This past Saturday morning in Starkville, LSU marched out of Scott Field with a 28-25 victory. LSU was keen on handling business early and keeping Mississippi's Air Raid offense in check for the majority of the game, until near the end of the fourth quarter, when the game's outcome was in question.
This win may have not been the prettiest game but it will be an enormous confidence-booster for this young team. The Bulldogs ran 88 total plays which explains why LSU’s defense could’ve been slightly gassed towards the end of the game. However, LSU’s defensive coordinator and defensive backs deserve credit for calling & executing a great game plan, keeping quarterback Will Rogers from being able to attack in deep-field opportunities.
The Tigers were able to run a 3-3-5 zone scheme and that maximizes a spare nickel defensive back. When used correctly, this defense can confuse the offense by applying different blitz pressures on the offense, while staying in mostly zone or sometimes man coverage.
Because we used the three-man rush against Mississippi State, they were only able to complete crackdowns in the flats out of the backfield. Taking a look at the first quarter, when State had possession, Cordalle Flott came flying downhill to make a jarring hit on the receiver. This was the first of numerous forced turnovers and it felt like the tone was then set for the rest of the game. Even when Head Coach Mike Leach tried to run screen plays, his gains were only minimal and no big plays were made. Furthermore, they attempted to throw the ball in tight spaces and it was rarely beneficial. An example of when the Bulldogs tried this, the ball was intercepted by Cordalle Flott.
The LSU defensive line snuffed out early screen plays and other offensive schemes; shedding off blockers, trailing their hips and making plays for little to no gain.
LSU defensive backs Cordalle Flott, Major Burns, Cam Lewis, and Elias Rick were all able to play downfield and attack those passes in the flats or zone runs. I do not believe we will see much of this coverage against Auburn, because we did not have our best defensive player and it is a reactive way of attacking the offense. Our talent from the defensive standpoint can dictate and control how teams react to us -- when we are healthy and focused, we are one of the best defensive units in college football. Another way the defense should look to attack is in third and long passing downs. LSU needs to put their best defensive lineman in to rush the QB and force the three and out.
I don’t anticipate the 3-3-5 defensive scheme staying part of our playbook, because we did not have our best defensive player, Derek Stingley. The coaches and players took this game personally by executing what was seen on film to limit the Mississippi State offense production.
We need to keep our foot on defensive gas from the get go and finish games with the same drive. Overall LSU deserved their win over the Bulldogs to move to 1-0 in SEC play. However, this game should not have been decided by a run, run, then pass play style offense, I don’t want any game to be decided by the running back in the dwindling moments of the game with say only four minutes and up two touchdowns.
We must stay disciplined when it comes to clock and game management alike, to finish the job against teams. If the Purple and Gold remain disciplined and smart overall in this upcoming game, and remainder of the season, they will make a valid candidate for the playoffs as the SEC is still up for grabs. LSU has a chance to turn this season around, despite having just one loss on the season and preparing to host Auburn this weekend.