BATON ROUGE – An offense with wide variety, balance and a long, quick strike passing game is a novelty at LSU.
That was on display with bells on Saturday night in the Tigers’ 45-10 victory over Southern Mississippi in front of about 80,000 at Tiger Stadium. LSU totaled 459 yards for an average of 10.9 yards a play, which is likely a school record. It is the highest mark in that category dating as far back as 1949, according to the LSU statistics crew.
The Golden Eagles (4-3, 2-1 Conference USA) did lose 55-32 last week at Texas San Antonio, but LSU – among the worst passing teams in the nation the previous two seasons – will take it.
The Tigers (4-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) had three touchdowns of 61 yards or more in the third quarter alone as it outscored USM, 28-0, in that period. Tailback Derrius Guice started the avalanche with a 61-yard touchdown run, followed by his 20-yard touchdown run, an 80-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Danny Etling to wide receiver D.J. Chark and a 63-yard Etling touchdown pass to wide receiver Malachi Dupre, who added a 23-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.
Entering the game, LSU’s longest scoring play from scrimmage on the season was Etling’s 46-yard touchdown pass to tight end DeSean Smith in the 34-13 win over Jacksonville State on September 10.
“We wanted to take what they gave us on offense,” LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron said. “They gave it (the long ball) to us, so we took it.”
Guice finished with 162 yards on 16 carries. Dupre caught three passes for 100 yards, Chark had three catches for 91 yards and Smith caught two passes for 56. Etling completed 11 of 18 for 276 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. He averaged 15.3 yards an attempt and 25 yards a completion.
“That’s what we want. Those guys want the ball. We want to give them the ball,” Orgeron said. “We want to call the plays in order to give them the football.”
Chark said those long gainers were worked on last week with similar results.
“It’s kind of like practice,” said Chark, who also scored on a 19-yard end around to tie the game 7-7 in the first quarter. “We know what to do. We started off slow, but Guice’s run, really, that just broke open everything. It opened up the passes.”
Chark’s 80-yard touchdown was just about 20 yards in the air, but Etling effectively threw Chark more open by leading him away from safety Antoine D’Nerius. And he was off. “It was just a foot race from there,” Chark said.
Asked if someone could catch him, Chark paused and said, “I don’t think so.”
Next on the play list of new LSU offensive coordinator/play caller Steve Ensminger, a tight ends coach with the Tigers since 2010 who hadn’t regularly called plays in college since 1998 at Clemson, was a 63-yard bomb. Etling hit Dupre in stride, and LSU was up 38-10 in the third quarter. Ensminger, rumored to be on the firing block only a few years ago, is suddenly being called “En-slinger.”
“We really haven’t had the big plays yet, and seeing them tonight, it was something we’ve been waiting for,” Chark said. “If you know coach Ensminger, he wants to score. So after the two running touchdowns, then he just started letting it rip. That’s his personality. That’s our personality as well – to go get ‘em.”
DEFENSE BLOSSOMING, TOO: While LSU has undergone a successful personality procedure on offense, its defense under new coordinator Dave Aranda has steadily blossomed into a unit in line with the Tigers’ tradition on that side of the ball – as in near the top of the nation in key categories. The Tigers, who defeated Missouri and its highly ranked offense by 42-7 two weeks ago, limited their opponent to one touchdown for the second game in a row. LSU is now No. 1 in the nation in fewest touchdowns allowed with six.
The Tigers are also No. 4 in the nation and No. 2 in the SEC in scoring defense with 14 points allowed a game. LSU is No. 11 nationally in rush defense (103.7 yards allowed a game) and No. 13 in total defense (312 yards allowed a game). LSU’s defense pitched a shutout in the second half against USM.
“We wanted to come out and give them no more points,” said strong safety Jamal Adams, who set up LSU’s second touchdown of the third quarter by forcing and recovering a fumble while also making 11 tackles. “That was our mindset.”
BY THE BOOK: Coaches like to say that if the defensive line and secondary is doing their jobs, then linebackers should make the most tackles. On Saturday, LSU middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith made a career-high 15 tackles. Inside linebacker Duke Riley added 11 tackles.
“Those guys are tremendous players,” Orgeron said. “This is basketball on grass. They were trying to run the ball on the perimeter with those speed sweeps and stuff. Our guys made plays in space.”
RANKINGS: LSU jumped from No. 25 to No. 23 in the USA Today coaches’ poll on Sunday and returned to the Associated Press media poll at No. 25.
OLE MISS WEEK: LSU hosts No. 22 Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2 SEC) at 8 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium. The Rebels fell, 34-30, at Arkansas Saturday night.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Oh, man, 8 o’clock at night, prime time game. What more could you ask for?”
---LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White on the Ole Miss game.
LSU LIVE CHAT: Join the conversation at 10 a.m. Monday on a USA Today Network site in Louisiana to discuss the USM game and the Ole Miss game.
Coverage of LSU and commentary by Glenn Guilbeau supported by Hebert’s Town & Country Automobile Dealer in Shreveport located at 1155 East Bert Kouns Loop. Research your next Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Ram at http://hebertstandc.com/.