Defensive errors leave LSU with bitter taste despite win
The numbers and the film from LSU’s season-opening victory against North Texas last Saturday tell two different stories.
Numbers such as the 41-14 final score, the 508 yards the Tigers gained, the 219 they held the Mean Green to, the two 100-yard rushers and a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown suggest a very efficient performance.
But the film shows the reality of a lot of stuff that needs to get fixed before a more challenging opponent (Washington) enters Tiger Stadium on Saturday night.
“When you put the film on and start breaking it down, the stats don’t add up in your head,” offensive lineman Josh Dworaczyk said Tuesday.
So the Tigers are well into their second game week trying to get better in a variety of areas.
“We can’t let the mistakes that happened last week carry over into this week,” said safety Eric Reid, who had the misfortune of being responsible for the most glaring mistake.
He said he forgot that a blitz had been called on a third-and-10 play, preventing the rushing linebacker from providing coverage help in the middle of the field. As a result, when Reid jumped an outside route, the middle of the field was wide open, which led to an 80-yard touchdown pass that cut the Tigers’ lead to 24-7 late in the second quarter.
“If I make a mistake, it bugs the mess out of me until I get it corrected,” Reid said. “So I’ll be working hard this week just to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Though Reid also took the blame for a 15-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, cornerback Tharold Simon said it was the defense’s play preceding the score that was most bothersome. The Tigers allowed the Mean Green to drive 66 yards, using 13 plays.
“That was a sloppy series for us,” Simon said. “We’re a better team than that and we should have gotten off the field as soon as possible.”
The defense had other good numbers such as a 2.2 yards-per-rush average, eight pass completions in 21 attempts, nine first downs and two takeaways. But Washington has a more explosive offense than North Texas.
“On the defensive side, we’re just trying to have that dominance the whole game,” end Lavar Edwards said, “from the first quarter to the fourth quarter, every snap. That’s how we play around here, and we didn’t play that way the whole game last week. So this week our focus is on dominance the whole game and to be the defense we are.”
On the defensive stat sheet the column for sacks was conspicuously empty.
“Definitely we didn’t get as much pressure as we wanted,” end Barkevious Mingo said. “A lot of that had to do with the plays they ran and the protections that they had, but we still should have caused a little bit more pressure.”
Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson said he thought the defensive backs did well in coverage but didn’t get as much help from the line as they should have.
“We need to get more pressure on the quarterback and help those guys to get interceptions and force fumbles,” Johnson said. “We’ve talked about getting better and getting more pressure up the field. We know we’re supposed to get a lot of sacks against a team like that, and we’re trying to better our team and better ourselves, but that comes with time.”
No statistic is more revealing of the Tigers’ shortcomings that the 10 penalties that were enforced.
“Any time you see the yellow flags come out and at the end of the game you have more than the other team, that’s definitely something you need to work on,” Dworaczyk said. “You can fix that immediately. We all know rules and know how to fix it.”
Two of the penalties negated touchdowns: a block in the back by Jarvis Landry on a punt return, and an illegal receiver downfield infraction on Josh Williford.
“At times we were sloppy and penalty-ridden and not as capable we can be,” coach Les Miles said. “So it’s about improvement. That is certainly the thing that we want to do. Ten penalties, and a turnover in the red zone cost us points.”
Zach Mettenberger threw an interception from the North Texas 7-yard line, tarnishing an otherwise solid performance: 19-of-26 for 192 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought our quarterback played well,” Miles said. “Minus a penalty, he could have easily had two touchdowns and another 40 yards passing. He was not perfect, but there is opportunity to improve.
“In his first start in Tiger Stadium, I thought Zach did a really good job. He certainly had butterflies, but it takes some time to get comfortable.”
There’s no mistaking it: Mistakes was the word mentioned most often in regard to the opener.
“The first game is where you evaluate and see where you stand as a team,” defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. “There are going to be mistakes made. We can see where we’re at and make progress to get ready for a tougher challenge.”
That challenge will come from the Huskies.
“I think it is going to be a big test for us,” Miles said. “We have to play a much improved game ourselves. This is a great week for us to improve.”