LSU didn’t wind up starting two freshmen on the right side of its offensive line by design, but it seemed to work out pretty well.
True freshman Vadal Alexander made his third consecutive start at right tackle against South Carolina on Saturday in a move that began as a trickle-down result of left tackle Chris Faulk being lost for the season due to a knee injury.
Redshirt freshman Trai Turner made his first start at right guard in place of Josh Williford, who had a concussion.
Those developments — as well as Josh Dworaczyk stepping in at left tackle, the mysterious absence of tackle Alex Hurst and the inconsistent play of the line as a whole — created concern leading up to Saturday. But the line played a huge role in LSU’s 23-21 victory over the Gamecocks. Alexander and Turner distinguished themselves.
“I enjoyed the two freshmen on the offensive line,” coach Les Miles said.
Dworaczyk even gave the freshman tandem a nickname.
“That’s our bulldozer,” he said. “Trai is our bull and Vadal is our dozer. They’re road graders. We were running power behind those two guys. It was incredible, the movement we were getting.”
The Tigers rushed for 258 yards, and Zach Mettenberger was sacked just once.
LSU-A&M to start at 11 a.m.
LSU will have its first morning kickoff of the season next Saturday when it plays Texas A&M at 11 a.m. in College Station, Texas.
The Southeastern Conference announced the start time Sunday after CBS used its six-day waiver before deciding which game it would select for airing in the 2:30 p.m. slot.
CBS opted for the East Division showdown between South Carolina and Florida in Gainesville, Fla. ESPN will show Alabama at Tennessee at 6 p.m., and the Tigers and the Aggies at 11 a.m.
LSU and A&M are both 2-1 in the SEC. The Tigers are 6-1 overall and the Aggies are 5-1.
Fewer turnovers, penalties
Turnovers and penalties have been ongoing problems for LSU this season. Though both were problematic Saturday, the Tigers were improved in both areas.
They have had a turnover in every game this season, but had just one Saturday. It was the first time in four games they didn’t commit multiple turnovers. It has a huge one, though, as Mettenberger’s interception was returned 70 yards by Jimmy Legree to the Tigers’ 1, setting up a touchdown that gave South Carolina a 7-3 halftime lead.
LSU had five penalties, tying a season low, for 29 yards, establishing a new season low. One was especially big as a false start by Alexander came as the Tigers were about to go for fourth-and-goal inside the Gamecocks one. After the penalty, LSU settled for Drew Alleman’s 23-yard field goal and an early 3-0 lead.
The Tigers showed dramatic improvement in third-down conversions against the Gamecocks. They converted 11 of 19 after converting just 1 of 13 against Florida.
The 11 conversions were the most this season, surpassing the seven against North Texas (in 14 attempts) and Washington (in 12 attempts). It was the first time LSU had double-digit third-down conversions since it went 11-for-18 in the BCS Championship victory against Ohio State at the end of the 2007 season.
One, two, three, kick
LSU leads the SEC in percentage of opponents possessions that end in a punt without a first down being achieved. The Tigers have forced 45.2 percent (42-of-93) of their opponents’ possessions to end in that manner.
Alabama is second at 43 percent (31 of 72) and Florida is third at 39 percent (28-of-72).
First points after turnover
South Carolina had not allowed any points after a turnover until Saturday night. The Gamecocks had turned the ball over eight times in six games without any of the turnovers leading to points.
But Eric Reid’s interception of Connor Shaw midway through the fourth quarter led to Alleman’s 22-yard field goal, which put the Tigers head to stay.
Red zone points
As well as LSU’s defense has played this season, it has not been at its best when opponents get inside the Tigers 20-yard line. The Gamecocks reached the red zone three times Saturday and scored a touchdown each time.
LSU opponents have scored on all 13 trips into the red zone, and all but two of those opportunities have led to touchdowns.