- Gary Laney, Reporter, GeauxTigerNation
BATON ROUGE, La. -- While Steve Sarkisian's Washington offense offered no competitive challenge to LSU's defense in Saturday's 41-3 Tigers win at Tiger Stadium, the Huskies offense and its exotic formation and personnel packages allowed the Tigers to work more on nickel and dime packages it rarely used in the season-opening win over North Texas.
The same can't be said of the Washington defense. With the Huskies helpless to stop the LSU running game most of the night, LSU's play breakdown was much like it was against North Texas, with 55 of 71 plays coming out of the I formation and 52 of 71 plays staying on the ground. The Tigers did throw downfield more, finding openings on intermediate routes. In the North Texas game, the Tigers were primarily a short-passing team.
LSU built off the film of the North Texas game.
Against the Mean Green, the Tigers repeatedly threw bubble screens out of the I-formation with twin receivers to one side. Against Washington, twice LSU showed twins and had the slot receiver break like he was to catch a quick screen. But outside receiver James Wright instead ran a quick slant and was uncovered as the corner reacted to the apparent screen pass. Zach Mettenberger hit him both times for gains of 23 and 22 yards.
Mettenberger rarely threw a designed horizontal pass -- the one hitch was dropped by Wright -- and looked downfield on other passes with most of the other six short passes coming as apparent check-downs (running backs Alfred Blue and Spencer Ware combined for three catches out of the backfield). He rarely threw a true deep ball, the 32-yard touchdown pass to Kadron Boone for his only touchdown pass of the game was an exception. He made a living on the 10- to-15-yard pass down the field.
The disproportion of pass to run had much to do with a the score. LSU ran on 25 of its last 28 plays as the Tigers went into eat-the-clock mode.
When the game was in doubt, LSU found a happy spot running behind the left side of the line, where Josh Dworaczyk replaced the injured Chris Faulk as the starting left tackle. Left guard La'el Collins was dominant in the run game as well. LSU was able to get outside at will, with Blue, who rushed for 101 yards, and Michael Ford often beating the Huskies to corners.
In shotgun sets, LSU usually went with two tailbacks -- Blue and Ware -- lined up around Mettenberger with three receivers. The tight ends weren't targets in the passing game, either, but LSU did use two or three tight ends on short-yardage downs.
Washington lined up 70 times Saturday (not all resulted in plays, as dead-ball penalties or timeouts killed some plays before they started) and on 30 of them the LSU felt compelled to go with either nickel or dime packages, staying in the base 4-3 on 40 plays.
That's a departure from the season opener, when LSU stayed base most of the night. Unlike North Texas, Washington gave plenty of three- and four-receiver looks, allowing the Tigers more opportunities to alter the defense to match up.
When the Tigers went to a nickel look, reserve cornerback Jalen Collins would replace strong-side linebacker Luke Muncie for a 4-2-5 look. When the Tigers switched to the dime, they'd pull defensive tackle Bennie Logan to go with a 3-2-6 look, with redshirt freshman safety Micah Eugene, who usually blitzed out of this position, recording a sack.
LSU stuck with its starting secondary and linebackers until late in the game. The Tigers' talented young linebackers did not make an appearance until the game was out of hand, although they were productive. Miles said after the game he was happy with the play of the veteran trio of Kevin Minter (who had a team-high nine tackles), Lamin Barrow and Muncie at linebacker, so it might be a while before the talented freshman class breaks into the lineup.
The one area where LSU rotated a lot of players was, as usual, defensive line. LSU dominated the line of scrimmage, harassing Huskies quarterback Keith Price all night.
LSU had two notable injuries, one to starting defensive tackle Josh Downs, who limped off the field with a leg injury, and another to defensive end Jordan Allen on kickoff coverage. Downs' injury is worrisome given his long history with injuries. Allen's injury looks serious, but it should have little impact as Allen is far down the depth chart.
La'el Collins also came out of the game with a minor injury and was replaced by Trai Turner, who played right guard while starting right guard Josh Williford flipped to left guard. Sophomore Elliott Porter got snaps as backup center.
Linebacker Tahj Jones did not dress again because of an academic issue. Muncie is starting in his place.