The Tigers found their groove on defense and offense against the Commodores. The game proved that both sides of the football are steadily improving.
After a disappointing opening game, No. 17 LSU (1-1) really played well against Vanderbilt. Better effort, more energy, and definitely a higher level of focus showed for both the offense and defense. The Tigers were led by one of their best players.
Derek Stingley, Secondary, Lead the Way
Anytime you hold an opponent’s quarterback to 11 for 25 passing and 113 yards, the secondary did its job. More importantly, it’s how and when the LSU secondary did it’s job.
With Stingley not giving up a single reception, it allowed the other Tigers to concentrate on just their job. Vanderbilt did challenge Stingley, as the preseason All-American broke up a pass in the end zone and was stuck to his man like glue for most of the evening. His teammates followed suit.
There were much better angles being taken by the defensive backs, and it showed. This was especially true during the first drive by Vanderbilt.
A quick screen left saw a host of Tigers sprint towards the football and drop the wide receiver for a loss. That blown up screen pass set the tone for the evening. That energy, that drive to dominate, it showed up for the purple and gold secondary.
Perhaps one of the reasons LSU started playing really well stemmed from playing more cover one (man defense) during the second half. LSU mixed up its coverages in the first half and Vanderbilt did run the football well. LSU allowed 107-yards rushing during the first half. The second half went LSU’s way.
With LSU manning up on the outside during the second half, the safeties and linebackers really keyed the run. That helped LSU hold Vanderbilt to a mere 46-yards rushing during the second half. The aggressive play permeated throughout the LSU defense, especially with the defensive line.
Ali Gaye, Defensive Line, Apply the Pressure
If a person likes watching pass rushers, Ali Gaye will keep one’s attention. The long and athletic defensive end consistently beat his man against Mississippi State, and he did so again versus Vanderbilt. While he did not record a sack, he was coming off the edge and applying pressure. He’s a nightmare for offensive tackles.
With opposing offenses focusing on the talented defensive end, it helped the other defensive linemen. Three Tigers recorded sacks. Andre Anthony, Siaki Ika, and Travez Moore each found their way to the quarterback, and that is a great sign.
As long as players other than Gaye get home to the signal caller, it will make opposing offensive coordinators think twice about double teaming Gaye. There’s another advantage as well.
With Gaye coming off the edge and applying pressure, it allows LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini to rush only four and the linebackers and secondary to suffocate the receivers and tight ends.
It worked well all night. Great job by Gaye, as well as the LSU front in general, as they also added eight quarterback pressures to boot. With Stingley and a now more confident secondary playing behind the front four, this bodes well for the LSU defense moving forward.
Brennan Improves Pocket Presence, Confidence
To be honest, Myles Brennan looked shook versus Mississippi State on more than a few plays. He moved out of the pocket when it was unnecessary, and he did not step up in the pocket as often as he should while keeping his eyes down field. Against Vanderbilt, Brennan showed signs of improvement.
Was he perfect? No. Did Brennan display better pocket awareness? Absolutely. Finding second and third options allowed Brennan to go 23-37 for 337 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. That’s a good night’s work.
He was more decisive. Brennan threw with confidence. Even after an interception, Brennan came back and drilled a pass over the middle to Terrace Marshall Jr. that allowed him to romp to the end zone. It was a bullet.
The flea flicker was much the same. Brennan really put some emphasis on the velocity of that particular pass. The result was a fantastic pass for a touchdown.
Perhaps the most important item to note about Brennan’s performance would be his ability to make accurate throws even when his feet were not set. This is a true skill. Joe Burrow made a living doing that last year.
Remember the third down pass versus Texas that basically won the game? Burrow was moving and about to be hit. Sometimes quarterbacks must make a pass under duress. Brennan showed a little bit of that skill set against the Commodores.
Overall, Brennan was in a better rhythm. He made quick and decisive reads, and it led to some really accurate passes. We all understand that with LSU’s offensive skill talent, if Brennan gets them the football on the move, look out!
LSU could really start to roll if Brennan keeps pinpointing those short and intermediate passes. Any one of Jontre Kirkland, Racey McMath, Arik Gilbert and Marshall, among others, can make defenders miss and score if they catch a pass in stride.
Take note that seven different Tigers caught at least two passes from Brennan. That means Brennan is also seeing the field well. Oftentimes young signal callers focus on one or two prime targets. The fact that Brennan stayed away from that trap is another great sign for his future. Brennan also has plenty of talent behind him at running back.
Hello Mr. Emery
With Chris Curry out of the lineup, John Emery stepped up and delivered. A 12 carry, 103-yard rushing performance helped keep the Vanderbilt defense honest. Emery also found pay dirt by scoring a rushing touchdown.
LSU’s depth at running back is fantastic, and the Vanderbilt game was proof. With Tyrion Davis-Price as another established runner, the Tigers can throw waves of talented players at upcoming opponents, starting with Missouri this next Saturday night in Death Valley.
LSU’s offense will be really difficult to defend if the offense can consistently muster a rushing attack. Combined with all of those wide receivers and Gilbert at tight end means LSU has a plethora of weapons, running or passing.
Opposing defensive coordinators will have to pick their poison. Stack the box, or sit back and play zone? Either way, it appears that LSU will be capable of making teams pay.
It’s just good to see LSU run the football with some authority. Whenever the Tigers can run downhill like they did against the Commodores, it will pay dividends with the passing game as well. Great to see.