As the first half drew to a close, a thought couldn't help but creep in the back of the mind. Was this the most dominant half of football LSU has played in two years?
In the wake of numerous questions and concerns circling the Tigers program, LSU delivered a near perfect performance on its way to a 49-21 rout of Central Michigan. The win was a move in the right direction on a number of fronts, but proved to be a breakout performance for a number of freshman offensive weapons.
There were of course the usual suspects like Kayshon Boutte, but the impact of freshmen receivers Deion Smith and Brian Thomas as well as tight end Jack Bech proved the future is very bright with the passing game.
Bech has established himself as a consistent force in the first two weeks but really broke on to the scene Saturday with a five catch performance for 81 yards and this incredible one handed touchdown. His first five receptions went for either a first down or touchdown, culminating in an eye opening performance.
Smith took his first two catches for touchdowns for 28 and 40 yards, resulting in a five catch day for 135 yards. Thomas would add an additional two catches for 50 yards.
Along the way, sophomore quarterback Max Johnson played his most flawless game to date, tossing for 378 yards and five touchdowns on better than 69% passing. He had time to throw thanks to an improved performance from the offensive line and made some nice throws on the run as well. A pick six in the third quarter was a stinker of a way for his night to end but with the game in hand, LSU turned to Garrett Nussmeier the rest of the way.
The one area where this offense struggled was the run game as it didn't really have an effect with the exception of one drive in the second quarter. Corey Kiner rushed for 74 yards but it's no doubt an area that will need to be cleaned up. Kiner made a significant case in the second half to earn the start at running back against Mississippi State with a touchdown on a pretty spin move.
As for the defense, the Tigers were able to do exactly what was needed in a dominant performance, win the line of scrimmage.
Outside of one busted coverage in the first half on a 78-yard touchdown, there was a lot to like about what LSU did defensively. Starting with the obvious, the one goal coming into the evening was seeing how the run defense would stack up against Central Michigan.
The Chippewas had entered Saturday night's contest averaging 230 yards on the ground but the Tigers filled the gaps well and didn't allow the run game to beat them. Running back Lew Nichols rarely had anywhere to go, finishing the game with 18 yards on the ground on 12 carries.
But the biggest impact early in the game were the two turnovers forced by the defense. Junior cornerback Derek Stingley made a gargantuan hit on the opening drive in the backfield, forcing a fumble that was scooped up and run in by Andre Anthony.
Then it was Major Burns who made an impact by snagging his first interception as a Tiger in the first quarter to completely swing the momentum of the game in the Tigers direction. The pass rush forced constant issue on the Chippewas, with sophomore BJ Ojulari getting three sacks of his own and freshman Maason Smith standing out as well.
The Tigers clamped down on Central Michigan from the very start, holding the Chippewas to 206 yards outside of the 78-yard breakdown.
It was exactly the kind of momentum building performance the Tigers needed as they open up SEC play with Mississippi State in a week, who is coming off a loss to Memphis.