Thursday, September 5, 2013
Planning for success: LSU Tigers
By Alex Scarborough
UAB coach Garrick McGee is plenty familiar with LSU. After coaching at Arkansas from 2008-11, first as quarterbacks coach and then as offensive coordinator, he knows what a Les Miles-coached team looks like. In fact, he helped the Razorbacks split four contests between the schools, winning both games in Little Rock.
But no amount of familiarity will help McGee make up for the differences in the two programs that will go head-to-head in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday night. The ninth-ranked Tigers outweigh and outman the Blazers in every facet of the game, at least on paper. The bottom line is LSU is bigger, faster and stronger than UAB.
So what exactly do the Tigers have to prove in Week 2? Consistency.
The Tigers had a big win over No. 24 TCU in Arlington, Texas, to start the season. And while the offense looked efficient, quarterback Zach Mettenberger looked improved and the defense looked promising, not all was perfect that night. Fourth-quarter rallies by the Horned Frogs threatened the Tigers' 1-0 start, and it wasn't until a Mettenberger 20-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry with 6:09 remaining that the game was finally put away.
Miles called the win "sloppy" and Mettenberger lamented missed opportunities on offense. Both were right, and against UAB they'll have a chance to improve and correct those mistakes. After all, SEC play is only a few weeks away. Primers against the Blazers in Week 2 and Kent State in Week 3 could come in handy before LSU faces Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State and Florida in consecutive weeks.
The defense will get better with time and experience. The Tigers' youth has been well documented, so it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise to see it give up 27 points to the Horned Frogs on Saturday night. That number was misleading, though. Four tackles for loss and a sack were nothing to write home about, but the overhauled front four, led by Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson, was physically dominant, stuffing the run and limiting big plays. The secondary held up its end of the bargain as neither of TCU's quarterbacks, Casey Pachall or Trevone Boykin, could get much going, combining to complete 15 of 28 passes for 145 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
But the LSU offense is what people are really paying attention to, and against TCU it didn't disappoint. Mettenberger was poised in the pocket and delivered the ball well, and even without the team's leading rusher from a season ago, Jeremy Hill, LSU still managed a healthy 251 yards on the ground. That type of balance should have had new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron smiling after the game, especially when he looked at the Tigers' impressive third-down conversion percentage, a respectable 68 percent (13 of 19).
Should the Tigers keep up that pace against UAB and on down the road, they'll be in good shape for a run at an SEC title. TCU was a good start, but establishing the consistency is the name of the game of a team that's still evolving on both sides of the football.