LSU Football: 10 Things We Learned from LSU's Win vs. Towson
The LSU Tigers knocked off FCS Towson on Saturday, 38-22, and are 5-0 for the fourth straight season.
When a team with the talent of LSU beats a clearly outmatched FCS team, it's often hard to figure out what it means. But with the terrible effort put forth by LSU, there are a few important lessons to be learned from Saturday's cupcake-eating contest in Baton Rouge.
As the Tigers now prepare for the heart of SEC conference play, which begins with a game at Florida next week, questions persist. Can they compete for a second-straight SEC title? Will the passing offense improve?
The season is still young, but here are 10 things we learned about LSU in its win over Towson.
10. Les Miles Is Not a Happy Camper
Hold on to your hats, folks. Les Miles is about to blow a gasket—and rightfully so.
While the pure numbers didn't look too horrible (396 offensive yards), it's clear that the Tigers didn't live up to the high standards Miles placed on his team this week.
Miles can be a fiery guy, and you know that his press conferences this week are sure to be a must see.
9. Penalties Are Still a Problem
LSU was averaging eight penalties per game coming into Week 5, and it was a major point of emphasis.
LSU finished its game against Towson with 10 flags for 80 yards.
While 80 yards isn't enough to sink a team like LSU against a team like Towson, it will crush any hopes of beating teams like Alabama or Florida.
The real problem is that the penalties aren't a holding call here or there. Instead, the Tigers are drawing flags on grabbing facemasks, pass interference and false starts—all penalties that will drive a coach insane.
And Miles doesn't have all that far to go to begin with!
8. Mettenberger Is Not the Next LSU Great
At least not yet.
Zach Mettenberger's pure numbers weren't too bad. He was 15-of-26 for 238 yards and two touchdowns.
But he never found a rhythm and had far too many underthrown or overthrown balls.
He also had a difficult time escaping the pocket. He was sacked five times for a net loss of 52 yards.
At this point in the season, we'd expect a quarterback as hyped as Mettenberger to be calm, cool and collected in the pocket. Instead, he's anything but. There's only one word to describe his quarterbacking abilities thus far: serviceable.
Unfortunately, LSU is going to need much more than a serviceable quarterback if the Tigers have any hope of repeating as SEC champions.
7. The FCS Is Getting Closer
When Appalachian State knocked off then-No. 5 back in 2007, it was viewed as one of the most shocking upsets in college football history.
Since then, however, FBS teams losing to FCS teams has become a yearly occurrence.
Towson wasn't going to beat LSU, and it was clear that the FCS teams just don't have the depth of talent to hang with the big boys for 60 minutes.
A decade ago, this game would have been an 84-0 blowout win for LSU. Instead, we're seeing FCS teams score points, and in certain situations—like Saturday night—force the FBS teams to keep starters on the field much longer than the coaching staff would like.
Those 22 extra scholarships the FBS gets per team certainly go a long way, and it's doubtful the FCS will ever be able to compete with the FBS on a team-by-team basis.
But those 63 scholarship players are getting closer and closer to FBS-caliber.
6. The LSU Defense Isn't as Dominant as Once Thought
First, let's be clear: the LSU defense won the Towson game.
But allowing as many as 291 yards and 22 points had to be a disappointment.
And if it hadn't been for some awful miscues by Towson's special teams, the point total would have been ever greater.
All night, the LSU defensive line had trouble keeping runners from getting to the second level. Towson's Terrance West ran for 79 yards and two touchdowns and carried several Tiger defenders for extra yards, even late in the game.
LSU failed to contain Towson quarterback Grant Enders when he escaped the pocket. In fact, Enders led all Towson rushers with 86 yards on 12 carries, numbers that include the times he was sacked.
LSU did a bit better defending the pass, giving up just 103 yards through the air.
But if a lowly FCS program can manufacture 291 yards of offense, how many yards will we see from the Florida Gators next week?
5. LSU Fans Aren't Very Dedicated
Yes, it was sprinkling when the game started. Yes, it was an FCS opponent. Yes, it's LSU, which has a habit of emptying the stadium way too early.
But come on, folks! If you look around the nation, you'd be hard-pressed to find any other ranked FBS program that has as much difficulty putting butts in the seats as LSU.
Even Michigan—a team that clearly isn't on the same level as the top teams in the SEC—packed in 110,708 against Massachusetts. Michigan won, 63-13, and the stadium was still full at the end of the game.
If the fans in Ann Arbor can stick it out for 60 minutes in a blowout, shouldn't the people in Baton Rouge be able to fill a stadium that holds nearly 20,000 fewer fans?
Regardless of the “official” attendance, it was patently obvious that the stadium was only about half full by the end of the second quarter and nearly empty midway by the fourth.
Of course, we could be wrong. The LSU fans could have been dressed as empty seats.
4. Finishing Is Just as Important as Starting
LSU seemed to be getting off to a decent start early, but saw the opening drive fizzle.
No big deal, right?
But when five of the first six drives end in three punts, a lost fumble and a missed field goal, it turns into a very big deal.
As drives began to falter, it was clear that LSU coaches and players were having to dig a bit deeper than expected to find effective play calls and then execute those calls to keep drives alive and score points.
Towson gave LSU a much better game than expected, as did Auburn last week.
And while LSU emerged victorious, it will need to do a much better job of sustaining and completing drives in the weeks ahead.
3. LSU Can Play Down
The last two games have seen LSU take on overmatched opponents in Auburn and Towson.
The results prove that LSU is perfectly capable of playing down to its weaker opponents.
Getting knocked around by Towson for a couple of quarters, giving up nearly 300 yards of offense and allowing Towson to maintain possession for nearly 10 minutes longer than you did is pretty bad, and it's certainly not what we had hoped to see after last weak's mediocre performance.
Is this becoming a trend?
Maybe. But LSU quickly will be be facing teams that are not so overmatched. So the real question becomes: “Can LSU play up to their opponents?”
We'll see next week.
2. LSU Can Always Carry the Football
It's not all bad news for the Tigers. Both Russell Shepard and Michael Ford had decent games.
Shepard may have only carried the ball once, but it was for 78 yards and a touchdown. Add in his one catch for nine yards, and you quickly have 87 total yards for the senior wide receiver.
Ford had 11 carries and averaged nearly seven yards per scamper, ending the evening with 76 yards and a touchdown.
Not gaudy numbers by any standard, but decent enough to give Zach Mettenberger a bit of a cushion should he struggle in the passing game—which he did.
It's also worth noting that wideout Odell Beckham can be deadly when he actually gets the ball in his hands. Beckham had 128 yards on five receptions, with much of that yardage coming after the catch. His two TD receptions were the difference-maker against Towson.
LSU will need to continue to rely on his big-play ability if there's to be any lasting success this season.
1. The Most Important Connection
No, it's not Mettenberger to Beckham.
We're talking about the connection between the football and the hands—something on which LSU clearly needs to focus a little more attention.
LSU ball-carriers let the ball hit the turf five times Saturday night against Towson, and three of those fumbles were lost.
Almost as important is the penchant the Tigers receivers have for dropping passes—the kind that should be caught.
Mettenberger had enough trouble making decent throws. He doesn't need his receivers making matters worse by dropping balls or running the wrong routes.
We hate to keep harping on it, but those kind of lapses in fundamentals will absolutely sink any SEC team down the stretch.
There's plenty of work to be done, as the Tigers clearly haven't cleaned up the “sloppy play” Les Miles was hoping to have corrected.
And if there's one thing we learned Saturday night, it's that the clean-up didn't happen. Now, time's up. Florida is next, and fumbles, dropped passes and missed routes will sink the Tigers in 2012.