My friends from Seattle were a little overwhelmed. And we’re talking about the pregame walk I took them through, around the stadium to various friends’ tailgate sites where they were wined (well, beered) and dined beyond their wildest dreams.
Basically they were agog at the sheer volume of people and the copious amounts of food they were offered and the scenery (yeah, college girls) that never ended.
And then they had to watch their football team play LSU.
Save that turnover on the first play of the game, the one that gifted Washington its only points in a 41-3 steamrolling, it was all LSU on a night when perhaps the tone was set for the season.
LSU opened with a 41-14 victory over North Texas a week earlier. One can only wonder what the outcome would be if Washington and UNT played. At first glance, you would think it would be pretty close, that these were two opponents that, while not offering LSU much resistance, might beat each other’s brain in what would be a pretty entertaining game.
But LSU’s win over UNT was overshadowed by Alabama’s pasting of Michigan earlier that day by the same score. Suddenly 41-14 looked pretty flimsy, because, well, Alabama is the measuring stick for all things college football right now.
A week later 41-3 looks pretty good, because it seemed that LSU played that much better and, when the dust cleared, even better after Louisiana-Monroe had beaten Arkansas.
About that: Every few years lightning strikes. The artist formerly known as USL beat Texas A&M in 1996. UAB beat LSU in 2000. Appalachian State beat Michigan in 2007. Now ULM has two such rent-a-loss victories in its annals, recalling that it also upset Alabama in 2007.
These things happen, the hiring of a subpar team for a big payday and an easy win and the opponent doesn’t cooperate.
Washington, not a Towson State or Western Carolina or even a Louisiana-Monroe, cooperated. Its offense never left the great Northwest. If we haven’t learned anything else about this young season, it’s the LSU defense is right up there with anyone’s. As partakers in social media watching on TV got more and more annoyed with ESPN showing Tyrann Mathieu sitting in the stands, the LSU defense on the field was letting us know it’s pretty stout.
Consider the U-Dub numbers: 26 rushing yards. No trips into LSU’s half of the field after recovering the fumble on the opening kickoff. Three ventures past midifield in the second half, to the LSU 46, 30 and 35, none of which ended well. And four sacks.
Meanwhile, LSU established itself further as a run-first football team. Against UNT it ran 63 percent of the time. Against Washington, LSU ran 52 times and passed 19, a 73-to-27 percent ratio.
LSU coach Les Miles said he liked the ratio “in this game.” He emphasized in this game. “You might see 50-50 in another game and that will lead to victory,” he added.
Color me skeptical, because the running back numbers show that LSU would be nuts not to run, run, run and run.
Alfred Blue, 101 yards and a touchdown. Michael Ford 48 yards. Kenny Hilliard 46 yards and two TDs. Spencer Ware – remember him? – 38 yards.
Which brings us to the quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, whose numbers in the first week – 19-for-26, a TD and 192 yards – were hurt by a couple of drops and a TD pass called back for a penalty. Against Washington, he threw less – 12-for-18, but had more yards, 195, to show for it. And another TD. But more drops. The most glaring drop was not on a pass thrown by him, but by Ware on an option, that Jarvis Landry muffed and squandered a sure TD.
Mettenberger has done nothing to disappoint in these first two games. There is no doubt that he has a big-time arm, a tremendous amount of poise, especially when the pocket it breaking down, and all the tools you want in a QB, most notably patience.
Certainly he’d like the run-pass ratio to be 50-50. You have no doubt that he could light it up in a run-and-gun offense. Perhaps the best thing LSU has going for it with him is his understanding of the situation and how to say the right things.
“We’re going to take advantage of the situations that the defense gives us,” Mettenberger said. We had 18 passes tonight and were very close to being perfect. A few drops, one ball that just missed. We’re going to run the ball to keep dominating. That’s what we’re going to do to win ballgames.”
Another rent-a-win comes to Tiger Stadium next Saturday. Idaho, 0-2 after losing at home to Eastern Washington 20-3 and at Bowling Green 21-13, might be a game in which Miles plays Steven Rivers some at QB because the only word that comes to mind for this one is carnage.
After that, LSU goes to Auburn, which will be a test because its on the road and in the Southeastern Conference, but not because Auburn is any good, which it isn’t. Then it’s back home for Towson – Towson, puh-leeze – before LSU goes to Florida on October 6.
That might be the first time the ratio really changes. Not likely 50-50, but …
“As long as I show him I can complete almost 70 percent of the passes, I think he’ll be a little more lenient and we’ll pass the ball more,” Mettenberger said. “Shoot, we won 41-3 and ran the ball 52 times.
“You can’t complain. A win’s a win and we’re gonna take it.”
That they will.
Baton Rouge sportswriter and television host Lee Feinswog has been covering LSU sports since 1984 and is the author of three books, two about LSU football. Find him and watch clips from his show at www.sports225.com.