NUNEZ: Tigers spread the ball around in convincing offensive performance against Ole Miss

September 30, 2018 - 5:58 am
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Tyler Nunez, Assistant Editor of Tiger Rag

The LSU football team put together what was perhaps its most complete performance of the season Saturday in its 45-16 victory against Ole Miss.

It seemed everybody got in on the action, especially on the offensive side of the ball in which nine different receivers caught passes from quarterback Joe Burrow and eight different athletes tallied carries in a dominant offensive performance.

The Tigers racked up a season-high 573 yards of total offense split nearly evenly between the rushing and passing game. The Cowboys netted 281 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and Burrow completed 18 of 25 passes for 292 yards and three passing touchdowns.

“That’s what you want from your offense,” Burrow said. “50-50 run and pass. That’s really ideal.”

Things got started in the passing game with Ja’Marr Chase who brought down a circus catch in the end zone that gave the Tigers a 7-3 lead. Big catches early in games have become a staple of the freshman’s game, and it also inspired fellow receiver Justin Jefferson to step up and take the game over.

“Seeing Ja’Marr scoring every first quarter. … I told him he had to go with all this touchdown scoring when I didn’t get one yet,” Jefferson said. “But sharing the love is good, and making these touchdowns is a good thing.”

Jefferson had a stand-out performance, reeling in five catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns, including a 65-yard score thanks in part to a defensive back on the play slipping, allowing him to sprint into the end zone without much drama.

Despite entering the game as the Tigers’ leading receiver in terms of receptions and receiving yards, the play marked Jefferson’s first touchdown of the season, a moment he said he’d been waiting on since the season opener.

LSU’s willingness to spread the ball around in unconventional ways really showed up in its second scoring drive, late in the first quarter.

It started with using running back Lanard Fournette, who garnered 13 yards on three rushes in his sole drive of the game.

On the third play of the drive, Burrow hit receiver Racey McMath for his first career reception, which went for 23 yards, the longest play of the drive.

The Tigers also got backup running back Tory Carter involved in the drive with a two-yard carry.

But as unique as the personnel was in the drive, offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger knew when to pull out his tried-and-true method of ball movement, putting starting running back Nick Brossette in the game to pick up a four-yard touchdown run with a nice spin move that put the Tigers up by two possessions in the final minute of the first quarter.

“I thought coach Ensminger called a great game tonight,” head coach Ed Orgeron said after the game. “He dialed it up. He used Racey McMath in different situations and used Jefferson. I thought, overall, offensively we had a great night.”

By the end of the first quarter, the Tiger had spread the ball around with four different rushers and four different receivers getting on the stat sheet.

This allowed Ensminger and LSU to essentially move the ball at will for the remainder of the game, as the Rebels had seemingly no idea where the ball was going next, or at the very least how to stop the Tigers if they did have an idea of what LSU would do next.

Perhaps the most surprising stat of the night came from the Tigers’ running game.

LSU’s leading rusher was not Brossette (20 carries, 72 yards), backup running back Clyde Helaire-Edwards  (11 carries, 67 yards) or even any of the other running backs.

It was Burrow, who ran for 96 yards on nine carries, including a 35-yard touchdown run that sealed the game in the fourth quarter.

“You know, we play against running quarterbacks and it’s tough,” Orgeron said. “It’s like defending 12 men. Those were great options. I don’t think they were expecting him to run the football. I twas great options. We gotta be careful because we don’t want him to get hurt.”

It wasn’t all perfect, however. The Tigers fumbled the ball in the red zone in back-to-back possession spanning the end of the second quarter and the start of the third quarter.

They then stalled out on their next offensive drive, forcing punter Zach Von Rosenberg to enter the game for his only punt of the game.

But the Tigers did deviate from what has become its less-than-stellar third-quarter script a bit.

LSU marched down the field and got into the end zone with a five-play, 67-yard drive that lasted less than two minutes for its first touchdown in the third quarter all season.

This drive seemed to give the Tigers the spark they needed to put the game away, as the offense had little issue moving the ball for the remainder of the game.

Orgeron said he’s not sure what to make of the third-quarter woes the Tigers have struggled with so far this season. But, frankly, he think they have bigger fish to fry.

“We’re trying to figure it out,” Orgeron said. “We were really demonstrative at halftime. We made sure that we came out fired up and we still didn’t do the things that we needed to do.

“But you know what? We have to win the game in four quarters, and we’re winning games. We’ll fix the third quarter. That’s the least of my problems right now.”

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