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By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Holding New Mexico to 88 total yards, 2 first downs and 0 points, earning their first shutout since 2018, while racking up 600 yards on offense for the first time since 2019, Brian Kelly's LSU Tigers grabbed their 3rd straight win on Saturday....desecrating the New Mexico Lobos 38-0.
As we've done the past 3 weeks, LSU Odyssey continues with our Top 5 Tiger performers of 2022 Week 4 edition:
There will be some absences that'll make your eyebrow perk up, some takes you may not agree with, but overall, we chose who we felt represented the upper echelon of LSU football vs New Mexico.
Will QB Jayden Daniels return to the #1 spot?
Or will LSU's outstanding, dominant defense hold most of the sway for Week 4's list?
5. JACK BECH
-76 YARD PR TD CALLED BACK
Finally getting the ball for more than a single target, Jack Bech reminded everyone just how much of a game-changer he is, and he looked awfully good throughout Saturday night doing it.
Yes, Brian Kelly made sure QBs Jayden Daniels & Garrett Nussmeier fed Jack the football, setting him up with 7 total targets, 6 catches resulting in 43 yards, 37 after the catch.
Still not even close to the optimum receiving production we expected from our offense before the season, Bech still made each catch or target count, running strong routes, grinding for yards, or, for one example, simultaneously fighting through 5 defenders, all 5 needing one another to get Bech on the ground.
But what made Bech's biggest game of 2022 so special?
His 76 yard punt return touchdown that never was....
At a time when a lifeless LSU were desperate for a spark, Jack Bech pulled off the most electrifying play of the game:
In what was the moment of the night for most Tiger fans, called back or not, Bech received a punt at the lip of his own 24 yard line; With oncoming pressure arriving fast, Jack shifted to his left before racing away centrally from a leaping Lobo's outstretched arms, breaking away from the tackle with ease.
Now moving to his right, Jack juked past two diving defenders, sending them sprawling into each other as #80 navigated his way horizontally; Turning up field, tip-toeing down the sideline away from a tackle, Bech glided into the end zone, breathlessly celebrating with his teammates.
I don't even want to talk about the horrific refereeing call which removed this play from the scoreboard or stat column.
Instead, let's focus on the reality here:
As he showcased in his freshman season, Jack Bech is damn near impossible to stop with the ball headed his way or in his hands. There is no question: LSU's offense will be immeasurably better thanks to his week 4 revival.
More often than not, if Jack Bech is inside LSU Odyssey's Top 5 Tigers of the night, there's every chance the Tigers will be celebrating a win.
4. NOAH CAIN
94 Rushing Yards
Though he cashed in most of his yards during garbage time, Cain carved up New Mexico's defense for a pair of late game touchdowns and nearly became the Tigers' first 100 yard rusher of 2022.
Coming back from a knee injury suffered at Penn State, Cain is beginning to generate little glimpses of that famous burst many witnessed in Happy Valley during his breathtaking freshman year, taking off once again for long gallops.
Averaging 6.64 yards after contact, 73 of his 94 total yards arriving after the first hit, while he made 7 different tacklers catch air, Noah Cain is proving he can combine the thrust and motor of his prior years with his early Tiger reputation as a power back.
His four rushing touchdowns now ranks second in the SEC conference, only behind his rushing teammate Armoni Goodwin's 5 TDs.
3. WEST WEEKS
4 Tackles (3 Solo)
Collecting a tackle for loss in his third straight appearance, first year Tiger sophomore West Weeks is providing blistering playmaking brutality in his inaugural salvo in Death Valley.
Registering team-leading 88.2 & 85.3 grades for overall defending & run stuffing. according to Pro Football Focus, Weeks didn't miss a tackle on his way to a superb outing, supplying 3 Solo stops, 4 overall tackles, team-leading 2 tackles for loss and a sack later on, burying Miles Kendrick for his first whole sack of the year after sharing part of another vs Southern.
Weeks may not be LSU's best overall defender when you think of names such as Jay Ward, B.J Ojulari, Major Burns, but he's right up there at the top of the list when it comes to effort & desire....he is everywhere making plays, even accidentally flying into his own teammates on occasion.
2. GREG BROOKS JR
2 TFL Assists
-Near pick six
My original pick for game MVP went to Greg Brooks Jr, the former Arkansas DB enjoying his best outing as a Tiger.
Shutting down everything in his path, creating tackles for loss for Mekhi Garner and West Weeks, flying at the quarterback from 30 yards away before he issued a pummeling sack.
Outside of allowing New Mexico's only play over 10 yards, a 38 yard catch assigned to him, everything went right for Brooks Jr.
At one point, Greg almost hit pay dirt, jumping an outside route, batting the pass to himself and just barely failing to come up with the interception. Had Brooks Jr been able to rein in the ball, he would've been headed 50 yards in the other direction for a pick six.
Since his move from nickel to safety. the Arkansas transfer has been on fire, affecting all areas of the field, especially the line of scrimmage, posting the second best pass rushing grade among Matt House's squad. He's starting to figure out how to harness his, at times, uncontrollable aggressive instincts on the field...and playing him at safety may actually be a prudent decision...one made out of a concern for the well being of those on the receiving end of Brooks Jr's speed-encrusted hits.
Already responsible for 6 TFL assists on the season, on Saturday the West Jefferson High alum elevated his performance to a whole new level in front of the home crowd.
Commanding, dictatorial, authoritative, aggressive, acrobatic...these words all describe Brooks Jr's Saturday showing well; that said, I think there's one player who must be #1 on this list...only one who could take top spot above Brooks Jr....
1. HAROLD PERKINS
8 Tackles (3 Solo)
4 Official Stops
1 QB Hurry
-#1 Team-Leading Pass Rusher Grade (PFF)
For the second time in three games, true freshman linebacker Harold Perkins led LSU in tackles, savaging New Mexico for 8 overall on the day alongside his incendiary pass rushing spree.
Leading LSU with a pass rushing grade of 80.1, nearly 7% ahead of the #2 pass rusher vs UNM (Greg Brooks Jr), for anyone watching the freshman's debut showings, you quickly learn Perkins isn't merely a straight up linebacker, nor is he a straight edge rusher....he is just a defensive playmaker.....one who is delivering beyond his years on the cusp of his second SEC outing @ Auburn.
Lining up as an edge rusher on 35 pass snaps out of 79 total, 33 additional plays lined up inside the box, Matt House is having a fun time utilizing Harold Perkins to the best of his abilities.
Over his first four games as a collegiate athlete, Harold leads the defense in total tackles (21), recorded 9 official stops, 6 pressures, 3 hurries, 2 sacks, 1 QB hit and is continuously among the top few Tigers my eyes are glued to on almost every play.
Though Brooks Jr also deserved a shout for our #1 spot, the former Razorback is in his fourth year of experience.
Perkins is doing this as a true freshman.....growing up fast below the halo lights of Death Valley.
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By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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