BATON ROUGE, La. – Les Miles stood in front of reporters Saturday night, minutes after his team had polished off Washington 41-3 in Tiger Stadium, and recited records that LSU tied and concluded that, yes, it is indeed “nice to be a Tiger.”
But he also halted any ill-conceived notions that LSU had arrived, that this streak of Tigers was ready to be considered the team to beat.
In spite of wins by a combined 82-17, Miles took the long view, knowing that North Texas and Washington aren’t Florida or South Carolina or Alabama.
“We are so far away from really accomplishing anything in this season,” Miles said in Milesian fashion. “We just got a nice little start. Two good performances and really the ability to build on both. With better opponents to come, we have to take this time to improve like hell when we can.”
If you’re looking for areas of concern, there’s one giant elephant that appeared against Washington, one that plagued both the defense and, more importantly, the offense.
Zach Mettenberger went 12 of 18 for 195 yards, a fine night by many standards. It could have been better, but at least four drops kept him from having a great night.
Odell Beckham Jr. dropped two balls that were in his hands and arguably a third. Russell Shepard let a sure touchdown bounce in and out of his paws in the end zone. And James Wright let a bubble screen go through his hands uncomfortably close to behind the line of scrimmage for a possible turnover.
On defense, several defenders dropped sure interceptions, passes that come conference time, could mean the different between a win and a loss. There were offside penalties that allowed Washington drives to continue when they should have ended.
Let’s be honest, though.
That’s just picking at nits that, for now, aren’t even close to being serious roadblocks to long-term success and to LSU’s goals of being SEC West and SEC champions.
While certainly no one is anointing them national champions, there’s more to trumpet than there is worry about right now.
Mettenberger’s passes were on point and catchable. His long toss down the home sideline to Kadron Boone that went for a 32-yard touchdown was where it needed to be, a pass that a year ago would have made everybody hold their breath in anxiety over whether it would even make it to the receiver.
Running back Alfred Blue’s back-to-back 100-yard games to start the season is the first time that has happened since 2008. He ran through and around Washington defenders, punishing them with speed and physicality.
The defense, meanwhile, overpowered Washington’s front line. Few of LSU’s opponent’s will be able to match the Tigers in the box and against Washington, it wasn’t fair. The speed and power of Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo and Lamin Barrow and Lavar Edwards shows just how far the gap is between the SEC powers and the countries mid-level teams.
That’s getting ahead of things.
There’s still a long way to go in the season and many tougher opponents to play for LSU.
For the next week, at least, it’s about improving on the little things that separate the good teams from the great ones.
Miles knows this and preaches this and will continue to do so.
“We’re going to look at some of these drops, we’re going to look at some of these penalties, we’re going to say that if we do right things and improve, we have the potential to be a dominant football team,” Miles said.
And then he added, “That’ll be determined down the road.”
Indeed it will.
But it’s good start so far.