Most LSU fans were expecting that this contest would be lopsided with the Tigers winning by no less than 21 points. It certainly did not turn out that way! The biggest surprise of the game was just how effortlessly the Huskies seemed to move the ball!
LSU on several occasions had little or no containment at both defensive end positions allowing Huskie quarterback Jake Locker and runningback Chris Polk to run free most of the night. The two picked up 140 yards on the ground against the Tigers.
That's rather scary given the fact that the Tigers defense will certainly be facing stiffer competition with the Gators, Tide, and Rebels offensive attacks later in the season.
If one was grading the Tigers rushing defense, it would realistically be no higher than a C- performance.
Even more alarming was was the pass defense of the Tigers, or lack of it. Make no mistake about it, Locker is a solid QB and has excellent skills, but LSU gave up entirely too much via the air! The Huskies threw for over 300 total yards averaging nearly 13 yards per reception.
They threw all night long and continued to do so right up to the final play, a nine yard touchdown pass from Locker to Middleton as time expired. The only "bright spots" in the Tigers pass defense were Jacob Cutera's 29-yard interception for a TD in the first quarter and the consistently solid play of sophomore CB Patrick Peterson.
In spite of the efforts of Cutera and Peterson, LSU's overall pass defense was atrocious. John Chavis will have his hands full in correcting the obvious poor coverage, seams in the secondary, and blown assignments witnessed last night.
The passing defense gets a D+ score.
What saved the game for the Tigers was the offensive effort of QB Jordan Jefferson and WR Terrance Tolliver. Jefferson completed 11 of 19 passes for a total of 172 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jefferson also rushed 40 yards on 8 carries.
Tolliver had a career night catching four passes for 117 yards, two of which went for touchdowns of 45 and 39 yards in the second and third quarters of the game respectively. Charles Scott and Keiland Williams collectively rushed 19 times for just over 100 yards.
The Tiger passing offense scores an A- and the rushing offense gets a B+ rating.
Now, let's turn our attention the coaching staff. I will admit that a win is a win, but did Crowton and Chavis have their units ready to play as well as they are capable of or moreover did either make the necessary adjustments during the course of the game to help their squads better handle the situation on the field?
I will leave that up to you to decide, but I will offer the following:
Both ESPN game commentators repeatedly said the Tigers did not fully exploit the Huskie perimeter with their passing game. When LSU did so, the results were remarkable resulting in "catch and run" touchdowns! So why did Crowton only throw to LaFell and Tolliver on average once a quarter?
That's right, each one caught only four passes the entire game which averages to one pass per quarter. Why was Crowton trying to run the ball into the center of the Huskie line all night long when he had such a huge advantage on the perimeter?
And even though LSU's defensive performance was somewhat better in the second half, did Chavis make significant halftime adjustments to improve the coverage on the mid to deep routes that Washington executed in the first half. The answer is sadly, no, he did not!
Both Crowton and Chavis had gameplans that were good enough to get by. Nothing more, nothing less. Will this work when LSU gets into the heart of their SEC schedule? Likely, not.
So the answer is clear. Over the next several weeks, both coordinators will need to make significant improvements on their game preparation and in-game adjustments, at least as much as their units will need to improve upon their onfield performance.