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by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
In the aftermath of LSU's close 28-25 road victory over Miss State, LSU Odyssey embarked upon a relentlessly entertaining 2 hour postgame spectacle.....and yet we still feel there is room to finish off Week 4 just as we move on to Auburn week.
There were some sneaky strong performers for Coach O's Tigers, some who were hardly mentioned by commentators, analysts or broadcasters....that is unless you watched LSU Odyssey's postgame.
Merely checking out the stat book isn't going to help you understand how LSU really won this game or show you their strongest performers, just as our 5th best Tiger of Week 4 explains:
NEIL FARRELL JR
4 TACKLES (1 SOLO)
-2 UNCREDITED TFLs
-2.5 TFLs (before Miss St game)
Watching the game three full times now, charting every play on both offense and defense, I find it lazy, inaccurate and disgraceful that 2 TFLs by #92 Neil Farrell Jr went uncredited (as we point out on our postgame) as big 92 repeatedly broke through Will Rogers' backfield on a myriad of occasions.
Neil blew up Mike Leach's first half running game, blasting through the front and committing repeated carnal chaos, forcing backs to run side to side while already yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Not even credited with a single tackle for loss, Farrell Jr is given his proper dues here as one of LSU's most valuable players on the day.
Big Neil consistently provided energy to our front, boosting DEs Ojulari and Gaye with his swaggering backfield dustups.
While both Gaye and Ojulari were no doubt frustrated by a lack of pass rush opportunities, Farrell Jr blowing up the line of scrimmage offered the dynamic edge duo plenty of big hits and plays throughout the day.
Recruited for the 3-4, Neil looked bloodthirsty in LSU's new 3 man set-up....and I wonder if Daronte Jones will deploy it far more often or if Neil's backfield penetration continues.
-15 TD Passes on the Season (2nd in CFB)
He wasn't perfect, but he did exactly what every great quarterback does for their team:
Max made plays when he had to, he delivered points when we needed to score, and without reservation, he fed the best offensive player on the team.
Watch how he made our first TD happen, bending his body away from an edge-rusher's flailing arms and raging body, dipping his shoulder to fake the DE, then quickly adjusting for a low bullet to Kayshon Boutte, perfectly passing the ball down and away from coverage.
Witness the beautiful RPO pass which set up Boutte's 2nd TD, Johnson executing the fake hand off and ripping a volatile ball straight through the teeth of Zach Arnett's defense and right into Boutte's attacking hands. The pass was perfectly in stride for the long, 64 yard TD gallop, Boutte's dancing bootay being the last thing sprawling defenders saw.
Yes, Max threw an ill-advised interception, though unlike his INT vs UCLA, this was a 50/50 ball where #14 simply put it up and gave freshman Deion Smith a chance to go up and get it; Despite last week's 132 yard, 2 TD performance, Deion Smith wasn't able to go up and win the football.
It was a nervy game for the former Jackson Academy & Provine star, the receiver returning to his home state of Mississippi and getting involved in various trash talk after each of his 5 targets; on the interception, he basically couldn't get there in time, leaving Max with his 3rd turnover of the year...and a rather undeserved one at that.
Go through the tape and you can identify strong plays from Max Johnson, now at 23 touchdown passes & 2 rushing TDs across his 10 game / 6 start career at LSU.
Say what you want about his flawed performances vs UCLA and Miss State, but you can't deny his big play ability from the quarterback position...not after remaining 2nd in CFB's TD leaderboard for a third straight week.
While Alabama QB Bryce Young racked up numbers vs Southern Miss and Mercer, Max Johnson battled vs Miss State & UCLA; the two are both tied at 15 TDs (2nd in CFB).
Say what you want about Max...even without an offensive line, a running game, & only two reliable receivers, he's getting the job done, giving LSU a chance to score on every drive...and a chance to win every game
15 TACKLES (7 SOLO)
1 QB HIT
1 FR (40 YD RET)
-SEC DEFENDER OF THE WEEK
-SEC LEADING TACKLER
Saturday's 3-2-6 formation (mixed with switches to the 4-3 on 3rd down) was of course the right game plan for LSU's defense; however, it was also perfectly suited to Damone Clark's strengths:
Much like Neil Farrell Jr, Damone Clark was recruited by former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to play OLB in a 3-4 formation....and for two seasons, that was where Damone played.
Over 2018, the freshman followed junior colossus Devin White's every step, looking at his every move and emulating #45 as much as possible.
Then throughout LSU's 2019 title-run, Clark was called upon to be a dynamic bench presence, a role he not only fulfilled...he went above and beyond:
Playing from the bench in nearly every game behind Jacob Phillips, edge-rushing hybrid K'Lavon Chaisson and 1st Round pick Patrick Queen, Damone Clark kicked absolute ass as a big part of Dave Aranda's title-winning defense, thundering every great QB the Tigers played from Tua, Trevor, Fromm to Hurts, all of 'em received an ass-whooping from Clark's 49 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks and countless pressures off the bench.
Heading into 2020, everyone envisioned a huge year for Clark...even the LSU staff, rewarding him with the responsibility of wearing the #18 jersey.
But things didn't work out that way:
As LSU's Bo Pelini defense transitioned to a 4-3 / two high safety look, Damone would be tasked with covering as much ground as a free safety...by design it was a failure.
The overwhelming combination of collective confusion, angst and ill-preparation across the entire team, coupled with Clark's inability to make up ground as a middle linebacker in a 4-3 front, led to a disastrous year from a player many expected to be selected as high as a 2nd round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Finishing 2nd on the team in tackles couldn't paint over the truth....
Damone had as bad of a season as Cordale Flott...completely losing the plot in the running game and abandoning his gaps....becoming picked on over the middle through the air....Clark lost us games last year.
Turning the page toward 2021, I still had reservations about his placement as a middle linebacker in a 4-2-5............and my worries were made valid by a carbon copy 2020 showing vs UCLA.
Damone's place as a starter was now in question.....by everyone.....except the LSU coaching staff....
Being an unquestioned, automatic starter, Damone was going nowhere, keeping his place for the next two games, continuing to lead the Tigers in tackles during each appearance as the defense improved (against two poor teams).
Clark became more mobile over the last few games, attacking the line of scrimmage and backfield with more regularity and shielded from too many reps in coverage....precisely his strengths.
Then, it all exploded for Damone during an unbelievable showing....a career best day against the team who started the doubts against the veteran linebacker and this LSU defense:
Vs Mississippi State, the team who embarrassed LSU during Week 1 of last year (Clark being at fault for multiple TDs), LSU's #18 laid QB Will Rogers and co under siege.
Piling up 15 tackles, 7 stops as a solo artist, grabbing a huge fumble recovery and 40 yard return (which set up the only TD for LSU's first half), to go with 1 QB pressure & hit on 3rd down.....of course Damone was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
Leading LSU & the SEC in tackles through every week of 2021, Clark is a raging talent, a high character young man with unstoppable potential, leadership, and professional athleticism.
However, don't crown him as the "next legendary LSU linebacker" just yet:
To make that case, Damone has to take the reins against Florida, on the road in Tuscaloosa, against Ole Miss......beginning with a night game this Saturday night vs Auburn....a team who put up 48 on LSU last year.....
He was dominant during 2019 as a supporting showstopper....
Now, he's realizing LSU's defensive dominance relies on him, and for a linebacker who's seen it all (and automatically starts), Clark will never get a better opportunity to put his name anywhere near Devin White, Bradie James, or Al Richardson....among the greatest Tiger LBs ever.
- CFB LEADING 8TH TD
-SCORING EVERY 3.2 TOUCHES
He's a superfreak...he's superfreaky yooooowwwww.....
Oh my god...
When LSU Odyssey interviewed freshman Kayshon Boutte back in July of 2020, we offered subscribers an opportunity to ask the incoming Westgate receiver anything.
LSU Odyssey subscriber Mike Watson asked Boutte: "Where do you prefer to play? In the slot or on the outside?"
It took Kayshon less than a second to blurt out "anywhere, anywhere, everywhere..."
Watching his Westgate footage, we knew Kayshon would be special, which is why this very site predicted freshman Kayshon Boutte would grab 5 TDs and 479 yards throughout 2020 (a prediction which was made while Ja'Marr, Terrace and Arik were still on roster & before the revised 10 game SEC schedule).
Last year was crazy....with a haphazard, skullshot offense full of disaster play-calls and dead ends (an absolute nightmare for a freshman QB)...
Still, freshmen tandem QB Max Johnson and WR Kayshon Boutte went on a record-shattering spree, combining for all 5 of Boutte's 2020 touchdowns.
"You are the only person in America who thinks that," the host mocked me, chuckling with each word out of my mouth...even while I provided enough evidence to convict O.J twice over.
It didn't matter....this would be something they'd all have to figure out on their own....when they watch him leading the nation for three straight weeks in scoring....averaging a score every 3 catches on the dot....
At 308 yards from 24 catches & 8 TDs after only 4 games, Kayshon Boutte has already produced a career-full of record-breaking performances and insane stat-shattering breakouts:
Catching 308 yards in one game alone vs Ole Miss.....catching 308 yards after 4 in 2021....
It's just madness what he's been able to do over 14 appearances; his brilliance is so effortless it's scary....it freaks me the hell out how unstoppably fast he is...all without ever looking like he's really trying....
LSU Odyssey predicted 16 touchdowns for Kayshon....and through 4 games (with at least 9 left), he's already halfway there....
8 TACKLES (4 SOLO)
1 PD (UNCREDITED)
-1 FORCED INCOMPLETION
Denying the past is a hard thing to do...especially when doubters, or those who enjoy your failure, continue to beckon your prior fall....
After Cordale Flott directly allowed 11 touchdowns last year, so many were disgusted by the sight of the back of #25's jersey....so many criticized him beyond just having a poor 2020...many said he "didn't deserve to wear purple & gold"....some joked about how "Flott's bad play started to take Stingley's own levels down".....others called him "the most overrated hype in recent DBU history"....
The Alabama-native came into 2021 holding two extreme snapshots from his two seasons at LSU:
Sporting a strong 2019 as a supporting character within DBU's arsenal, then last year's 11 touchdowns and constantly surrendering big plays.......Flott was approaching a fork in the road.....which path would he take?
While starting only one game throughout the first 3 Saturdays of 2021, Flott was used sparingly, as if the coaching staff understood his fragile psychological state....knowing one big play early vs UCLA could destroy Flott's confidence, a psyche that already took months to repair.
Hovering in the background of LSU's struggling defense, Flott was registering tackles for loss in each game, blowing up plays and ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage with savagery;
Then, as a pass came towards the sideline he batted the ball away and let out his classic finger-wagging celebration; there was even a play vs UCLA where QB DTR sprinted for a 1st down, only to be smashed out of bounds by a desperately flying Cordale.....a display of incredible side to side tracking prowess.
All of it was building for a Saturday where LSU couldn't afford to let Cordale sit on the bench:
Due to best friend Derek Stingley Jr's injury, as well as Miss St's air-raid offensive attack, Cordale was called upon to supply a huge role in coverage....but instead, he did more than hold serve:
Cordale pulled off two Stingley-esque plays and made a name for himself in the process:
In what may be forever known as "The Cordale Flott Game", #25 woke up early on Saturday morning ready to make his name legendary at LSU....and, against the team which scored 2 TDs on him last year, Flott went above and beyond to make sure he rewrote the history books.
Forcing a fumble with a breathtaking carbon copy of Stingley's wicked hit vs Central Michigan, Cordale deleted a WR and put a helmet on the ball, knocking it out and setting up LSU's only touchdown of the entire first half. Cordale's play stuffed a long rhythmic drive from Miss State, forcing the fumble as they entered LSU's red zone.
Only a drive later, with Miss State clear on the Tigers' 11 yard line and about to score an answering touchdown, Will Rogers saw an opening in a sideline route and made the throw over the top of Cordale Flott, not understanding how supremely athletic LSU's nickel is:
Back-pedaling for a few yards before leaving his feet with expert timing, Cordale met the pass at its apex and high-pointed the ball, reeling in the poster-perfect interception and celebrating with equal swagger, even #7 taking part in celebrations (as much as his ankle would allow).
Flying all over the field for 8 tackles (4 solo), the two remarkable turnovers, as well as affecting 2 targets (2 uncredited PDs), Flott not only caught his first ever LSU interception or forced his first ever fumble, he did them both in the same game....possibly the biggest of the season, psychologically speaking for Daronte Jones' defense.
Will this past Saturday continue to carry the title "The Cordale Flott Game"?
Or will #25 make it a far more regular occurrence?
Without Derek Stingley Jr for an indeterminable amount of time, Corey Raymond's DBU needed a huge performance from one of their previous supporting players....
Beginning on Saturday, #25 accepted the responsibility..... #7's torch, and has advanced his game up to a whole new level.
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
SHOUTOUTS: Thank You Kevin Howell! Thank You Louis Corona! Thank You Sam!