During a rainy Saturday night in College Station, it was a combination of really bad and really good. The LSU offense struggled to muster anything consistently beyond throwing to Terrace Marshall, Jr. The defense, meanwhile, did an excellent job of slowing down Kellen Mond and the Aggies’ passing attack, but the problem for the Tigers' rushing defense was not doing enough to stop the No. 1 priority in the game, and that was Isaiah Spiller.
There are many things to discuss from this game, but let us begin by discussing one area of the LSU team that finally played great football. That’s the LSU pass defense.
LSU Pass Defense
105 - Texas A&M threw for 105 yards. The reason? Mond and the Aggies were stymied to a lowly 11-of-34 passing performance. Regardless of down and distance, the LSU defensive back seven played really good football. A&M’s wide receivers, tight ends and running backs could not consistently get open against the Tigers.
36 - That’s the most receiving yards by any Texas A&M player. Ainias Smith caught three passes for a mere 36 yards. The swiss army knife talent was a player LSU needed to slow down because he can make big plays after the catch, and LSU did a great job tackling Smith.
8 - That’s the total tackles for Cordale Flott. Yes, Texas A&M wanted to go at him more than Derek Stingley, Jr., but who wouldn’t? Flott did a good job of being involved with the run game and covering his man in the passing game. Probably his best performance in an LSU uniform.
1 - That’s the total number of sacks by LSU, with Ray Thornton making the play. One would think that’s a bad sign. Despite not getting Mond on the ground, he was harassed enough to give him “happy feet” enough of the evening that he missed throws and quite frankly looked out of sorts for much of the evening.
0 - Passing touchdowns by the Aggies. That statistic never goes out of style. Again, it’s about the all-around effort. Whether it was Ali Gaye coming off the edge to apply pressure, or another LSU defender not allowing Texas A&M receivers to create separation, the LSU pass defense was on point.
LSU Run Defense
The Tigers did well for the vast majority of the game, but a couple of big runs really hurt LSU. There are some signs that LSU’s run defense is turning the corner, but those big plays continue to harm the LSU run defense.
141 - Everyone knew stopping Spiller was the key. LSU simply failed. 27 attempts for an impressive 141 yards and a touchdown is what Spiller ran for, with a hefty 5.2 yards per carry average. Despite all of LSU’s good defensive efforts throughout the evening, allowing Spiller to get loose on a few key plays absolutely kept drives alive for the Aggies, and occasionally changed field position for a struggling LSU offense.
52 - A completely blown run fit allowed Spiller to burst down the right side of the field and hit the pylon for a touchdown. When playing a great player like Spiller, a true all-around running back, it only takes one play to change a game. That play proved to be the Aggies only offensive touchdown.
26 - During Texas A&M’s first drive, Mond literally did not complete a pass. He did, however, break containment and gain 26 yards before going out of bounds. A late hit by Jacoby Stevens tacked on another 15 yards for a late hit, and the Aggies were already at the LSU 24-yard line, well in field goal range without completing a pass. That play was a microcosm of LSU’s defense this season: allowing the big play via mental errors. The Aggies went up 3-0 with a field goal by Seth Small.
12 - That’s the total number of tackles for junior linebacker Micah Baskerville. He was truly all over the field Saturday night. He’s an instinctive and talented linebacker that can play in space, blitz or make tackles in the run game. He did a good job all evening, especially in the run game.
1.5 - That’s the tackles for loss number by freshman defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy. The Baton Rouge native is starting to emerge, and he’s a big part of LSU’s defense moving forward. Whenever LSU has talented interior defensive tackles to go along with all of its speed at defensive end and linebacker, that’s when LSU can create a special front seven. Keep an eye on big No. 99.
Overall Defensive Thoughts
It was great to see the Tigers play quality pass defense in the secondary and at the linebacker level. LSU’s athleticism showed just how good they can be. The Aggies were overmatched for much of the evening, and that’s a testament to LSU’s defensive players. Job well done. Now, consistent defensive play overall needs to be the key.
As noted above, a 52 yard touchdown just cannot be allowed. That’s a dagger. The only other touchdown from A&M of course came via the interception from TJ Finley. LSU would have still been in the game late in the fourth quarter without the blown running game assignment. That’s how quickly a football game can turn when a mistake is made.