Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mississippi State Recap

Ugly wins.  One third of the way through the 2009 Football Season, the theme thus far is "winning ugly".  LSU needed a goal line stand to preserve a win against Mississippi State on a wet field on Saturday.  While the goal line stand was impressive, the general thought among many is that it shouldn't have been needed to win a game against the cellar dwellers from Starkville.  I certainly agree with that sentiment. 

It has been a frustrating season for anyone involved with, or anyone who follows the LSU football program.  The 4-0 record is nice.  The #4 national ranking is nice.  Those things should not be discredited.  But I don't know a single person who is pleased with the way LSU has played thus far this season. 

While the defense is playing OK, the offense is really struggling, especially when trying to run the football.  Les Miles loves to have a bit of the power running game integrated into his offense.  And why not?  Jacob Hester's tough running certainly served LSU well in 2007.  And Charles Scott running behind Quinn Johnson was the rock of the Tigers' offense in 2008. 

But it's just not happening in 2009.  Not even close.  And the fact that LSU keeps trying to run the ball out of the I-formation is bordering on ridiculous.  Albert Einstein's definition of the word "insanity" was "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."   The offensive coaching staff may be flirting with that designation if they continue wasting plays out of that I-formation.  Now, I will say that Jordan Jefferson's long touchdown pass to Brandon Lafell to open the second half was off a play action fake from the I-formation.  But did LSU really waste 5 or 6 plays in the 1st half to set that one up?  

So why can't LSU run the ball this season?   What's different from 2007 and 2008?   Some believe that LSU's talent on the offensive line isn't as good as we're used to.  That may be true to an extent.  But the talent is still far superior to that of ULL, yet LSU was unable to run the football between the tackles against the Ragin Cajuns.  Some look to offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and suggest he's not coaching well enough.  But Coach Stud was here in 2007 and 2008 when LSU's offensive line was very good.  I doubt he suddenly forgot how to coach.  Others think that LSU's lack of a blocking fullback is the problem.  Perhaps the answer lies partially with each of those suggestions. 

I can't tell you the reason why it's not working.  I can only tell you that it is indeed NOT working.  And I think the coaching staff needs to look at other ways to move the ball with this offense.  I do know a few things that have worked. 

LSU has a pair of really outstanding wide receivers who are getting open with ease right now.  They also have a nice group of secondary receivers who have shown the ability to make a few plays.   You can add in an All-SEC tight end and a fantastic all purpose player who has been under utilized to this point.  The sum of these players results in a damn strong collection of pass catcher and play makers.   In my opinion, these guys should be the focal point of this offense.  LSU may have to pass in order to set up the run, rather than vice versa. 

Trying to force a running game with a walk-on center as your fullback while RJ Jackson and Russell Shepard are on the bench does not make a ton of sense to me.  I believe in trying to get your best 11 players on the field as much as possible and for LSU this year, that means only using a fullback in goal line situations. 

Against Mississippi State, LSU ran the ball 31 times for 30 yards.  Russell Shepard had 26 of those rushing yards on just 4 attempts.  However, LSU did not use Shep at all in the second half.  It's baffling why the coaches went away from something that was working well. 

LSU's schedule picks up considerably from this point forward, starting with a road game to Georgia on Saturday.  The Tigers' play will have to pick up as well or else some losses could start piling up, similar to last season when the Tigers also started 4-0 before finishing 3-5 down the stretch. 


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