Russell Shepard on his way for six
LSU won a football game tonight, but in all of my many, many years of following the Tigers I have never walked away from a win feeling so much like a loss.
As good as the Tigers looked at moments in the first half, against a severely depleted North Carolina team, they came out in the second half displaying an anemic offensive effort and an attitude that seemingly said a 20 point lead was enough.
The Tar Heels thought otherwise. They showed tremendous heart and a refusal to give up to a team that had struck quickly against them in the 2nd quarter.
The Tigers had numerous opportunities to put UNC away in the 2nd half, but inconsistent play on offense and numerous inexplicable breakdowns in the proud secondary let the Tar Heels right back in it.
Most notably were Stephan Ridley’s touchdown being called back by a holding call on guard T Bob Hebert and Morris Claiborne’s blown coverage on a 97 yard touchdown pass by UNC.
With a 20 point lead you could begin to see the possibility of 21 points being scored by the Tar Heels before it was all over. How very close that came to being reality.
Despite the sour taste that this LSU win left for many of us, there was some stellar individual play, by a number of Tigers, starting with Patrick Peterson.
LSU has found their return man
Patrick Peterson (cornerback) – Easily the star of the game for the Tigers. He lit up the Tar Heel coverage team for over 250 return yards including taking one to the house. He often provided the offense with great field position and played solidly on defense.
Drake laying the wood last year
Drake Nevis (defensive tackle) – Drake was a disruptive presence in center of the line all night long. He had numerous tackles, and was often in the UNC backfield harassing quarterback T.J. Yates and forcing negative yardage plays.
Sam Montgomery (defensive end) – This very athletic pass rusher is only a freshman, but he showed early on in the game why he is starting, with his 1st sack of the quarterback. This began to set the tempo for the defense in the 1st half.
Rueben Randle (wide receiver) – Watching Randle glide through the secondary, plucking the ball out of the air with great consistency reminds one as to why he was the #1 receiver coming out of high school in 2009. His touchdown catch in the 1st half was outstanding.
Russell Shepard (wide receiver) – You get the sense in watching this gifted quarterback, turned wide receiver, that he is still feeling his way through this new position. Although his talent came shinning through on his touchdown jaunt down the left sideline he still needs to find that comfort level in his new position.
Mitch Joseph (tight end) – This junior tight end had a couple of very impressive catches for considerable yardage to keep drives alive. He also held his own in blocking assignments and showed signs of being a very reliable big target for Jefferson down the road.
Stephan Ridley (running back) – Other than that huge fumble near the end of the game that gave the Tar Heels one last gasp at victory, Ridley played a very solid game, keeping the UNC defense honest and providing some semblance of a running game. With out him, I saw no running game!
Jordan Jefferson (quarterback) – I grudgingly give Jefferson a pat on the back because he still seems to have problems with indecision, failing to go through his progressions and occasionally throwing the ball up for grabs. With that being said, he also showed flashes of smart, athletic play and good accuracy with his passes (see Randle).
Josh Downs/Michael Brockers (both defensive tackles) – I would like to give co-kudos to both of these young underclassmen who showed evidence of solid play at DT and who, along with Montgomery, provide hope for a traditionally strong Tiger “D” for years to come. I believe Downs also had a sack.
Josh Jasper (kicker) – Despite Jasper having a very rough start to the game, with a missed field goal and a kickoff out of bounds, he recovered nicely and delivered a beautiful coffin corner punt, with tremendous right english, at the one yard line. He did hit all of his extra points, just barely.