From the Bird’s Nest: LSU Win a Thing of Beauty
It was during the dog days of summer.
Not a heckuva lot to talk about on the radio.
And, one day in July, the call came in.
"Jay, what do you think about LSU and Oregon?"
My answer was quick.
"LSU will win," I said, "and it won't be close."
Well, that spawned a few more calls.
But I thought my reasoning was sound. Oregon relies on team speed and big plays on offense. That was going to be negated by a defense that is perhaps the quickest in college football. Run wide on the Tigers? Ain't gonna happen.
Then came Jefferson-gate. And then the calls really started coming in.
Jefferson out. Shepard out. A crucial injury on the offensive line.
Now what do you think, Jay?
"I still think LSU will win. They will be focused after all that's happened. They'll be able to run the football. And, as long as Jarret Lee doesn't reincarnate as Pick Six, LSU will be fine."
But why did I say that?
Well, it really isn't all that difficult if you study the Tigers.
Last year, when LSU was winning and not dominating and that segment of LSU fans were calling for Les Miles to be fired, even though LSU was undefeated, those fans were ready to filet Jefferson. Of course, most fans look to the quarterback first. And, on many teams, that's smart analysis.
But not with LSU. With the Tigers it's about defense and the kicking game. Hold the other team down. Get good returns. Cover punts. Give your offense good field positon. And then, let them score enough points to win.
The absence of Jefferson and Shepard was going to take a little something from the dimension of the running game. And that was a legitimate concern. But I continued to maintain LSU would beat Oregon.
And they did. And, it wasn't close.
LSU's defense did what LSU's defense does. They limited big plays. They used their team speed to negate any perceived advantage Oregon's offense may have had. And, as always, the kicking game was outstanding.
Understand, LSU was replacing their best return man, their punter and their kicker.
Special teams accounted for two turnovers and a touchdown. Six times...SIX times, LSU started a drive in Oregon territory. LSU scored five touchdowns, four by the offense. Only one of the touchdown drives was more than 41 yards. Oregon scored three touchdowns. Their shortest drive was 68 yards and they needed more than ten plays to get all three touchdowns.
Defense and the kicking game.
Jarret Lee, meanwhile, wasn't great. But he wasn't bad. His touchdown strike just before the half was a momentum changer. And, he didn't throw an interception. And, if your keeping track, Lee has now thrown 95 straight passes without an interception.
Les Miles continued to show how good he and his staff are when they have some time to prepare. And, Miles is still undefeated against regular season non-conference opponents.
There will come a time this season when LSU will really miss the dimension that Jefferson brings to the LSU offense, presuming he does not return this year. And, that absence could cost LSU a win. But for now, the Tigers will continue to give their offense a short field with defense and the kicking game. And, the offense, more times than not, will respond.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, I'm voting this year in the Harris Interactive Poll which is part of the formula which decides the BCS standings. We don't vote until Oct. 2. But if LSU survives September, I'll be voting them #1 when that first vote is made. By then, they will have beaten three ranked teams, all of them away from Tiger Stadium. They'll have earned that vote.
But if the vote was this week, I'd still vote them #1. Because I didn't see anyone in week one more impressive than the Tigers.
Thanks to the defense.
And the kicking game.