LSU / SEC Week 1 Recap

This trip out to Washington to play the Huskies was a real novelty; not a thing about it was normal for LSU football. So it’s a little tough to put much of an emphasis on what went down. Just like you’re not often going to be at an LSU game where good tailgates are hard to find, you’re also not often going to be at an LSU football game where the opponent is a major-conference team with a good bit of talent coming off an 0-12 year.

More on the oddities of pre-gaming in Seattle in a bit. But first the game.

It didn’t feel good watching it live. Seeing the Tigers give up 478 yards of offense brings back some bad memories. And while watching the TV version of the game didn’t add a ton of comfort, things are a little better to understand now.

Simply put, credit is due the talent and coaching of Washington. There were a couple of instances where LSU’s defense looked as vulnerable as last year, but the Huskies played smart and played well. Jake Locker is for real and he’s got skill-position talent around him. Locker spread passes out to nine different receivers to get 321 yards. Washington played quick to quiet LSU’s pass rush. And the Huskies earned their rushing yards by running away from LSU’s line, which was a smart strategy. Given that the Tigers were facing a new coaching staff and quality quarterback that was out much of last year with a new defensive coordinator and lots of personnel changes, I’m not going to worry too much about the defense – yet. Let’s see what we do with Vandy, which threw down 433 rushing yards against their cupcake Saturday.

Offensively, the best news is that Jarrett Lee got in the game for a play and didn’t throw an interception for a touchdown. Aside from that, LSU played a pretty conservative and safe offense. No Russell Shepard, Rueben Randle in the game but no touches, a safe gameplan for Jordan Jefferson – which he executed well. The big concern offensively is that Charles Scott had little support from the offensive line, gaining just 52 yards on 12 carries (4.3-yard average) as our power runner. Keiland Williams and Jordan Jefferson had better success running outside, with Williams getting 51 yards on just seven carries (7.3 yards per carry) and Jefferson netting 42 yards on eight carries (5.3-yard average). We’ll need better run production from the offensive line going forward.

Jefferson completed 11 of 19 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns, which was good to see. Washington’s thin talent base in the defensive backfield was ultimately their undoing. While Brandon LaFell – the Tigers’ No. 1 receiver – caught four passes for 34 yards and a touchdown, our No. 2 guy Terrance Toliver got 117 yards and two touchdowns from his four catches. With the defense focused on LaFell, Toliver was able to turn short passes into long scores by making a fool of the guy covering him.

In short, the LSU defensive performance has me concerned, but I want to see how good Washington ends up being before I pass judgment. And the offense was capable but unspectacular, which was OK because they didn’t need more than they produced on this night.

And then there is the one thing about the game that does disturb me greatly – Leslie and his idiotic timeouts called at the end of the first half.

To re-set the scene: LSU had just scored on a 45-yard pass to Toliver to take its first lead at 17 – 10 with 1:15 left in the half. To that point, Washington had engineered drives of 85 yards, 69 yards and 42 yards. They moved just eight yards to get a field goal on another possession and their other possession of the half was Cutrera’s interception return for a TD. So they get the ball at their own eight with 1:07 left. Then they gain 12 yards on a rush to reach the 20, followed by six yards on a Locker run to get to the 26.

At this point, it’s second and four with 44 seconds to go in the half. Washington had gained 222 yards in two quarters of play, LSU had just scored to go up a touchdown and LSU would get the ball to start the second half. So, of course, Les Miles calls a timeout.

Washington seemed content to run the ball and get out of the half. Another Washington run on second down gained three yards for a third-and-one at the Huskies’ 29 with 40 seconds to go. So, of course, Les Miles calls another timeout. This was, by the way, LSU’s final timeout of the half. So the best case scenario for LSU – unless Steve Sarkisian is as stupid as Les Miles – is that Washington runs the ball, is stopped and everybody heads to the locker room. In this sport, you know, we have a 40-second play clock. And, you see, if you snap the ball with 40 seconds left, time will expire before you have to snap it again.

So what happened? Well, Washington did run the ball and got five yards and a first down. Then Locker stepped up and completed a 46-yard pass that set up a Huskies field goal to end the half. Well played, Leslie.

The demonstrable evidence that Les Miles isn’t all that bright remains my biggest concern about LSU. The Tigers’ defensive problems last season were a direct result of Miles deciding he did not need a defensive coordinator. I imagine he was told to hire a Chavis-type coordinator after the season; I only hope Miles is letting Chavis and Crowton make the decisions about this team.

My favorite part of pre-gaming Saturday pretty well sums up my impression of Miles as well:

Les Miles - The Ass In The Hat Shirt

Les Miles - The Ass In The Hat Shirt

As far as pre-gaming itself went, it’s fair to say LSU fans brought a lot to the party. We took a walk around the stadium and around campus around 11 a.m. and it looked like there was going to be a football game – the next day. Settling in to the excellent dive bar Earl’s on the Ave around noon to watch UGA / OSU we met a bunch of like-minded LSU fans, but it was 3 p.m. before there was a significant Husky presence there. This for a 7:30 kick, of course.

After the UGA game it was off to the Seattle/Portland LSU Alumni tailgate, which was a heck of a time. Imagine several hundred Tiger fans herded into a big fenced-off area on campus (a requirement of Washington alcohol laws) forming a perpetual line to the way-too-small-for-LSU-fans bar. I have to figure the Washington fans walking by wondered what we all did to get detained by campus police. I didn’t notice any similar pens for Husky fans.

A lot of game planning involved wondering how serious UW law enforcement was about RCW 66.44.100:

Opening or consuming liquor in public places – Penalty.  Except as permitted by this title, no person shall 
open the package containing liquor or consume liquor in a public place.  Every person who violates any 
provision of this section shall be guilty of an infraction. 

In advance, we were warned they were serious. On gameday, I asked somebody from LSU Seattle and she said keep it in a cup and you’re fine. Standing outside the stadium gate finishing the drinks we smuggled out of the LSU tailgate, we struck up a conversation with a Washington State Trooper who wasn’t concerned at all about what was in the cups. I was happy to see that “game day is different” applies in Seattle as well.

In the end, pre-gaming in Seattle was certainly different, but really a good time. There was a camaraderie among all of the Tiger fans who made the longest road trip in LSU history. We met and talked to a ton more random LSU fans than I ever have in Baton Rouge, Auburn, Knoxville, etc.

It really wasn’t until we got into the game that we met a lot of Washington fans. On the whole, they were pretty good folks. The really odd thing was their attitude about their program. It comes with going 0-12, I guess, but almost every Husky fan I talked to wanted me to know they’re not as bad as people think. I got history lessons about Pac-10 dominance, comparisons of the “real” football they play at Washington vs. the “junk” they play at Oregon, and a lot of “you didn’t expect this, did you?’ during the game. On one level, it was sad – a proud program brought to its knees begging for respect. But mostly I empathized with and appreciated fans who just want some respect. We are, after all, just a decade removed from three-win seasons.

And I think in Washington I now have a team out west I can root for. They could surprise some people.

Elsewhere in the SEC:

I’m not going to pretend I saw a lot of football last weekend or have much smart to say about it. Bama passed its test; Georgia did not. Carolina won ugly; most everybody else won big in patsy games.

Interesting thing to me is that LSU’s 31 points were the third-lowest scored by SEC teams in week 1 (S. Carolina with 7, Georgia with 10). Tennessee and Florida scored 60+, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss scored 40+.

I missed the South Carolina and Georgia picks.

For the week: 10-2; same for the season.

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2 Responses to “LSU / SEC Week 1 Recap”

  1. TCL says:

    Only thing I’ll add is that I also felt slightly better about the defense upon watching on TV. In addition to what’s been noted about the smart play calling on the part of UW, one factor that led to a lot of rush yards for UW in the first half was missed tackles, which, except for the final drive, was much improved in the second half. And, one would hope, much more improved in the second and subsequent games. Other issue I have is the general lack of blitzing, and poor pickup by the secondary when we did blitz. Perhaps the non-blitzing was partially not showing the playbook, but on this evidence we gotta work on our blitz packages.

  2. TCL says:

    Also would like to cut down on the number of times that, immediately before the snap, Keiland Williams is looking at the sideline going WTF am I supposed to be doing.

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