- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Here's what we learned from No. 9 LSU's 56-17 blowout win over UAB on Saturday night's home opener in Death Valley.
Cam Cameron's influence is real: The difference has been night and day. A year ago, LSU's offense was stuck in the mud, Zach Mettenberger was inconsistent under center, and it didn't look like there were many playmakers to turn to. Then Cam Cameron was let go by the Baltimore Ravens and longtime friend Les Miles scooped him up as his new offensive coordinator. And over the first two games of the season, the change has been dramatic. Mettenberger, who threw for a school-record five touchdowns against UAB on Saturday, looks like one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC, and the offense has been as potent as any at LSU in recent memory. Cameron has LSU's offense going a new direction: vertical. The Tigers' 40 plays of 10 or more yards is nearly double that of the first two games of last season (27). The season is young, but the proof is in the pudding. Mettenberger, who finished last season near the bottom of the SEC in total QBR, is now at the top of the league and 18th nationally, two spots ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Playmakers emerge: It wasn't just Odell Beckham Jr. who stood out against UAB. Honest. Though the speedy wideout had a career night with a whopping 331 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns, he wasn't the only one to come up with big plays in the Tigers' home opener. Fellow wide receiver Jarvis Landry got in on the action, too. The junior from Convent, La., helped stretch the field on the outside, coming up with 71 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions. He needed all 6 feet and 1 inch of his frame to grab his first score, extending high into the air to grab a 14-yard pass from Mettenberger. Jeremy Hill rejoined an already stacked running back corps, the offensive line did its job, and the receivers gave Mettenberger plenty of opportunities to throw the ball downfield.
The defense is still learning: Every conversation about LSU's defense must begin with a note about its inexperience. No team can lose as many starters as it did and not see some sort of drop off. Against UAB, we saw both the promise and the vulnerability of the Tigers' youth. John Chavis' unit was inconsistent in its home debut. There were times where the front four looked unstoppable and the secondary flew to the football. But there were other times when the defensive line didn't maintain its gaps and the linebackers guessed wrong on play action or misdirection plays, leading to big gains by UAB's tailbacks outside the hashes and up the gut. Blazers quarterback Austin Brown found success through the air, too, hitting the Tigers secondary up for a few long completions. Missed tackles and poor communication will stand out on the game film over the next few days, but there was also plenty to build on. After a second quarter when his defense was "misplaced," LSU coach Les Miles was proud of the adjustments that were made to hold UAB scoreless in the second half.