Just returning from Dallas with some quick thoughts on LSU's huge win, much quicker than the ride home, which lasted about 10 hours after driving around forest fires in Texas and through a tropical storm in Louisiana.
Saturday night reminded us...what we enjoy most about LSU football. The band taking the field, playing those first four familiar notes to a roaring crowd. The Tigers taking the field wearing those classic white jerseys. A veteran player who's waited his turn, with the opportunity to shine. And, most importantly...a complete team victory that's gotten the 2011 season off to a soaring start.
Senior quarterback Jarrett Lee did his job and his final stat line obviously has been much better. Lee finished 10-22 passing for 98 yards and a touchdown late in the first half to Reuben Randle. However, he had numerous passes dropped, including a pair of long tosses to tight end Chase Clement and wide receiver Kadron Boone.
True freshman Odell Beckham Jr. made a spectacular grab on a second half Lee bomb, that was also wiped out because of a penalty. However...Lee certainly can improve his passing also. Even some of the completions were a little off. However, we are not going to be critical of No. 12 on this occasion. He avoided the big mistakes, ran the huddle and the team.
As the Tigers 40-27 rout was complete, Lee trotted towards the locker room and thrust his helmet up and down to the fans roaring in approval. It was certainly a wonderful moment. And, a great lesson to kids why you never quit.
But, as an LSU fan told me before the contest, "We aren't ranked No. 4 in the country because of our quarterback." And I couldn't agree more. No matter who ends up playing QB this year...it's not the strength of this team. Throughout fall camp, I have said repeatedly said this LSU team will rely on their running game and their defense. And, that's exactly what transpired Saturday night. While Lee certainly made his share of big throws, he had more than a little help from his friends.
Spencer Ware and Michael Ford give LSU quite a dynamic one-two punch at running back. Both finished just under 100 yards rushing, while Ford got roughly half the carries Ware did. It appears the Tigers won't lose any sleep moving on without Stevan Ridley.
This LSU defense is so fast, it may be able to chase down Cliff Harris in his car. Oregon's Heisman Trophy candidate LaMichael James desperately searched for daylight, but found none. James was constantly collared by Tyrann Mathieu, Brandon Taylor, Sam Montgomery, KeKe Mingo and other LSU speedsters all night long.
Whether he ran east, west, north or south...James could not escape defensive coordinator John Chavis' relentless outfit. And, just by glancing at the box score to see Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas threw 54 passes, says it all. Fifty-four passes is a sign of desperation and the Ducks certainly were. They gained 138 of their 335 yards of total offense on two meaningless fourth quarter drives...when LSU had the contest in the bag.
The turnover battle was likely the biggest statistic of the night. Oregon turned the ball over four times, to the Tigers one, a devastating turn of events for a Ducks squad with so much to prove. Three of those turnovers led to a total of 20 LSU points, and an eventual 33-13 lead in the fourth.
I'm convinced that if you walked outside right now and threw a football into the air...it would somehow weave and dart it's way into Tyrann Mathieu's hands. Mathieu's strip and score of Kenyon Barner on a second quarter punt return is just another illustration what kind of ball hawk little No. 7 is. Mathieu hustled with reckless abandon, ripped the ball free and then what seemed to be all one motion...sucked up the pigskin to trot into the end zone. No news flash needed...but that kid is special. And, so is the rest of this ridiculous LSU defense.
But, as head coach Les Miles and the players said..."it was far from perfect." The LSU offense put the ball on the carpet three times and had some center-quarterback exchange issues that led to their one turnover. Drew Alleman boomed a 44-yard field goal, but he yanked an extra point and his kickoffs never threatened to reach the end zone. And, LSU will certainly need more production from their wide receivers in the passing game to reach their ultimate goal.
However, there will be no heavy critique on this evening. What I saw Saturday night was a football team that's a contender for something special. And, a fan base that was starving for what they crave the most...action on the field, not off.
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