LSU coach Ed Orgeron called the offensive line the "MVP" of Saturday's win over South Carolina and it's easy to see why. In the Tigers 52-24 win over the Gamecocks, the offense looked like a well oiled machine and that was with a true freshman in TJ Finley starting at quarterback.
Heading into the game, the goal was to establish the run early and give Finley enough protection to make quick, easy reads. The Tigers used a balanced approach, rushing for 275 yards and passing for 265 yards to dismantle the South Carolina defense.
And it all started up front. Finley was not pressured, let alone sacked while John Emery and Tyrion Davis-Price had holes the size of oceans open up to run through. That has everything to do with the way the offensive line was blocking.
"I thought the offensive line was the MVP," Orgeron said. "No sacks, did a great job. Give James Cregg all of the credit."
The unit received a big boost with guard Ed Ingram back in the lineup, who asserted his will in the run blocking game. Cam Wire turned in a fantastic performance at left tackle for the suspended Dare Rosenthal. The run game in particular was a bright spot as John Emery and Tyrion Davis-Price combined for 229 yards on the ground.
"We have to run the football, especially on first down and I thought our offensive line had their best game," Orgeron said. "That helped pave the way for Tyrion and John's success. If they [the opponent] give us a box where we can run the football, we want to run the football, we have to."
Ingram's presence in the lineup was particularly advantageous for the offensive line as it seemed like there wasn't a run design that didn't go to his side of the offensive line. Emery and Davis-Price experienced first hand the kind of performance the o-line gave.
"We ran some gap plays, power play where we pulled the guard," Orgeron said. "We had some double team, we were knocking people off the ball, we were physical. It was really good to see Ed make a difference there [in the run game].
"Ed is so powerful, he has experience, he's been playing for quite a bit now and you can trust Ed," Emery said Saturday. "He barely makes mistakes in the game, he always executes."
The offensive line also had a helping hand in the team's improvement on third down and on the goal line. LSU went 8-of-10 on third downs and a perfect 5-of-5 when in the redzone. The first touchdown of the game is worth revisiting as LSU was able to get in the endzone on a quarterback keeper from Finley due to the push of the o-line and the running back Davis-Price as well.
The play, which is called "Bush Rush," is a designed quarterback sneak where the quarterback gets some extra push from the running back thrusting him towards the endzone. Orgeron wished the team had installed the play ahead of the Missouri game but recognizes it could be a go to play moving forward.
"Our offensive line made a difference on the goal line," Orgeron " Our offensive line came off the ball in a surge and enabled us to get there. The points on the goal line we got that the week before we didn't so that was tremendous improvement there."
Whether it's TJ Finley, Myles Brennan or Max Johnson behind center, this weekend's performance out of the offensive line is tremendously encouraging moving forward.