BATON ROUGE – Brandon Harris, Les Miles, Cam Cameron, Danny Etling, Ed Orgeron, Steve Ensminger.
That has been LSU’s soap opera season so far. The first three have been replaced by the last three, and suddenly the Tigers are off and running on a new season adventure following a convincing and dominating, 42-7 win over Missouri Saturday night with Etling at quarterback, Orgeron as the interim head coach and Ensminger as the interim offensive coordinator.
So far, so good. Etling is no Tommy Hodson or JaMarcus Russell yet, but he has been pretty good. Orgeron and Ensminger did not reinvent the forward pass Saturday, but they made the wheels turn faster and more productively. It was fun to watch. There were some new formations and some new repackaging to some old plays, but LSU still won with the power running game and frequently that was out of the power-I formation. But it was still refreshing to see.
LSU also won with something people around here should be as accustomed to as the toss sweep – defense.
Yes, the forgotten man of the first quarter of LSU’s season has performed as advertised. New defensive coordinator Dave Aranda nearly shut out one of the Southeastern Conference’s best offenses on Saturday that had been averaging 44.5 points a game coming in.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock entered Tiger Stadium No. 1 in the SEC and No. 3 in the nation with 1,508 passing yards and atop the league with 14 touchdown passes. His 377 passing yards a game was sliced to 167. He was sacked twice after getting sacked just once in four games and hurried at least twice. He caught Missouri's only touchdown. He didn't throw it.
Missouri was No. 1 in the SEC in total offense with 569.5 yards a game. It limped out of Tiger Stadium with 265 yards.
“Well, we have a tremendous defensive coordinator,” said Orgeron, who at a time was interested in that job. “He’s probably one of the best defensive minds I’ve ever been around.”
Missouri coach Barry Odom agreed.
“Dave Aranda is a really good coordinator on the other side of the field,” he said. “They did a good job matching up with route concepts and playing aggressive on the perimeter against our receivers. It was a little more pressure than we’d had.”
Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux had one of the sacks and a hurry. Defensive end Arden Key and nose guard Greg Gilmore combined for the other one.
“Coach O kept reminding us that he’d been sacked only one time for a reason and we had to get after the quarterback,” Godchaux said. “So we knew we had to fight, claw and scratch and go get after him.”
New and former LSU defensive line coach Pete Jenkins must have felt like it was 1982 all over again when LSU stuffed Bear Bryant and Alabama in a 20-10 victory in Birmingham, Alabama. In his third debut as an LSU assistant coach (previously in 1980 and 2000), LSU held Missouri to 77 yards rushing on 22 carries for a 3.5-yard average.
“Pete Jenkins helped our guys,” Orgeron said. “Our guys loved him. Our guys believe. We have some talent on defense. We have a great system.”
Aranda’s defense played well enough to win against Wisconsin and at Auburn, but LSU’s offense could not hold up its end of the bargain, which has been the case since 2009. After just five games, he already has LSU approaching John Chavis-like numbers.
LSU is No. 3 in the SEC in scoring defense and No. 11 nationally with 14.8 points given up a game. Against the run, the Tigers are No. 3 in the SEC and No. 19 nationally with 108 yards allowed a game. In total defense, LSU is third in the SEC and 25th in the nation with 326 yards allowed a game. The Tigers are also much improved in pass efficiency defense with a 113.2 rating for sixth in the SEC and 30th in the nation.
“Dave is an excellent play caller,” Orgeron said. “He knows exactly what to do. They give him this, he’s going to take it away. He is a tremendous coach.”
With everything Orgeron had to do last week with the floundering offense that did not have star tailback Leonard Fournette, with a new play caller in Ensminger, with a series of tweaks and subtle changes on offense, with the vulnerable emotion of the team and the weight of the LSU Nation on him, he did not have to worry about the defense. Aranda has it all under control quietly with much less drama.
Now, if the offense can just stay up with it, LSU has a chance for more drama this season, but in a good way.
LSU LIVE CHAT: Let's talk about the Tigers' stunning, 42-7 domination of Missouri in our weekly chat. Go to your USA Today Network newspaper's website at 10 a.m. Monday and join the conversation.
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