An unimaginative offense doomed Les Miles' tenure at LSU. Stubbornness plagued the beginning of Ed Orgeron's tenure and prevented the Tigers from competing for titles. Heading into 2019, we needed to see the improvement to believe it.
Week 2 showed plenty. LSU is for real.
Finally, the Tigers have moved into the modern era. New passing game coordinator Joe Brady has combined with offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger to shape a philosophy that matches LSU's impressive talent around quarterback Joe Burrow.
"Joe [Brady] and Steve Ensminger work together wonderful," Orgeron said before the season, per Glenn Guilbeau of the Daily Advertiser. "I expect those two to run a very prolific offense led by Joe Burrow. This is Joe Burrow's type of offense. Joe is a dual-threat quarterback."
Every piece of that praise rang true Saturday when No. 6 LSU upended ninth-ranked Texas 45-38 in Austin.
Burrow shredded the Longhorns for 471 yards with a 31-of-39 mark and four touchdowns. He also showed that mobility by escaping pressure to extend several plays and convert easy throws, as seen on Justin Jefferson's game-sealing 61-yard score.
Third-and-17? No problem. Burrow stepped into pressure, found his target and celebrated as Jefferson benefited from poor tackling.
In recent seasons, fans and analysts have rightly criticized the Tigers' inability to score against top teams. Every year only provided more evidence to their big-game shortcomings. Saturday, they changed that perception in emphatic fashion.
LSU answered every Texas score―all five before the decisive onside kick, at least―on the ensuing drive. The offense's final four possessions resulted in three touchdowns and a field goal.
You hardly could've asked for more.
Before the season, I called Burrow a "generally competent" quarterback. Given the evidence to date, that was a fair and honest assessment for someone who failed to crack 200 passing yards in more than half of his starts last season.
This new system, however, has unlocked a level of effectiveness previously unseen. Burrow's intelligence, patience and placement are on full display along with his toughness.
"I thought Joe Burrow was the difference in the ballgame," Texas coach Tom Herman said, according to Dennis de la Pena of Fox 7. "Just really accurate, really aggressive. I thought he fit some balls into some really tight windows."
Beyond the quarterback, Brady's influence has also allowed LSU's talent-rich receiving corps to show its collective skill.
Jefferson racked up 163 yards and three touchdowns on nine catches, while Ja'Marr Chase snagged eight balls for 147 yards. Terrace Marshall Jr. added six receptions for 123 yards and a score, helping LSU have three 100-yard receivers in the same contest for the first time in school history.
"I'm so proud of this offense," Orgeron said after the game, per Harrison Valentine of InsideTheTigers.com. "We were able to get [the receivers] the ball in space and let them make plays."
The three receivers are finally getting the chance to show their separation ability on a diverse route tree, and they're thriving.
Most importantly, though, Burrow had room in front of him.
After a shaky start, the offensive line did a tremendous job giving Burrow enough time to drop, wait for a route to develop and step into his throw. Texas managed only one sack in the second half, and Burrow hit Jefferson for the clutch score on the next snap.
If the Tigers are going to contend with Alabama in the SEC West―and, effectively, for a national championship―the blocking unit needs to meet or surpass its new standard consistently.
Still, it was a terrific start for LSU's linemen.
As always with September wins, remember the date. LSU still has 10 regular-season games remaining. One tremendous victory does not guarantee anything, especially with Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Texas A&M remaining on the schedule.
What happened Saturday in Austin was no fluke, though. For the first time in a half-decade, LSU's offense proved it is capable of carrying the team to a championship stage.