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LSU TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS IN STYLE, POUND GRAMBLING 72-10; DEFENSIVE CONCERNS GROW

By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

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On a night where Tiger Stadium opened for its 99th consecutive year (not even a Global Pandemic or a second World War could stop Death Valley from rocking)....on a night where LSU faced respected in-state HBCU Grambling for the first time ever, Brian Kelly's Tigers were in no mood for pageantry......Saturday night was about regaining confidence, fixing errors in all three phases, experimenting with personnel, and of course, winning again.

For LSU fans thirsting for points, explosive plays, dominance, and offensive firepower, you got it in boatloads, as Jayden Daniels led the offense for a wild first half rout, dropping 42 points during his time on the field.

Leading Denbrock's under-fire offense on scoring drives across all 6 opportunities, Daniels threw for 269 yards, completed 18 of 24 attempts (enduring 3 drops from WRs again), while tossing a career high 5 TDs all in those first 2 quarters.

Still dealing with occasional miscues or inaccuracies, JD5 appeared as in command and as non-hesitant as he should be against Grambling, taking advantage of the chance to build confidence as a passer, hitting four different receivers for over 50 yards in limited action.

It doesn't look like much on paper, however these were big time plays spread around to Malik Nabers, Brian Thomas Jr, Kyren Lacy and Chris Hilton Jr, all scoring much-needed touchdowns.

Matching Joe Burrow's all time single half passing TD record at LSU, while ranking 3rd on the Tigers' all time single game TD list, Daniels unleashed a 47 yard bomb down the field perfectly in stride for Chris Hilton Jr, leaving his cover man in the dust yards behind and waltzing into the end zone....intriguingly, Hilton Jr's celebration was muted, almost business-like.

For a Tiger WR only scoring their second career touchdown, setback by two seasons marred by injuries, at times buried on Cortez Hankton's depth chart when available, you'd think he'd feel that release of emotion....instead, he was impressively on the hunt for more.

Although disappointingly, Hilton Jr wouldn't be targeted again, finishing with 53 yards, 2 catches and the game-busting TD over the top.

Brian Thomas Jr reeled in his second and third scores of 2023, redeeming himself after a wide open drop early on LSU's first drive.

Thomas Jr caught a fleet footed / wide open touchdown at the back of the end zone to take the lead; Later, Daniels picked him out inside the guts of the red zone for a beautiful catch. The towering third year receiver was targeted a whopping 8 times, equaling 7 receptions and 78 yards.

Offensive Coordinator Mike Denbrock also made sure #1 wide out Malik Nabers got the ball, using him in the slot or at times in motion across the formation for a quick jet sweep, LSU's junior Biletnikoff Watch List receiver punching it in after consecutive jet sweep touches.

Later, Malik took off for a 30 yard catch and run through the teeth of Grambling's secondary, showcasing his blistering abilities in a higher gear, also hauling down a nice 15 yarder from QB Garrett Nussmeier during the 3rd quarter (totaling 87 yards, 5 catches and 1 TD).

Concerned about his propensity for drops, all while demanding the pressure & spotlight of a high caliber WR, Kyren Lacy's own confidence must be energized again after his 62 yards, 3 grabs and first touchdown as an LSU Tiger.

Targeted three times, Lacy caught all three passes under duress and immense pressure on that open touchdown before halftime; from Lacy's perspective, that ball must've hung in the air for an eternity before it came down and he ripped it out of the air, Tiger Stadium rising in rapturous support of their inconsistent but high potential senior receiver.

Sadly for Nussmeier, his two big time end zone targets were right on the money for freshman Shelton Sampson Jr, only to witness both passes go straight through the hometown debutant's nervous hands. Nuss finished with just 48 passing yards total, and yet Garrett ended up rushing for a score himself, getting into the end zone as a Tiger for the first time as a rusher..

LSU needed to get their passing game going finally, and you saw some good indications....still only little doses of what could be possible. Daniels made throws down field against pressure far more, going through progressions on occasion, and raising his game....though once again, the gulf in talent from Florida State to Grambling is massive.

Hitting over 300 yards for the second game running but looking, feeling and being far more effective, ruthless and even stylish in doing it....both Daniels & Nussmeier spread the ball around to playmakers who needed that jolt ahead of a wicked SEC gauntlet.

But LSU's offense were just as dominant running the football, tacking on 302 total yards, and no...Jayden Daniels wasn't the Tigers' leading rusher.

Two stars in the making broke out tonight, each amassing over 100 combined yards, one rushing for over 100, and another, a freshman, scoring twice on his debut:

Transfer veteran Logan Diggs arrived at LSU as an experienced, reputable back from his time at Notre Dame, signed by Brian Kelly during his prior tenure at South Bend. Regardless of injury concerns throughout fall camp, or his absence vs Florida State loss last Sunday, Diggs picked up right where he left off.

Rushing just 15 times for 115 yards and his first LSU touchdown, catching one pass for another 18 yard gain, Logan Diggs juked, jived and pulled off sensational spin moves as he earned his yardage. Recording five runs over 10 yards, the Louisiana native violently hammered beyond defenders, knocking a player's helmet off during one brutal lowered shoulder exchange.

Diggs' Saturday performance was awesome, wire to wire.....almost enough to call him running back #1???
Veteran Noah Cain scored, 2019 National Champion / 2022 starter Josh Williams produced a strong 43 yards from 6 rushes, although it was freshman Kaleb Jackson's brilliant 59 yards and 2 scores (plus 73 return yards) that caught eyes, turned heads, and buried defenders.

Moving like a machine, rushing as if he was the ruler of all on earth, smashing through defenders as if he held sway over their souls, Jackson wasn't just impressive, he wanted it.

"Action" 🎬 Jackson is a vicious, breathtaking rusher of the ball, barreling would be tacklers at ease and displaying a nearly full athletic tool belt.

LSU's offense were right where we expected them to be....predicting a 62-6 win in our pregame, we are cautiously optimistic about the Tigers' offense.

Denbrock's staff & players met the challenge, stayed ruthless and efficient throughout (8/8 inside the red zone, scoring on 10/11 drives, both QBs went 4/4 on 3rd down passing conversions, Daniels at 3/3 and tossing 2 TDs on critical downs, over 13.3 yards per completion alongside 6.3 per rush).

While this is offensive progress, Matt House's defense have a lot to figure out ahead of Saturday morning's road trip to Starkville vs Mississippi State's pass-happy QB Will Rogers.

By the midway point of the second quarter, the Tigers' beleaguered first unit had already surrendered over 100 yards on the ground (including a 100 yard rusher) and another 100+ through the air, a shocking development as Grambling's offense threw all over LSU's secondary once again.

Allowing 8 big passing plays, headlined by Antonio Jones' 81 yards and 7 grabs as well as Jr Waters' red zone score over the top of former 5 star CB Denver Harris, the Tigers' struggling secondary let 6 different players push them around, beat them off the line or burn them for a catch and gain of 11 or more yards......this is against Grambling.....and yet we still witnessed Zy Alexander holding on for dear life.....Harold Perkins even stuck in coverage, allowing a zipping bullet over the middle.

Another thing....we watched Harold Perkins stuck in a no man's land linebacker spot once again, nearly ineffective except for a crushing hit that jarred the ball loose on an early screen pass, backed by 1 solitary QB hit.
This is becoming a serious issue....and it's appearing as if defensive coordinator Matt House is set in his ways, desperate to develop Harold as the next great traditional linebacker.....a process which is only serving to emasculate the Tigers' & college football's most savage defensive presence.

It's a terrible thing to behold.

Elsewhere, it was great to see Maason Smith playing for the first time in over a calendar year, appearing in only 49 snaps over LSU's last 21 games due to injury; crazily, Smith missed 19 total contests since late 2021.

It was great to see him back out there, though his rust showed, falling over on several occasions, getting pushed off the line on others, Smith still recorded a solid yet meager outing, producing 1 tackle for loss and 1 solo tackle during a start with limited snaps.

Up front LSU only registered 1 sack on the entire night, deep into the second half when Jordan Jefferson bulldozed his way towards Grambling's quarterback and finished the play....the Tigers' only sack over two games.....a damning statistic that could come back to haunt this ultra-talented but thin defensive front.

It was a solid night from LSU offensively and on special teams, but even as House's defense improved in the second half (strictly limiting yards and forcing 2 turnovers: an acrobatic Greg Penn interception & Jalen Lee fumble recovery), there are still tremendous warning signs all over the secondary and front that could undo any offensive progress or improvement.

Next up is a road meeting @ Mississippi State, a typically tricky contest mired in cow bell cacophony and never ending dink and dunk passing attacks....a game in which LSU haven't scored more than 36 points since 2013.....a game where the Tigers' tackling and coverage abilities will be constantly put to the test.


By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

©️ 2023 Uninterrupted Writings Inc, a subsidiary of Uninterrupted Media LLC

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