Saturday night in Baton Rouge, the Tigers handled business, putting up 49 against the Central Michigan Chippewas. The Tigers looked full of confidence and swagger on defense and offense.
Max Johnson played with much more confidence last week. He is starting to gel with his favorite targets in Deion Smith, Kayson Boutte, and newly starting Tight End Jack Bech. A particular play in the first quarter with 14 minutes to go on a third and five call, Max feels the pocket pressure and begins to swiftly maneuver away from it. What you can see as he looks downfield is the presence of mind from Bech to find open pockets of space and help his QB get a chance to throw him the ball. The reason I like this play so much is because the receiver is not just watching the QB, but calling for his attention to serve as an outlet before Johnson could get tackled for a loss on this play. The overall football IQ is clearly there for this freshman.
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Another play right after this was a quick hitch route throw in the flats to Kayshon Boutte, which converted into a first down. If you take a look at the entire first drive, the offense was clearly decisive and ready to spring into action by using an uptempo run-pass-option (RPO) format to get the ball to their playmakers all night. After two third down conversions, Johnson converted on a deep ball throw to Deion Smith, who got great separation and snagged it from the defensive back with ease. This was the beginning of what would wind up being a 21-0 start in just the first quarter for the Tigers.
Even with all that said, I still see more room to correct errors that teams may try and take advantage of.
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Johnson needs to slow the game down from a mental aspect and be hyper aware of the game and play clocks. With about five minutes left in the quarter on this particular drive, it is evident that trying to score or even convert a first down is futile. One thing I believe he should do is try to avoid catastrophe. Instead of trying to scramble the pocket, look to get a short checkdown to your tight end or running back so that he gives special teams a puntable down and distance. Ed Orgeron even called him out on the drive as they exited the field — I imagine the instructions were something along the lines of stepping up in the pocket and not trying to play hero ball, which is what that drive consisted of. Between two delay-of-game calls and a play where Johnson tries to spin out of the pocket, it is very understandable for Orgeron to express his thoughts on the drive overall. Great coaching on his part, one of his best games so far.
Offensive Coordinator Jake Peetz called a superb game all night long, which led to a 49-point output.
In the second quarter, Peetz recognized that the Central Michigan defense was cheating a linebacker over closer to the trips-side receivers. This allowed him to utilize the RPO. RPO gives the quarterback the option to either hand the ball off to a running back or make quick passes to a receiver instead. The RPO is designed to keep defenses off balance with misdirection plays that keep defenders on their toes, guessing on whether the play is a pass or a run.
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If you’re a receiver, tight end, quarterback or offensive coordinator, you are absolutely salivating at the idea of a linebacker covering you in open space.
The defense Saturday night was stout and put Central Michigan's offense in a predicament all game long.
It started off with Chippewas pass play that was immediately broken up by the jarring hit put on the receiver by Derek Stingley, and in the same play D-lineman Andre Anthony scooped the ball for a house call. This play set the tone for the defense to establish a rhythm all night, and the defensive line eventually followed suit by putting immense pressure on the quarterback.
Another play in the next series was also crucial to the amount of turnovers the defense forced that night. On this play, LSU blitzed four d-linemen and also had a delayed blitz package that was timed nicely by Damone Clark, and this led to an interception by Major Burns.
However even with the quality game they played, there are still communication errors that the defense still seem to get entangled in.
The best position group after Week Three is still the defensive line unit, who is absolutely violent, viscous and intense. I want to see them get more pressure and sacks with only four players, regardless of the guys they are, whether it's predominantly run stoppers, pass rushers or hybrid guys. If they get home with just four guys, the defense will take a colossal step forward.
This team is showing a chemistry that was not there against UCLA, but a few minor tweaks will put them in the right direction moving forward.
For the offense: Keep the pocket clean for Max and make sure he does not feel rushed into passes. Keep running the RPO and uptempo plays that provide immediate sparks for the offense.
For the defense, I want to see the box less full because I believe we can contain the run game of most offenses with fewer than eight guys. Furthermore, the alignment of the safeties is strange to me and needs to be addressed before the next game. The defense must also communicate early and often. Blown coverages like the one Saturday night are the difference between winning or losing games in dramatic fashion against stiffer competition, especially teams coming up in a few weeks.
The Tigers will look to sustain momentum against Mississippi State on Saturday morning.