LSU needed performance as it got from its depleted roster on Saturday. The Tigers were coming off devastating back-to-back losses in their way, and it was an entire team effort that propelled the purple and gold to a win over top 25 Florida.
Credit to LSU’s Offensive Line, They Were Fantastic
The LSU offensive line has been the butt of many jokes this 2021 season, but this group made every doubter eat crow on Saturday against Florida. The run-blocking efforts from this group against the Gators were exemplary as the purple and gold rushed for a season-high 321 yards.
Tyrion Davis-Price will draw the headlines, deservedly so, but his program record of 287 yards doesn’t happen without the play of an offensive line that’s much improved and healthy over the last few weeks. This is just one example of this group’s genuinely fantastic job against the Gators.
The focus shifted to the run this week with the injury to Kayshon Boutte, and they stepped up in a big way, Ed Orgeron said.
“We got more physical and it really got our run game going,” Orgeron said. “I felt our offensive line was the most improved group of all the team. I kept showing them things of dominating in practice. Our guys blocked well and we made big plays.”
Davis-Price was the first to acknowledge the offensive line’s performance after the game.
“It was a team effort,” Davis-Price said. “They’ve been coming to practice and busting their tails, doing extra work. I can’t be more proud of them.”
“We definitely had our struggles but it felt like we’ve been right there,” center Liam Shanahan said. “To put it together for four quarters like that, it feels great. We’ve started to click a little bit and hopefully that’s something we can keep building on.”
Timely Turnovers Will Be a Staple for Depleted Defense Moving Forward
The defense may be down but on Saturday it proved it’s not out. While Florida had it’s successful string of play in the second half, the name of the game for the Tigers were the timely turnovers throughout the course of the game.
LSU picked off Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson four times en route to the win and each one was critical to the team’s success. The first two came in the second quarter on back-to-back defensive plays. Linebacker Micah Baskerville and safety Jay Ward made the tone setting plays as part of a phenomenal defensive effort in the first half.
Most importantly, LSU would score touchdowns on both plays with the great field position. The third pick came right out of halftime as Dwight McGlothern’s play was a further confidence booster for a unit that had let the Gators convert on a Hail Mary to close the second quarter. Damone Clark’s game sealing pick was the nail in Florida’s coffin as the Tigers pulled off the unlikely upset.
“Plus four in turnover battle, we preach that to the team all the time,” Orgeron said. “We had some key turnovers against them last year so our DB’s work hard, they were challenged today. They answered the call at some key times.”
For Clark, who has been one of the more scrutinized players on the team, to make a play like that at the end, it was a feel-good moment for a player who has been at his best for much of this season.
“That was my first interception. I couldn’t beliveve he threw the ball to me,” Clark said. “We knew that was a play they were going to go to and I ran stride for stride with him and turned at the right second.”
This is a defense that will continue to be heavily reliant on those game-altering turnovers moving forward. The Tigers took strides in the right direction but there’s still plenty to clean up.
Tigers Stuck to Their Guns on Offense and it Paid Off.
In recent weeks, the indecision from this offense was a crucial talking point as the Tigers found ways to keep getting in their way on offense. But when Jake Peetz walked into the football ops facility this week, the plan was to utilize the run game and not deviate from the game plan.
LSU got a historic performance on the ground and a fantastic play-calling job from Peetz and the offensive staff. The 321 yards on the ground were a season-high as LSU physically dominated up front.
But that set up a perfect play-action call that was one to remember as Johnson connected with Jaray Jenkins for the go-ahead score.
It was a play the team hadn’t practiced all week but with everyone in the stadium and at home thinking LSU would run, Peetz dialed up the perfect play call.
“We were going to run the football and Jake called a pass and it was a great call,” Orgeron said. “I thought Max did a great job of avoiding the pressure.”
LSU’s offense finally had one of those dominating games this group had been searching for all season. Now the question is can this be a stepping stone to greater success?