LSU enjoys complete effort, dominates BYU, 27-0
NEW ORLEANS – LSU’s dominating 27-0 victory over BYU inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Saturday night was a night about answering questions.
And for the most part, all of the answers were good.
Start on the offensive side of the ball.
Tiger fans’ first look at Matt Canada’s offense, which produced 479 yards, showed the creativity you would expect, but you have to wonder whether he was going to put all his cards on the table on opening night.
Canada likely didn’t, nor did he need to. LSU was clearly the better team on this evening.
What we saw was a lot of Derrius Guice, a bevy of jet sweeps from a variety of ball carriers, a heavy lean to the run, mixes in tempo and unbalanced looks on the offensive line.
Highlights from Saturday's dominating, 27-0 victory over BYU.
Recap: https://t.co/QxTbSVpNiI #LSU pic.twitter.com/wJK2YwH2dc
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) September 3, 2017
When you’re more experienced on the offensive side than on defense, it makes sense to not only play to your strength – he’s wearing No. 5, by the way – and control the time of possession like the Tigers did in the first half, keeping the football for nearly 22 minutes.
While Guice – who touched the football 28 times and accounted for 124 yards – will be the bellcow of this offense, teams will likely not be able to stack the box with eight or more defenders like they did at times when Leonard Fournette was in the backfield.
Canada will dictate what the defense does with his regular motion, the jet sweeps and fakes and running at and away from unbalanced looks up front.
Probably the only complaint Tiger fans would have on this evening was the inability to finish drives after the Tigers got a pair of touchdowns on the legs of Guice early in the second quarter. The only other TD came on a Darrel Williams run after LSU snuffed out a BYU fake punt attempt deep in their own territory.
After seeing the offense, the next question to get answered was who was not going to be on the field Saturday night. The rumors had been out for weeks about a number of early-season suspensions.
As many as 10 Tigers did not dress, including a pair of starters – linebacker Donnie Alexander and cornerback Kevin Toliver.
LSU started four true freshmen against the Cougars, believed to be the most ever in a season opener by a Tiger team.
This, at least for now, is Danny Etling’s team on offense. He will hand it away quite a bit, particularly to Guice, but he will get the opportunity to make some easy tosses – some long, like the play-action bomb to D.J. Chark in the second quarter, but mostly short and medium.
Etling completed 12 of his first 13 passes and finished 14 of 17 for 173 yards. He watched the last series from the sideline as freshman Myles Brennan of St. Stanislaus made his college debut.
On defense, the experience is up front, but while the second and third levels are young, they are talented. The Cougars managed only six first downs, minus-five rushing yards and 97 total yards.
A quick glance at the leading tackler chart for the Tigers showed a number of freshmen among the top tacklers. Freshman Andraez Williams made an acrobatic interception in the second quarter. Kary Vincent made an outstanding pass breakup on a wheel route in the third quarter.
Like Canada, Dave Aranda is a master at putting his players in the right position to create the best matchup opportunities. And like Canada and the offense, it’s likely Aranda has a trump card or two still tucked away.
On special teams, while Jack Gonsoulin missed a field goal, D.J. Chark provided some indication he could be a solid replacement for Tre’Davious White on punt returns after he broke a 32-yard return in the third quarter. Since BYU only kicked off once, we didn’t get much of a chance to see what Clyde Edwards-Helaire might be able to add there.
When Alexander and Toliver and the others return from suspension and Arden Key is healthy enough to get back on the field, the defense that was dominant on this night will be that much better.
Chattanooga comes to Tiger Stadium next week, then things crank up a notch with the start of SEC play on Sept. 16 at Mississippi State.
The last question to get answered on this night – how would Louisiana respond on a few days’ notice of a de facto home game for their beloved Tigers, with tickets not going on sale until four days ago?
The magic number – 53,826. With the exception of about three sections behind the Cougars’ bench, this was an all-purple-and-gold crowd.
And, it was much larger than the crowd that showed up under similar circumstances on a Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge in October 2015 when LSU “hosted” South Carolina on 72 hours notice after flooding in Columbia.
All in all, it was truly a win-win night.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…