No. 12 LSU has little trouble with Chattanooga, 45-10
BATON ROUGE — Home openers are always special occassions, particularly for programs like LSU that carry a tremendous homefield advantage.
But this one was a little different. This was the first home opener with Ed Orgeron as head coach. He entered the game 1-2 in these games in his career, all while at the University of Mississippi.
Coach O was able to even his record at 2-2 and the Tigers improved to 2-0 this season by walking all over the Chattanooga Mocs, 45-10, in front of 97,289 in Death Valley.
‘It was important for the team,” said Orgeron. “It had nothing to do with me, I promise you that. It was a great crowd. I think our guys were really excited. It was the first time a lot of them got to run into Tiger Stadium.”
Things didn’t start smoothly for LSU though. The Tigers picked up an offsides penalty on the opening kickoff, their first of 11 penalties on the night. From there Nick Tiano led Chattanooga on a 14-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard field goal by Victor Ulmo to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.
“We’ve been telling them all week, ‘It’s going to be a battle. They gonna come in there, they gonna give us their best shot’,” said Orgeron. “But you know until you go out there and play, they may or may not believe it, but they believed it after those first two drives, I can promise you that.”
Chattanooga gained 98 of their 242 total yards and ran 25 of their 59 plays on the first two possessions.
LSU’s offense would not have the same trouble getting going. Senior quarterback Danny Etling found sophomore reciever Drake Davis well behind the defense for a 36-yard touchdown score to put the Tigers in front 7-3. That capped a six-play, 72-yard.
Etling, who had back surgery in the offseason, looked nimble escaping pressure and extending the drive with a 17 yard run to set up the opening touchdown.
“I really did the easy part,” said Davis. “Coach (Matt) Canada did a really good job of setting them up; making the safeties come down. Really, the easiest part was me catching the ball. Danny did a really good job of getting me open.”
On the Tigers’ next possession they were even more efficient. LSU only needed four plays to go 57 yards as Etling went deep once again. This time he found Stephen Sullivan down the seam. Sullivan made a great adjustment in the air to snag the ball, and giving the Tigers a first down at the Chattanooga 11 yard line.
From there, LSU handed it to Derrius Guice three straight times until Guice barreled into the end zone from one yard out to extend the lead to 14-3.
Etling finished the first quarter 2-for-3 for 82 yards and a touchdown.
“That’s what they were giving us,” Etling said. “They were coming up and stopping the run really well, and that’s a credit to them, so we decided to open it up a little bit. Our guys were getting open and making plays.”
Guice would score again in the second quarter, this time from six yards out, to put LSU up 21-3. The scoring play pushed the junior running back over 2,000 yards in his career, making him just the 16th back in school history to reach that milestone. He would finish the game with 102 yards on only 15 carries, marking his fourth straight game with triple figures on the ground.
The competitive portion of the contest effectively ended on the next Chattanooga possession. After forcing the Mocs to punt, DJ Chark fielded the ball at his own 35 yard line. After a couple of quick cuts, Chark was off to races. His would take the ball 65 yards to the house for the score, putting LSU up 28-3 with 3:15 remaining in the first half.
By the intermission, LSU had racked up 233 total yards on just 26 plays but only 11:20 of possession. Etling was averaging better than 32 yards per completion.
With the game in hand, the Tigers went to the ground in the second half. Backup tailback Darrel Williams would pick up two touchdowns in the third quarter to put LSU up 42-3. It was Williams’ fourth career multi-touchdown performance and first since 2016 against Missouri.
All told, LSU would hand it off 46 times for 222 yards. The Tigers threw for 232 yards on the night, striking the kind of balance that fans had been waiting for.
“We’d like to be balanced,” Orgeron added. “We’re gonna take what they give us. I thought tonight was a great indicator of us being 50-50 and being very balanced.”
The Tiger defense played to its usual standard, outside of the reserves allowing a late touchdown. Dave Aranda’s unit surrendered 242 total yards and forced two turnovers.
“On defense; one touchdown in two games,” said Orgeron. “We had five sacks tonight, I thought we rushed the passer well.”
A trio of freshmen came up big, with linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson getting to the quarterback twice, cornerback Andraez “Greedy” Williams collecting his second interception in as many games, and nickelback Kary Vincent Jr. picked off his first career pass thanks to an eye-catching grab with one hand.
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Sophomore linebacker Devin White was impressed by the new kids. “They’ve got this thing that they call ‘DBU’ here that they’re proud of,” said White. “They were just showing the world what they do…I’m just glad they got to let the Tiger fans see what they do.”
Next up, LSU heads to Starkville, Miss. for their conference opener against the Mississippi State, another 2-0 squad coming off a 57-21 victory at Louisiana Tech. For the first time this season, the Tigers will be tested in a hostile environment.
“We’ve got a young team, so it’ll be something we’ve really gotta practice on,” added Etling. “Nothing to freak ourselves out over, but it’s something we have to prepare for. That’ll be a tough place to play, they’re a tough team, it’ll be a great challenge for us.”
Orgeron agreed with the assessment.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for Mississippi State. They’re a hard-nosed football team. The last two years we’ve played Mississippi State, it’s come down to the last play. Dan Mullen is an excellent coach. This is gonna be a battle.”
David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…