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NUSS BUS RUNS OVER WISCONSIN FOR 395 YARDS & A 35-31 COMEBACK WIN

By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN


Was that the most impressive starting quarterback debut in program history??
Did we just witness the rise of LSU's next New York City invite???
All we can say for sure???
Leading LSU to their 10th win with a 35-31 comeback victory over Wisconsin, QB Garrett Nussmeier's 395 yards, 31 completions from 45 attempts, and 3 beautifully majestic TD passes emphatically silenced any questions or lingering doubts about his intangibles, WR Malik Nabers set the all time receiving record, Mekhi Wingo grabbed 2 sacks in his return, Brian Thomas Jr caught his 16th and 17th TDs of the campaign, while there remains plenty of concerns regarding Matt House's defense.
More on that in a moment, but first....what an outrageous display of "will to win" / "heart on sleeve" quarterback play from Garrett Nussmeier....pulling off an incendiary, ruthless and relentless passing exhibition during the Tigers' spirited comeback over Wisconsin, all 35 of LSU's points scored from a losing position:

Even as LSU's starting QB debutant faced offensive leadership thrown into immediate flux (with the departure of former coordinator Mike Denbrock), as well as the future subtraction of key personnel (namely a starting center & two 1,000 yard receivers), plus, the added pressure of a recent portal QB signing, the fiery signal caller rose above the noise, leading the Tigers to 2 separate 14 point comebacks at both early & later stages in the game.

The Lake Charles native executed his 31 completions with precision, establishing an early rhythm by taking advantage of Wisconsin's soft coverage, completing his first 5 passes; Despite a later interception, Nussmeier didn't look back in anger, he never blinked, he refused to be rattled, and he took control of proceedings, delivering 3 sickeningly elite TD strikes, a pair for Brian Thomas Jr (including the game-winning red zone slant) and another absolute dot in the corner for Chris Hilton Jr.

Like a point guard, Nuss distributed to his weapons with a quickdraw release, hitting RBs Kaleb Jackson & Josh Williams in the flat for critical gains, finding Hilton Jr, Thomas Jr or Kyren Lacy with the deep ball, and feeding Mason Taylor as an outlet (the sophomore racking up a new season-high total of 88 yards).

Even linebacker Harold Perkins got in on the offensive act, incredibly taking a handoff at the goal-line, busting through a few tackles, and pounding his first ever collegiate rushing attempt into the end zone.

LSU's offense may have started flat, but once they generated a rhythm, ignited by the Perkins score, Sloan/Hankton's unit maintained a loose but organized vibe, suffering limited protection issues, backed by superb secondary-route running from Cortez Hankton's receivers (once Nuss escaped from the pocket).

Sure, we found out Jay Bramblett still exists, Sloan / Hankton's offensive play calling wasn't perfect, however this was an exciting, at times electric offensive showcase that will elicit plenty of off-season intrigue until Brian Kelly makes a decision regarding LSU's next offensive coordinator.

For all of the adversity facing Nuss' first start, the former Marcus High QB met every challenge with massive amounts of confidence.

Every time LSU had to have a play, Garrett delivered strikes to his teammates, moved the chains, and stayed within absolute command of LSU's offense.

If there remains any concerns over whether Nussmeier possesses the minerals to become LSU's undisputed starting quarterback, then the silence from those opposing voices couldn't be any more "deafening" in the wake of his near 400 yard outburst.

There may be limitless potential when analyzing LSU's offensive future, but the same defensive problems the Tigers dealt with all season reared their head once again, nearly losing the game: missed tackles directly leading to touchdowns, giving up early double digit deficits, allowing over 500 yards to Wisconsin's lukewarm offense, opposition O-linemen bullying Tiger D-linemen far too often, and of course, coverage busts.

Although on the bright side, there was a sizable rise in stops, LSU's defense forcing Wisconsin to punt 5 times while clinching victory with a 6th stop, giving the Tigers' offense just enough room to squeak out the 4 point win at the end.

Improving marginally, House's unit sacked Wisconsin QB Mordecai 5 times, pressured him on 23 occasions, blew up plays in the backfield for 7 TFLs, and forced 2 fumbles.

Among only a handful of times LSU's 2023/24 defense made plays when it mattered most, Monday's defensive showing was headlined by standout performances from Mekhi Wingo (2 sacks, 2 TFLs, 3 pressures), Greg Penn III (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB Hit, 1 FF), Whit Weeks (8 tackles, 0.5 TFL), Sage Ryan (2 PBUs, 2 forced incompletions, 6 tackles), as well as a solid outing by Maason Smith (1 sack, 1 TFL, 5 pressures), finishing off his own disappointing season with his strongest display in 2023/24.

Against a middling Big 10 offense, LSU's defense was still exposed for 31 points, 506 total yards, including 378 through the air.......yet the Tigers were able to extinguish Wisconsin's running game, allowing 128 total yards on the ground at 3.8 per carry.

Overall, the direction of LSU's defense isn't promising...if Monday's game is a preview of 2024, another campaign where Matt House fails or even refuses to utilize his best players, lining his DBs 15 yards off the ball, clueless linebacker coverage, opting for the world's softest zone coverage, then we're in trouble........is there any way Head Coach Brian Kelly could actually retain defensive coordinator Matt House after this game....after such a deplorable season?

Or, will House's constant, repugnant stubbornness in the face of repeated errors, alongside his ignorance concerning LSU's own personnel, ultimately prove to be his undoing?

In my view, there is no way House can continue as defensive coordinator, not after watching another stellar offensive performance nearly buried by a defense-assisted defeat.

There is no other assistant coach under him that is to blame for LSU's repeated, disastrous errors, it all falls on his shoulders....but a bigger question is why has Brian Kelly allowed House to repeat his schematic mistakes & poor personnel choices game after game?

This horrific, historically poor defense cannot continue for one more day further this calendar year.....and if Head Coach Brian Kelly riskily retains Matt House for next season, the probability of another under-performing defensive unit is high.

In totality, with LSU's 35-31 come from behind victory, the Tigers hit 10 wins for the second straight season....and....well, all in all, it was a good day holding plenty of future promise:

Malik Nabers nabbed the all time receiving record without injury, interim offensive coordinators Joe Sloan and Cortez Hankton called a strong game to usher in the Garrett Nussmeier era, buoyed by spectacular playmaking from LSU's skill position weapons once again, and while the Tigers' defensive coaching continues to fall short, LSU still boast elite defensive playmakers capable of turning the screw.

With a strong debut from the Nuss Bus, an exciting offensive future, as recruiting news continues to drop regarding big time defensive signings, if Head Coach Brian Kelly's staff can retain key veterans on their roster (Wingo, Thomas Jr etc), then 2024 could be another fantastic season at LSU.


By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

©️ 2024 Uninterrupted Writings Inc

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3 Comments


CBK must act, and act decisively. This defensive staff will not get it right. I think the problems run deeper than House. Honestly, we need to clean house, pun intended. Keep Pete Jenkins around, but we need an energetic proven winner, who recruits, coaching the D line. Also, our safety play is rag tag. As bad as the corners are, they get no help at all from the safeties. I’ve seen all I want to see from Cooks. As far as Steeples, the product was bad, and it will be up to coach to figure out if he was hamstrung by the futility around him, but he may not be salvageable either. A failure to act will jeopardize Kelly’s long…

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Steeples was handcuffed by House's soft coverage. Cooks stuck with the two worst safeties game in game out for every snap. And no Whit Weeks exposed our lack of speed. Without Wingo, it exposed our lack of toughness through the middle.

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