I finally got around to watching the replay of the Auburn-LSU game the other night, and I’ve got to say that Bill Connelly is spot on with this assessment:
There was no magic here. Auburn didn’t blitz much, even on passing downs, choosing instead to read and react, tackling well. Aside from those two swing passes, they remained disciplined. Auburn forced Mettenberger and the LSU offense to remain error-free and score on longer drives, and for the most part the Bayou Bengals couldn’t do it.
Make no mistake: this game was a lot closer to becoming an easy LSU win than an Auburn upset. Auburn’s only touchdown drive began at the LSU 26, and only twice did Auburn advance from their own territory into LSU’s. Auburn’s offense moved sideways or backwards almost as much as it moved forward, and LSU lineman Sam Montgomery was a wrecking ball, logging 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. But Auburn proved that LSU’s offense is not necessarily in better shape than it was last year; if you tackle well and force LSU to make one more play to score, the Tigers may eventually stall out, botch a snap, miss a field goal or come up with other ways to avoid scoring. The LSU running game is still mostly devastating, but if you can keep the game close and prevent the Tigers from simply running out the clock, you can give yourself a chance.
What I saw was VanGorder coaching VanGorder defense and LSU never moving him out of his comfort zone. As Bill puts it,
… For the most part, the Tigers avoided both overthinking and overpursuit, and it paid off. LSU doesn’t exactly hide its intentions — they ran 67 percent of the time on standard downs (80 percent with just one player lined up wide, 69 percent with two). Aside from a couple of successful swing passes to Spencer Ware, Auburn was well-prepared for what LSU was trying to do.
A couple of follow up observations to that – first, if you’re going to run two-thirds of the time on standard (i.e., non-passing) downs, it’s hard to see what you gain from swapping Mettenberger for Jordan Jefferson. Yes, Mett has a better arm, but he poses no running threat to keep a defense from keying on the back. Now LSU is loaded enough from a talent perspective that I’m not sure that’s going to matter too often, but you could have said the same thing about last year’s team and the contribution it got from the quarterback position. And while it may not matter too often, when you occupy the same division as Alabama, it may not have to matter more than once.
Secondly, having watched Mett’s play in that game, it seems that the preseason hype may have been too breathless. Mettenberger is a huge kid at 6-5, 237. He appears lanky, almost to the point of gangly. He’s got long arms. I don’t know if it’s a result of his physique or something else, but it almost looks like he has to wind up a little when he throws. He’s never going to have an Aaron Murray-like release (a difference that was readily apparent at the two G-Day games in which they both appeared), but I didn’t see much of an improvement in his mechanics from his days under Bobo’s tutelage. The height helps, of course, but I wonder if Mett is going to pay a price for his delivery against certain defenses.