Is LSU's offense having fun yet? Yep, but there's more to come
AUSTIN, Texas – Honestly, I don’t know how to logically explain it here Saturday night in the land of Bevo, burnt orange and Hook ‘Em Horns,
Despite two tremendous first quarter goal line stands, sixth-ranked LSU was gouged for 530 yards total offense including 461 by Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, allowed 38 points including 31 in the second half and still won by a touchdown while never trailing.
“That’s LSU, you’re not used to that one,” LSU quarterback Joe Burrow said.
While Burrow was specifically referring to throwing a victory-clinching third-and-17 61-yard TD pass to Justin Jefferson with 2:32 left to play in an eventual 45-38 victory, it also is a good description of watching the Tigers’ stunning new offensive philosophy.
Throw quick, throw often and damn the torpedoes.
“It’s a vision that I always had when I took over,” LSU third-year coach Ed Orgeron said of his offense. “It took a couple of miscues to get there, but we’re finally there. We have the coaches to do it, the receivers to do it, the quarterback to do it and we’re going to keep getting better in the system.”
Better is relative.
Through its first two games (and wins) of the 2019 season, the Tigers are averaging 50 points and 522.5 yards with Burrow completing 81.8 percent of his passes for 749 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception.
“I’m fired up about, we’re all fired up about it,” Burrow said of the fresh offensive infusion of spread and RPO influences from new passing coordinator Joe Brady that O-coordinator Steve Ensminger is having a helluva good time dialing up plays.
Once the offense gets in a quick tempo rhythm, Burrow’s decision-making and passing accuracy is like watching a 3-point shooter who can’t miss.
“These first few games we’ve figured out we’re a tempo team,” Burrow said. “We get in a rhythm we go fast. We were struggling early (in the first quarter on Saturday), we were trying to look back to the sideline (for play audibles). Coach Steve said, `Screw it, we’re going to go fast. We kinda of got them on their heels and started playing a lot better.”
Better meaning Burrow completing 31-of-39 passes for 471 yards (the second most passing yards in an LSU game in history) and four touchdowns with a school-first of three receivers with 100 or more yards.
“We have a lot of weapons, you’ve got to pick your poison,” said LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who had eight catches for 147 yards.
No doubt it all works because of Burrow, the fifth-year Ohio State graduate transfer who’s now 12-3 as a Tigers’ starting QB.
The communication and trust Burrow built with all his eligible receivers in the off-season continues to pay dividends, as in Jefferson’s late-game TD on Saturday.
“Every practice and after practice, we go through plays and have a connection with Joe,” Jefferson said. “We’d been working all week, so I told him `the safeties can’t guard me, let’s try to pick something up.’ He said,`I got you.’"
And Burrow did, nine times to Jefferson for 163 yards and three TDs.
“It’s crazy to say that this offense turned around in one year,” Jefferson said.
But it has and now the scheme has been accelerated because of Burrow’s intelligence, competitiveness and confidence.
“The kid is baller,” Orgeron said.
Longhorns’ coach Tom Herman gushed over Burrow, the player Herman successfully recruited to Ohio State in 2015 before both found greener pastures elsewhere.
“Joe was the difference in the ball game,” Herman said. “Just really accurate, really aggressive. He fit some balls in really tight windows. He had the poise to stand in and deliver throws under duress.”
Like on his clutch late TD throw to Jefferson that silenced (except for the wildly celebrating LSU fans) almost all 98,763 in attendance.
“Joe was getting hit and threw a ball off one leg sidearm to Justin Jefferson,” said Tigers’ running Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who blocked a blitzing Texas defender on the play. “I’ll take that play to my grave.”
There were plenty of other plays LSU defense want to bury forever. It’s why as impressive as the Tigers’ offense demonstrated, the defense has to up its game before next Saturday’s Tiger Stadium date against Northwestern State.
“We’ve got to get better on defense,” Orgeron said. “We can’t give up 38 points and get where we want to go. We got some one-on-one mismatches, we didn’t get enough rush, some of our best players missed tackles.
“We have to be hungry, we have to be humble, look at things we did wrong and get better at them.”
Burrow feels the same way.
“We had over 500 yards of offense, but it could have been 600 or 700,” he said. “We missed some chances early in game and early in the second half to put them away, so we’re going to have to correct that.”