Despite beating a lackluster North Texas team on Saturday, LSU still has a lot to work on before they start playing the big boys.
A quick glance at a box score doesn't do the sup-par performance by the Tigers justice. Although Zach Mettenberger threw for 192 yards and the defense held North Texas to 14 points, there were plenty of problems, most noticeably the secondary's inexperience.
In the penultimate minute of the second quarter, North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson threw a quick strike to receiver Brelan Chancellor across the middle. He caught the pass a few yards behind LSU's undersized linebackers and sprinted past the entire secondary. As he scored, Eric Reid stood in the background gasping for breath.
Admittedly, Chancellor is fast. He stands 5'9" and runs like the dickens. But football powerhouses have more than one Brelan Chancellor on their team. LSU's secondary is slow.
That isn't the only problem. Throughout the game, Jalen Mills and Tharold Simon allowed receivers to catch the ball because they stared at the receiver once the ball was in the air instead of looking for the ball.
Good cornerbacks have the ability to keep up with top-notch receivers and turn their head in time to react and bat the ball away. Aside from Eric Reid, the Tiger secondary was disappointing in their first outing.
The defensive line put tremendous pressure on the quarterback. The linebackers didn't play poorly, but their performance wasn't awe-inspiring either. Despite some problems in the secondary, the defense put on an acceptable performance.
However, the biggest question surrounding the Bayou Bengals is their offense after the departure of Jordan Jefferson.
Prior to Zach Mettenberger becoming the starting quarterback, the Tigers' offense was plauged by sub-par quarterback play. In fact, the entire offense consisted of screen plays, the inside toss and the occasional off-tackle run. To be frank, the offense was boring.
But leading up to the first game, Les Miles promised to throw the ball more and stretch the field with Mettenberger's arm.
In the spring game, fans were treated to an aerial performance, something that tiger fans haven't seen since Jamarcus Russell left LSU to drink codeine.
Against North Texas, Mettenberger played well, but forced the ball into coverage too many times, leading to an interception in the red-zone. The play calls were the biggest problem though. Offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa and quarterback coach Steve Kragthorpe need to heavily reconsider their offensive gameplan.
On January 9, LSU got embarrassed because the offense failed to stretch the field. On Saturday, LSU failed to impress because they didn't throw the ball deep. Fans were disappointed by screen plays and middle toss runs. If LSU wants to be a serious title contender, the coaches should implement plays that force the secondary to play deep.
LSU can beat North Texas, Washington, Idaho and Towson by running the ball. In fact, the Tigers could probably win every game leading up to Auburn without throwing a single pass. But focusing on running the ball won't fly against Alabama or any of the other SEC powerhouses.
LSU has a talented core of running backs, but they also have a tremendous group of unproven wide receivers who will thrive under Mettenberger if Kragthorpe and Studrawa plan correctly.
Although Mettenberger's average performance is not entirely his fault, there is one area he can improve upon. He needs to learn how to take a hit.
With four minutes and 21 seconds left in the first quarter, a North Texas defensive back made a beeline for Mettenberger, making a direct hit on the quarterback. Mettenberger rolled around on the ground for a few seconds before leaving the game for a few series.
Eight minutes into the Mettenberger era and it was already over?
Not quite. But the hit did worry fans that larger, more powerful hits could put the quarterback out for longer than a few plays. What if that hit had come from an Alabama defensive lineman?
While we are discussing the Crimson Tide, it is important to note that Alabama beat Michigan by the exact same score as LSU beat North Texas—41-14. And it doesn't take a football afficionado to know that the Wolverines are a better team that the North Texas Mean Green football team.
So while a win is always a good thing, there are plenty of problem areas that LSU needs to address before it considers itself a title contender.
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