LSU on right track as first SEC road test looms

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Brian Thomas, Jr.
(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

There was a lot to like about LSU’s 38-0 win over New Mexico.

First, the defense, even without three key players, pitched a shutout. The unit has depth and continues to grow into a cohesive group. LSU limited the Lobos to a paltry 88 total yards.

Second, the offense put up a whopping 633 yards. Granted, the Tigers could have scored more but that is nitpicking.

The kicking game remains a concern as Damian Ramos missed a 38-yard field goal. You have to have those in close games.

Jayden Daniels played flawlessly, completing 24 of 29 passes for 279 yards and he rushed nine times for 49 yards. He left the game with a back issue but he could have returned if needed. Daniels did get sacked four times, a negative.

Equally encouraging was the performance of Garrett Nussmeier.

After a shaky effort against Southern, the second-year backup righted the ship in grand fashion, completing 9 of 10 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers. That is important in the event Daniels is unavailable in future contests.

Several receivers made their mark without the presence of Kayshon Boutte, who missed the game.

Brian Thomas Jr. caught a touchdown pass and it was great to see Jack Bech get in on the action after being quiet early in the season. Bech had six catches while young tight end Mason Taylor continues to impress as he had four catches for 34 yards.

It was great to see Noah Cain break a long run, going beast-mode to run through numerous tackles on a 49-yard touchdown run. Cain finished with 11 carries for 94 yards and two scores.

Freshman Harold Perkins continues to impress on defense. Perkins led LSU with seven tackles.

Yes, the Lobos were overmatched and LSU did what it was expected to do but you have to like the progression of this team.

From my perspective, LSU has improved weekly since its 24-23 season opening loss to Florida State. That is exactly what Brian Kelly and his fine staff want to see.

Now comes an important SEC West game on the Plains at Auburn next Saturday night. The War Eagles have a pair of former LSU players in TJ Finley and Koy Moore.

Like LSU, Auburn is 3-1 but has not been all that impressive, eeking out a win over Missouri and winning a hard fought game with San Jose State. Auburn also defeated Mercer and lost convincingly to Penn State.

Tank Bigsby and Robbie Ashford have rushed for 281 and 204 yards, respectively for Auburn.

Finley has struggled, completing 62 percent of his passes with just one touchdown pass and four interceptions. Finley did not play in the 17-14 win over Missouri, out with a shoulder injury. Ashford, more of a dual threat quarterback, guided the win.

Moore has six catches for 100 yards but the top receiver is Ja’Varrius Johnson, who has 13 catches for 231 yards.

One telling statistic is that Auburn is a minus six in the turnover department.

Auburn rallied to beat LSU 24-19 in Baton Rouge last year. The War Eagles crushed LSU 48-11 at Auburn in a forgettable performance by the Tigers in 2020.

Multiple sportsbooks have LSU listed as a 7.5 point favorite on the road.

This will mark the first real road game for Kelly at LSU and his first road game in the SEC.

LSU must display discipline, avoid turnovers and continue to play solid defense while continuing to develop offensively if the Tigers want to win.

To this point, Tiger fans should be pleased what they have seen, overall.

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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