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Editorial: LSU Offense & Defense Played Well. Special Teams is still Terrible.

Special teams continued to struggle in several areas. Coverage on kickoffs and punts was terrible, and LSU’s punt returner, walk-on wide receiver Gregory Clayton, fielded a couple of punts he should have let go, including one he caught at the one-yard line. The good news is that kicker Damien Ramos was perfect on the night and long snapper Slade Roy’s fumble recovery was a huge play. The Tigers punted on five of their first six drives. And the only time they didn’t boot it away was a second-quarter fumble inside the Mississippi State 30-yard line.

But the unit played better as the game went along, as quarterback Jayden Daniels did a better job finding his receivers and helping the unit play with more tempo. In the fourth quarter, when they had to burn more clock, the Tigers delivered a 14-play, 85-yard drive that lasted 6:01 to help seal the win.

LSU had four sacks in three quarters and was sticky in coverage against Mississippi State’s pass-heavy air-raid offense. Defensive coordinator Matt House did a good job mixing up the Tigers’ coverages and sending blitzes at the correct times.

No blocked field goals or muffed punts this week for the Tigers. But poor punt and kick return coverage allowed Mississippi State to have a strong field position on four drives. The recovered muffed punt in the third quarter was an unforced error made by the Bulldogs and had little to do with LSU.

LSU’s front seven came to play. After Maason Smith went down, there were questions about LSU’s defensive line.

There were high expectations for the unit entering 2022, but replacing a player like Smith is hard.

LSU’s front looked adequate tonight. Virtually every player made an impact at some point, with Mekhi Wingo making some big stops, Saivion Jones hitting home for a sack, and B.J. Ojulari consistently putting pressure on Rogers.

The linebackers had their moments, too, with Micah Baskerville and Greg Penn III making some big tackles near the line of scrimmage.

The front seven should continue to be a strength of this team going forward as other position groups go through growing pains.

LSU’s offense is much better when it goes fast

LSU was struggling to find a rhythm early. Jayden Daniels wasn’t getting rid of the football, and the offensive line wasn’t getting any push up front.

The Tigers were still looking for their first points as halftime approached, and with the ball in their own territory, LSU was forced to speed up the pace.

It started to click for Daniels as he scrambled for some first downs and found success in the quick game.

The Tigers took a similar approach when LSU got the ball for the first time in the second half. The drive stalled in the red zone, but LSU still got three points, making it consecutive scoring drives.

The second half wasn’t perfect, but LSU didn’t let go of that momentum it took at the end of the first half.

The offense shined in the fourth quarter, scoring 21 points.

Fundamental mistakes

Despite the win, LSU still struggled with some fundamentals, many of which were reminiscent of the Florida State game.

We saw LSU struggle on punt coverage in the first half, allowing a couple of big returns.

LSU turned the ball over when Daniels and Josh Williams weren’t on the same page on a zone read.

A few false starts halted what looked like otherwise productive drives, including one that set LSU back five yards after the Tigers recovered a muffed punt.

Bad tackling allowed Mississippi State to rip off a big run in the first quarter, putting the Bulldogs up 7-0.

Daniels passed up some opener receivers in critical moments, opting for higher-risk throws or taking a sack. There were also instances where Daniels’ ball placement was off on some downfield throws, frustrating Kelly.

LSU wasn’t afraid to pressure Rogers

In 2021, LSU opted to sit back against Mike Leach’s offense, bringing just three rushers and dropping eight into coverage.

LSU took a different approach on Saturday as Matt House mixed it up. There were occasions where he brought as few as three rushers, but he also dialed up a fair amount of blitzes.

A few packages saw Harold Perkins coming off the edge, who had his best game yet as a Tiger.

When Mississippi State showed a willingness to run the ball, LSU would opt to put defensive backs in the box, bringing safeties off the edge.

The defense really couldn’t have done much more tonight and House looks equipped to be an SEC defensive coordinator.

Malik Nabers showed up when LSU needed it

LSU was going to need someone to emerge on offense. LSU failed to make plays in critical moments against Florida State and in the first half against the Bulldogs, it looked like the same story.

That was the case until Malik Nabers showed up. Daniels looked Nabers’ way time and time again when LSU needed to move the chains, culminating on a fourth and three conversion that set up a touchdown.

Kayshon Boutte will continue to draw opponents’ top corners, and Nabers must continue to show up in these big moments.

Nabers finished the game with six catches for 76 yards.