SEC Week 3 Recap

You could make a good case that the most significant event of LSU’s 41-3 win over North Texas last night came with just 1:10 remaining in the blowout and most fans closer to home than Tiger Stadium. That was the point at which Jordan Jefferson made his LSU debut.

Jefferson’s appearance (an incomplete pass, a 14-yard scramble and a handoff) means the freshman is officially a 2008 Tiger and won’t be able to redshirt. It’s a curious move by Les Miles, and if you discount the very real notion that Leslie simply doesn’t understand redshirting rules, you have to assume it means Miles is not pleased with the play of Andrew Hatch and/or Jarrett Lee.

Hatch’s play last night was pretty much as expected. He’s not a passer, he’s a game manager. Hatch went 10 of 17 for 125 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. In going back and watching each of his passes, a not-surprising pattern emerges. Of his 10 completions, three were thrown to or behind the line of scrimmage, four were thrown five yards or less, two were between five and 10 yards and only one was more than 10 yards – 13 to be exact.

In total, 76 of his 125 yards passing were gained by receivers after the catch. I imagine that’s a very high percentage of yards after the catch, but it’s not unexpected. His incompletions were one attempt behind the line, one batted ball that was going to a receiver three yards out and attempts to hit a receiver 23, 30, 30 and 42 yards downfield. The interception he threw was a pathetic attempt to hit a man 14 yards downfield.

But that’s Andrew Hatch. I don’t think LSU expects more than this from him. The trouble, it seems, is with Jarrett Lee.

Lee, of course, is the pocket passer; the old-school, big-armed thrower. Like Hatch, Lee completed 10 passes (on 18 attempts) last night, but racked up only 84 passing yards. Lee played only three series (to Hatch’s seven), and it’s clear he was being tested by the coaching staff. And I think he failed – badly.

Lee’s first pass was a 37-yard attempt that was badly overthrown on a third-and-four in the second quarter. He then led a mostly-effective two-minute drill to end the half (LSU settled for a field goal) that consisted of 10 consecutive pass plays and seven of his completions. His longest completion in that stretch, however, was an eight-yard toss (his longest all night), and he badly overthrew a ball thrown 15 yards. Hatch could have easily managed that drive.

All told, five of Lee’s completions were thrown to or behind the line of scrimmage, two were thrown less than five yards and three were thrown between five and 10 yards. That is not what LSU needs out of Jarrett Lee. The Tigers already get that with Hatch, and Hatch can run as well.

But the really telling drive was Lee’s last, which started with eight minutes to go in the fourth. Good work by his receivers and strong running by Richard Murphy turned a series of short tosses into a 56-yard drive that found Lee and the Tigers with a first down on the North Texas 14-yard-line.

Lee proceeded to badly overthrow a receiver in the back of the endzone from the 14 and have a pass batted down from the seven on third down with a Murphy run in between.

And then – up by 38 points with three minutes to play – Les Miles decides to go for it on fourth down. Setting aside the possibility that Leslie just didn’t realize what down it was, this seemed like an obvious final chance for Lee to show something. There is just no other reason to go for a touchdown there. Colt David needs practice too, you know.

The Tiger coaches called another crossing route toward the back of the endzone, and Lee chucked the ball through the goal posts into the hurricane fence that separates the crowd from the field. Miles sent Jordan Jefferson out to take the final snaps.

I don’t know if Jefferson’s appearance signals the last hurrah for Jarrett Lee or if burning the redshirt was just Leslie’s way of sending Lee a message, but I think it’s quite likely the Auburn game will be an all-Hatch affair. There’s just no evidence to suggest Lee adds anything to the gameplan. And with LSU/Auburn games always expected to be low-scoring defensive struggles, there’s no room for quarterback mistakes or on-the-job training.

Elsewhere in the SEC – I finally got all picks right:

Georgia was rightly punished in the poll for a pathetic display at South Carolina. The ugly win is being spun as “defense wins championships”, but the Dawgs were absolutely lucky to escape this game.

Yes, they held the Cocks to 18 yards rushing, which is very, very strong. South Carolina put up 191 yards on the ground against N.C. State and 120 against Vandy, so they are capable of running. And Georgia absolutely shut them down.

But, once again, the Georgia pass defense was largely absent in the fourth quarter. Whether it’s poor conditioning or a coverage scheme the opposition figures out and Georgia can’t adjust, the Dawgs just can’t stop anybody late in the game. And I assume these were not backups closing out the game this week, so please spare me that excuse.

Georgia gave up 164 yards on 10 completions in the fourth quarter – to a team that could not run on them. Only South Carolina’s mistakes (a goal-line fumble and two interceptions) kept the game from getting tied. The Cocks executed not one, not two, but three consecutive drives with little resistance (unless you count pass interference) from the Dawgs.

South Carolina’s lone touchdown came in the second quarter on a 63-yard drive that featured 20- and 34- yard hits on the Georgia secondary as well. All told, Georgia gave up 271 passing yards to South Carolina. The Cocks managed just 198 against 1-2 N.C. State and 233 against Vandy.

After three games, Georgia is sitting at No. 86 in passing defense. And they are traveling out west to meet the team with the No. 9 passing offense (after a very off game). That does not bode well.

And offensively, am I supposed to be impressed? Vandy put up more rushing yards on the Cocks than Knowshon and the Georgia boys did. Georgia’s rush offense is 30th, it’s passing offense 36th and in scoring offense they are ranked 27th. And that’s after the easy part of the schedule.

Offensively and defensively, Georgia is very much middle of the road. A number three ranking is generous.

Auburn nearly screwed itself with three turnovers and two missed field goals, but the underlying numbers show they’re coming along. Ben Tate cracked 100 yards rushing again, and the War Eagles totaled 161 yards on the ground. They’ll still not win any passing awards with 154 yards in the air, but Auburn lives on defense. The No. 10 ranking in total defense and No. 3 in scoring defense is what Auburn will count on maintaining for success in the SEC. Much stronger tests await, though.

Alabama woke its offense up for the game yesterday, and they took care of business against Western Kentucky. And sporting the No. 1 rush defense and No. 9 scoring defense is what Fonzie always wants to see. I doubt he expected that success this early.

Tennessee took care of UAB as expected, but man they must have hid out someplace today after seeing what BYU did to UCLA.

I loved seeing the almost-Bluegrass Miracle get snuffed out at the goal line by Kentucky. I guess they’ve learned something since 2002.

I was also happy to see Vandy continue to win, and of course Ole Miss beat the team that sounds like “Stanford”.

And thus, for the most part, concludes the patsy portion of the program. LSU/Auburn, Florida/Tennessee, Alabama/Arkansas and UGA/Arizona State will make for an awesome Saturday.

For the week: 8-0
For the season: 23-6

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2 Responses to “SEC Week 3 Recap”

  1. Meathead says:

    Perhaps Jefferson will have an undisclosed injury at practice in the next couple weeks thus requiring him to apply for a medical redshirt, thus saving his precious redshirt year.

    The worst part of this is that Auburn has a bad secondary, but without any kind of passing attack >10 yards, that’s a weakness we will not be able to exploit.

  2. Cap'n Ken says:

    I thought about the medical hardship route, but what’s the point of putting him in for the last minute of North Texas? It’s hardly “game action” to run three plays in an empty stadium against the backups for a horrible team. Running our defense at full speed in practice has to be worth a lot more than that – and Leslie burned one of the three games he could appear in and still get that hardship if he’s “injured”.

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