Three Observations: LSU Defensive Front Bounces Back, Cade York Shines With Record Breaking Performance

Freshmen stars show future of program maybe needs to begin now

LSU showed enough Saturday to make fans believe, at least defensively, the unit might be moving in a positive direction. While there are still a few valid concerns on both sides of the ball, the Tigers' win shined a light on some of the brighter, younger stars. 

Here were three main takeaways from the 34-7 win over McNeese State. 

Front Seven Controls McNeese Offense

LSU's defensive line came into this game with a chip on its shoulder. Down one of its best players in Ali Gaye, the d-line wanted to prove last week's performance against UCLA was an abberation and not a trend. 

While it was just one outing against an FCS opponent with inferior athletes, the unit responded in a big way. The Tigers combined for eight sacks and 16 tackles for a loss along the defensive line. The eight sacks on quarterback Cody Orgeron were the second most in program history, led by freshman Maason Smith's three on the evening. 

"I was very pleased with our defensive performance, very pleased with our pass rush," Orgeron said. "I knew we were a very good pass rushing team but obviously we're gonna face different opponents down the road."

This unit took quite a beating against UCLA a week ago, particularly on the ground but was able to respond, allowing just 51 yards rushing because of all the sack yardage. This group must continue an upwards trajectory because it's very likely the defense will need to carry this team throughout the season.

York Continues Impressive Kicking Streak

The LSU veteran is probably off to the fastest start of anyone on this team. York entered this season as one of the premier kickers in the country and has only boosted that thought at the start. 

On Saturday against the Cowboys, York set the Tiger Stadium record for a field goal, twice. The first attempt came on a 55-yarder in the first half, which had plenty of leg. The second came in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand, from 56 yards out, which also likely would've been good from 60. 

He also set the program record for a field goal kick with that 57-yarder he drilled in the fog against Florida in 2020. York's range and accuracy are two traits that are hard to come by in college and the best could still be yet to come. The junior placekicker has had conversations with the coaching staff about being comfortble with kicking as far back as the 45 yard line.

"It all depends what's going on in the game," York said. "If it's an end of game situation where we need points, we've talked about the 44, 45 yard line."

Freshmen Begin to Make Names for Themselves

This was always going to be a game where the young players would get an opportunity to get their feet wet with the college game and a number of freshmen stepped up. Starting with the star of the game, Maason Smith, the freshman interior lineman has quickly established himself as a lethal pass rusher. 

Orgeron was extremely impressed with his disruption throughout the game en route to a three sack night. 

"I thought he rushed the passer very good the first game and tonight he dominated," Orgeron said. "He's a tremendous rusher, very athletic for a guy his size. Really good young player for us."

On offense, there were a number of standouts, particularly tight end Jack Bech, who brought in four catches for 57 yards and running back Corey Kiner, who led all LSU rushers with 53 yards and a touchdown. Kiner broke off a season high 23-yard run en route to his first touchdown of his LSU career on a few broken tackles. 

LSU quarterback Max Johnson was also impressed with the game Bech had and admitted he's a guy the offense needs to find ways to get more involved. 

"Jack's super aggressive, he's mean, he's great with the ball in his hands. I think we need to find more ways to get him the ball," Johnson said.