Three Observations: Offensive Line Struggles, Dynamic Receivers Continue to Impress and Defense Forcing Turnovers
While Saturday afternoon wasn't the start many expected in Starkville, the Tiger offense was able to slowly put things together by first half's end and ride that wave to a 36-13 win over Mississippi State.
It was a great day for some and not so much for others as the defense continued to show signs of its immense potential while one position group took a bit of a step back on Saturday. Here are a few takeaways from the Tigers win.
Offensive line struggles in win
By now you've all seen it, quarterback Joe Burrow being sacked in the third quarter while desperately trying to hold his pants up. The part you might've missed was Bulldog defensive end Chauncey Rivers blow by LSU right tackle Austin Deculus to make the play.
Too often Saturday afternoon Burrow found himself scrambling in the pocket and it led to three Mississippi State sacks, two quarterback hits and six tackles for a loss.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron acknowledged it wasn't the units best showing after the game.
"I think we were getting beat one-on-one at the tackles," Orgeron said. "They were running some pressures, sending some linebackers and I think we didn't pick them up so we weren't clicking on offense the way we wanted too early on."
Burrow said after the game that Mississippi State was using a lot of Green Dog blitzes, which is a scheme where the defense will send an extra blitz man if they notice the running back staying behind to help pass block.
The blitz scheme forced Burrow out of the pocket multiple times, particularly in the first half when LSU would get down to the goal line and wasn't able to convert.
It was those delayed blitzes that sometimes gave the o-line trouble against the Bulldogs and will likely be an area of attack during this week in practice.
Now it's only one game and after a performance like the o-line had against Florida last weekend, there's no reason for mass hysteria. But it wasn't a good day for the unit and the Tigers will need to fix those issues up front with another top-10 team coming to Baton Rouge this weekend in Auburn.
Jefferson, Chase with another dominant day for the Tigers
Lost in the record-breaking performance from Joe Burrow were the performances of his top two studs at receiver in Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase.
The dynamic duo combined for 13 catches, 137 yards and each brought in a touchdown to bring their season totals to nine a piece. With the latest performance against Mississippi State, the two are tied for first in touchdowns in the conference. Jefferson is also tops in the conference in receiving yards with 759 while Chase is third in yards at 626.
"We're going to have two guys break the single-season receiving touchdowns record here coming up," Burrow said of Jefferson and Chase.
The most touchdowns in a single-season by an LSU receiver is 12, a feat accomplished by Dwayne Bowe during the 2006 season. With five games to go in 2019, it's feasible to think both Jefferson and Chase could break that record as both have had two multi-touchdown games this season.
LSU defense forces three turnovers in win over Bulldogs
Orgeron hadn't liked that through four games of the regular season the Tigers had only forced four turnovers on defense. Well the Tiger defense seemed to have gotten the message as it has now forced six turnovers in its last three games including three on Saturday in Starkville.
"The defense came to play today and the turnovers really helped us," Orgeron said. "Made it hard for their offense to get things going and gave us a little time for our offense to get hot."
First there was a forced fumble by linebacker Michael Divinity that was recovered by senior defensive end Rashard Lawrence. The play would only lead to a field goal but it would put LSU up two scores early in the second quarter.
Next came the play of the day from safety JaCoby Stevens who, with LSU leading 16-7 late in the second quarter, made a leaping, one-handed interception on Bulldog quarterback Garrett Shrader to give the ball back to the Tiger offense right before the half.
The offense would capitalize with Burrow hitting Chase on a nine-yard touchdown to put LSU up 22-7 going into the locker room.
"That was a huge play for us," Orgeron said of Stevens play. "There was momentum going for Mississippi State and that turnover gave us a little bit of confidence going into the half. I knew we were going to light it up in the second half but I thought this team was a little sluggish in the beginning."
Senior cornerback Kristian Fulton also pulled in his first interception of the season late in the third quarter.
With a now healthy unit and possibly the two toughest games of the schedule on the horizon, it's a positive sign to see the defense finally starting to play like many thought it would at the beginning of the year.