The LSU Tigers bounced back in their second game of the season with a strong win over Vanderbilt. The defensive lapses which plagued the Tigers against Mississippi State were long gone, a source of relief for head coach Ed Orgeron.
NOTE: This game’s site has been moved from Baton Rouge to Columbia, Mo. due to Hurricane Delta.
By Matt Zemek
However, there is an obvious limitation to the Tigers’ situation as they prepare for their first-ever visit to Columbia, Missouri, for an SEC league game. That limitation figures into the game keys for Saturday’s contest, which was relocated from Baton Rouge due to Hurricane Delta.
1 – Heightened urgency in the first quarter
The good thing about LSU’s win over Vanderbilt was that the Tigers steadily improved as the game wore on. The limitation placed upon that performance, however, is that Vanderbilt was LSU’s opponent. The Commodores have arguably the worst offense in the SEC, so even though LSU made noticeable forward strides compared to the Mississippi State loss, we shouldn’t be convinced the Tigers have fully fixed their flaws. Accordingly, they can’t think they’ve turned the corner or have everything figured out. LSU needs to begin this game as though it is still coming off a loss. Coach O knows his team is coming off a win, but this group needs to cultivate habits which can remain intact on a weekly basis. One win over Vanderbilt doesn’t prove that. Coming out of the gate and remaining on task in the first quarter will offer a better indication of where this team stands. Missouri doesn’t figure to threaten LSU, but an authoritative first quarter will help the Bayou Bengals adopt the mindset of a team which knows what to do each time it takes the field.
Missouri hasn’t yet scored a first-quarter point this season. If LSU smothers Mizzou in the first quarter on Saturday, it will be easier to believe that good habits are being built. A shaky first quarter, even in an eventual victory, will leave unanswered questions for this team as October moves along. The hurricane-based relocation of this game is an easy distraction. Teams could easily succumb to the schedule alteration. If LSU ignores that inconvenience and throttles Mizzou from the jump, we might be able to identify a substantial maturation process in evidence for this team.
2 – Continue to develop timing and precision in the passing game
The Mississippi State loss was terrible for all the obvious reasons, one of them being that LSU had to throw on nearly every down after falling behind by multiple scores. The Tigers didn’t operate in a normal or neutral scoreboard situation; they had to scramble. Against Vanderbilt, LSU didn’t play under a high level of stress. Doing the same against Missouri will help this roster develop more chemistry. This applies to the passing game, where Myles Brennan wasn’t placed in a position to succeed versus MSU. He and his receivers – in this softer portion of the schedule – can use the Missouri game as a time to develop the unspoken and instant communication passers and receivers have to cultivate over the course of the season. The playbook doesn’t have to be complicated against Missouri, but Myles Brennan has to develop an automatic, reflexive ability to know how his receivers will respond to various defensive adjustments. This game is another laboratory for growth and improvement before the more consequential games of the year, when LSU will have to throw everything it has at elite opponents.
3 – Wear down Mizzou
Missouri gave up 232 rushing yards versus Tennessee this past weekend, on an average of 4.5 yards per carry. The passing game matters a lot, but LSU also has to feed the confidence of its offensive line by mashing Missouri with a lead in the second half. Both components – the improvement of the passing game and the ability to run when the defense is expecting a run – need to emerge against Missouri.