Sunday, September 6, 2009

DISAPPOINTING WIN: LSU 31, Washington 23

I don't want to overreact.  A win is a win, especially on the road against a BCS school with a proud heritage and something to prove.  But there are some clear reasons to be disappointed in this win.  In my opinion, LSU's performance tonight raised more questions than it answered. 

(DISCLAIMER:  I'm not discounting that Washington is probably a better team than some expected them to be.  But I don't think they'll be in the top half of the Pac-10 this year, so I'm going to assume they're close enough to expectations for the season - improved, but not awesome.)

But first, just to stay positive, let's give a couple of answers to questions.  The first one is, "Will Terrance Toliver have a breakout season?"  I think the answer is yes.  He led all receivers in the game with 117 yards and 2 TDs on 4 catches.  Most impressively, Toliver's yards after catch (I don't have the number) were very good.  Teams now have to honor Toliver (not that they weren't aware of him before), watch Lafell, and there more arrows in the quiver that were not revealed tonight.

Another question that seems to at least be trending to an acceptable answer is, "Will LSU be able to return to the 2007 level of advantageous turnover ratio?"  LSU had one fumble (Charles Scott) that was just barely a fumble (last minute strip), but a fumble nonetheless.  Conversely, the Tigers got a pick-six and a fumble recovery.  That's a nice change of pace from last year, and I'll just leave that right where it is.

I think that's about all I can say positively about tonight's game.  There are a lot of questions, but let's just choose 5 for now.

1.  "Is John Chavis really a great Defensive Coordinator?" I don't know.  But, if you read the press and message boards about Chavis' hire, you'd think this couldn't possibly be a serious question.  He has been hailed as the savior of LSU defenses.  The genius who will bring LSU back to national defensive prowess.  Yet his defense just gave up 478 yards and 23 points to a team with a patchwork offensive line.  Yep - 478 yards.  25 first downs.  And LOTS of big plays given up.  LSU's vaunted secondary, the one that Coach Miles says has 3 future NFL first rounders in it, just gave up 320 yards passing.   Dayum.  Yes, Jake Locker is a pretty good QB.  "320 yards and 2 TDs against future NFL first round draft picks" good?  Personally - I don't think so.   Anyway - this is a big, fat, nasty open question as of right now.  If LSU cannot rush the passer, we, as LSU fans, are in for a long, disappointing year.  I know this because I lived it last year.  And if we repeat last year, then tell me why Mallory and Peveto got such a bad rap again?

2.  "Is LSU's offensive line going to be able to handle SEC play?"  Again, I thought the only question was at center.  But Washington's DL held LSU's awesome RB stable to less than 150 yards rushing.  And Jefferson had very few opportunities to check down and choose receivers unmolested.  I know Washington has a couple of really good DLinemen.  But so does every SEC team, and some non-SEC teams, on the LSU schedule.  This is another very troubling question.

3.  "Does the coaching staff trust Jordan Jefferson?"  I was very surprised at the lack of balance in the play calling.  Consequently I was also suprised at how predictable and vanilla the offense was.  Call me crazy (go ahead, I'll wait........thanks, you may be right), but when you're averaging 16.5 yards per reception against a team that has a very young, very weak secondary, then shouldn't you target that youth/weakness a bit more?  Yet the pass to run ratio was 19/29.   And Jefferson did not attempt many throws over the middle (but when he did (and completed them) they went for big gains).  So, I'm wondering if the coaches are just afraid to turn Jefferson into the next Lee by asking too much of him too early?  Maybe.  Is that a good call - being that risk averse I mean?  We'll call that Question 3b.

4.  "Was this game indicative of our special teams this year, or an aberration?"  Kick returns were pedestrian at less than 6 yards per.  Only one punt returned (not a great sign for the defense), and it was only 9 yards.  And Derek Helton's inaugural punting stint ended with a 32 yard average and a long of 38 yards.  I don't care how good his hang time is. 

5.  Finally - "Is Jordan Jefferson going to last the season?"  By this question, I mean two things.  First, he took some hard shots today.  It's not that he's not tough, it's just that he's tall and not stocky and seems to not mind sacrificing himself for an extra yard.  He got rocked twice tonight, and I don't think he'll be able to withstand that all season long.  Second, he really looked wide-eyed and awkward throwing the football tonight.  He made some good decisions regards throwing the ball away, but he also nearly got a couple of forced throws picked.  End of the day, lot's of balls thrown behind or in inconvenient places for the receivers.  So, I'm wondering if he can become the solid passing threat that any contemporary offense needs their QB to be?  He just did not pass the eye test throwing the ball tonight.

These five are not comforting questions, and there are more to be asked and answered.

I'm relieved the Tigers got the win.  But (and maybe it's just me) it sorta feels like a tie.  Like, we didn't lose - but we didn't really have a great result either.

I am actually concerned enough about the Vandy game now that I'm going to spend some time getting to know the Commodores in more detail. 

Just to close on a positive note - Josh Downs, from what I could tell, looked like a man out there on the defensive line in the second half.  Amazing that he's a true freshman.  He's going to be a Glenn Dorsey kinda guy, and it may not take him all that long to get there.

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