts remaining, meaning the defense absolutely knows a pass is coming. And that pass call? A fade. The worst third down pass call in all of football. Seriously, people. Stop throwing fades. They don’t work.
It’s terrible clock management and play calling. Throw on first down, allowing for an incompletion to stop the clock and give you time to call two plays for second and third down, with the timeout as backup.
No film of this one is necessary. Just not a good sequence for LSU, who could have gotten six and instead settled for three.
9. Don’t Like: Toliver’s Technique
Kevin Toliver made his debut against Mississippi State last year, and was brilliant. He went on to have a remarkable freshman year, giving up just 16 catches all season on 33 targets.
Toliver is like glue in coverage, and he was blanketing Mississippi State’s Donald Gray on Saturday. Problem is, he wasn’t finding the ball.
Toliver ended up getting pulled for Ed Paris on the second to last drive for State, and Paris got hit on a similar route. Corner is a tough position. If you turn your head too quick, you’ll get killed on double moves. If Toliver learns from it and gets his head around without getting burned deep, he’ll be okay.
10. Like: The Gold Uniforms
If you disagree, you’re wrong. These are sick.
— Jim Kleinpeter (@JimKleinpeter) September 13, 2016