The LSU Tigers and Texas A&M Aggies kicked off at 12 p.m. EST from Kyle Field in College Station, Texas for a matchup of one loss, top-25 teams.
A&M outplayed the Tigers for much of the first half and led 12-0, LSU's largest deficit since the national championship game against Alabama in January, but the Tigers' play-making defense shut down freshman sensation Johnny Manziel in the second half to secure the victory.
Let's take a look at the overall grades and analysis for the LSU Tigers in their big road win against the Aggies.
It was not pretty, but Mettenberger quarterbacked the Tigers to a win. Miles showed confidence in his quarterback by letting him throw late and Mettenberger completed the short tosses to keep the clock running.
No one is convinced that Mettenberger is the second coming of Tommy Hodson, but he is doing enough to win games—for now.
Mettenberger’s stat line of 11-19 for 97 yards and one touchdown will be among the worst in the country. However, Mettenberger did not turn the ball over against the Aggies. With such a potent playmaker under center for the opposition, this cannot be overlooked. Even one interception would have proven to be costly.
Mettenberger and the passing game will have to improve—and quick. The junior quarterback will get his toughest test yet when the Tigers face Alabama after their bye week.
The freshman right side of LSU's offensive line, made up of Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander, played well against the Aggies, as did the entire unit.
Mettenberger had valuable time in the pocket and was only sacked twice Saturday. The line also opened up holes for the backs, despite the Aggies stacking the box. The line opened up a huge hole for Jeremy Hill on his dagger 47-yard touchdown run. The Tigers averaged whopping 4.9 yards per rush in the win.
"All we did was practice hard, get coached up and know our assignments," said Turner (via Nola.com).
LSU's receivers did not play a huge role in the win, but it's hard to when your quarterback only has 11 completions. Despite this, the receiving corps performed when called upon.
Kadron Boone led the Tigers with 49 yards and a beautiful touchdown grab, and Odell Beckham followed close behind with 35 yards. No other LSU receiver had more than 10 yards.
Boone's grab right before half was the momentum swing that the Tiger's needed. Mettenberger threw his best ball of the day and Boone laid out and snatched it in the end zone.
The Tigers have some speed and skill on the outside, but the problem is getting them the ball. Mettenberger is not the most accurate passer and his deeps ball are routinely overthrown.
LSU needs to incorporate their receivers into the game plan more going forward. Beckham is currently the teams leading receiver with only 22 catches for 385 yards.
Jeremy Hill rode his success from his previous game against South Carolina into the matchup with the Aggies. The freshman rushed for a career-high 127 yards and a touchdown on just 18 attempts. Michael Ford also had a solid day on the ground as well, rushing for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Hill and Ford were the catalyst in the win. Ford managed to get outside on a toss play and tippytoe along the sideline for the Tigers' first score of the game and then Hill sealed the victory with a gashing 47-yard run.
The Tigers have a bunch of backs that are capable of busting loose, but Hill has emerged as the most complete. He is nearly 230 pounds and has breakaway speed. For the second week in a row Hill came up with a big play late in the game. Hill is averaging more than seven yards per carry in his last two games.
It's no secret—LSU relies heavily on the running game, and they will continue to do so. The Aggies stacked the box against the Tigers and still allowed the LSU backs to escape for big plays. Until a team manages to effectively stop the Tigers' potent ground game, why stop pounding the rock?
The line would have received a perfect A-plus if it were not for mindless penalties. Barkevious Mingo jumped offsides three times in the first half alone.
However, this is easily overlooked when you look at the job they did containing Johnny Manziel. The defensive ends played a solid game after a shaky first half and would not let the mobile Manziel escape the pocket.
You can look at the box score and see that Manziel was only sacked three times, but the line was playing the contain game rather than rushing upfield. It would have done the Tigers no good if their ends constantly overran the play and allowed Manziel to escape from the pocket.
Containing college football's best freshman quarterback is no easy task. Hats off to the big guys up front.
Junior linebacker Kevin Minter came into the game leading LSU with 63 total tackles and he improved upon that total with a solid performances against the Aggies. Minter led the Tigers in tackles for the fifth time in eight games and added a sack and interception to the stat sheet.
"It's just a mindset," Barrow said (via Nola.com). "Me playing for the last few years here and there and now stepping into a full-time role, I had to get some game under my belt to get comfortable and confident in the system."
Defensive coordinator John Chavis put his players in position to make plays and came out with a new attitude and game plan after getting pounded by Manziel and the Aggies' offense in the first quarter.
The athletic outside backers teamed up with the defensive line to contain the speedy Manziel and made him uncomfortable all game. The pressure resulted in three interceptions for the vaunted LSU defense.
The linebackers plugged up the holes in the running game as well. Ben Malena was A&M's leading rusher with only 87 yards.
The secondary played well Saturday, but need to clean up their game before their matchup with Alabama in two weeks.
The interceptions by Tharold Simon and Jalen Collins were gift wrapped by Manziel. Both came off poor decisions that are typical of a freshman quarterback, but unusual for "Johnny Football." LSU's talented defense made the Manziel look his age Saturday.
Eric Reid was the culprit in a selfish penalty in the fourth quarter. Reid came in and nailed a defenseless A&M receiver way after the ball was out of reach. The receiver laid dazed for sometime on the field after the play and the Aggies offense got a free 15 yards.
The penalty could have opened the door for the potent Aggies offense. The Tigers had stuffed A&M until that point, but why give them more opportunities to score—especially with the game on the line.
Les Miles will have to stress discipline in the coming weeks.
From a special teams aspect, the game was pretty uneventful.
It was windy in Kyle Stadium Saturday, which led to some long field goal attempts. Aggies’ kicker Taylor Bertolet hit a 50-yard field goal in the first half and Drew Alleman missed a 54-yard kick in the third quarter. Alleman later converted on a crucial 28-yard attempt for the Tigers.
A lapse in the Tigers’ kickoff coverage led to a 76-yard return by Trey Williams, but the Aggies did not turn the explosive play into any points, missing a 33-yard fourth quarter field goal attempt.
Alleman does not have the biggest leg in college football, but he is consistent. He has hit all his kicks under 30 yards and converted on all his extra point attempts this season.
Les Miles staff did not coach the game of their lives, but they did come up with a game plan to contain Manziel—something that only No. 2 Florida has managed to do this season.
Utilizing a three-man front was crucial to the Tigers success. It allowed an extra athlete on the field to contain the dual threat quarterback.
Offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa's play calling was questionable. Chris Rinaldi of Nola.com said it best:
Pass plays were called on first down when LSU was inside the 10 yard line; pass plays were called on 2nd down and 6, pass plays were called on 3rd and short, and pass plays were called with LSU leading by 5 with under 7 minutes to go in the 4th Quarter. Whenever it defied logic, pass plays were called. And, when those pass plays were called, they were always the short hitches and slants that have not been changed at any point in the past two years.
Miles decided to go for it on two short fourth downs and converted on them both Saturday. This was incredibly important because it gave his defense a longer period to catch their breath. However, the Tigers third down efficiency was horrid. LSU converted only 2 of 16 third downs in the game.
Miles is still among the best coaches in college football, but the play calling on offense needs to improve.