During the first few weeks of Fall Camp or when LSU has an off week during the season, Les Miles often talks about working “Good vs. Good.” Using that time to fix what is ailing his team instead of scheming against an opponent.
This week with Towson coming to Baton Rouge should be a “Good vs. Good” week at LSU.
An overwhelming majority of eyeballs reading this likely had to seek the assistance of Wikipedia to learn in what state Towson is. (It is Maryland, by the way) Even with an undergraduate enrollment of more than 21,000 and featuring prominent alumni such as Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame; suspended New Orleans Saints interim head coach Joe Vet; the guy who does the voice of “Elmo” on Sesame Street; and actress, model and former WWE vixen Stacy Keibler, Towson’s football profile is lacking.
Two years ago, Towson was struggling through a 1-10 season. In 2011, running back Terrance West carried the Tigers to a 9-3 record and a conference title. Football years had been so lean they might be considered “Curley Hallman-esque” without an FCS playoff appearance before 2011 since moving up from Division II in 1987. Let’s not pretend that LSU will have their hands full with a lower class David looking for the next Goliath. Towson has never defeated an FBS opponent and lost it’s season opener at Kent State, 41-21—the same Kent State team that lost by 33 points at Kentucky a week later.
With a trip to Gainesville a week away, this is a perfect spot for a week of “Good vs. Good” work. And honestly, there is plenty of work left for LSU to do if they plan to make a return trip to the BCS National Championship Game.
As expected, even with the loss of starters Tyrann Mathieu and Tahj Jones, the LSU defense has been nearly flawless, ranking near the top nationally in every major category: Rushing (3rd); Total (4th); Passing (8th); Scoring (8th). The same cannot be said for the LSU offense. Nine penalties and two costly lost fumbles contributed to making a 12-10 win over three-touchdown underdog Auburn too close for comfort. Even with stat-padding games against North Texas and Idaho, LSU still ranks a dismal 98th nationally in passing offense.
Improving all aspects of the passing game would be a great place for LSU to begin against Towson. Last week against Auburn, All-SEC defensive end Corey Lemonier proved just how big of a loss LSU left tackle Chris Faulk would be. Not only did Lemonier beat Josh Dworaczky for two sacks and force a fumble, but Zach Mettenberger was hurried seven more times and Auburn accounted for five tackles-for-loss. Keeping Mettenberger upright and giving him time to throw from the pocket will be a welcomed sight for a struggling passing game.
LSU’s receivers could aid the passing game as well by—wait for it—catching the ball. A novel thought for a receiver, no doubt. Dropped passes are not kept as an official statistic, but several colleagues have charted anywhere from 12 to 16 drops. Adding one dozen receptions to LSU’s passing stats would put LSU at a 79% completion rate and assuming the current average yards per completion would put Mettenberger right at 1,000 yards passing on the season—an average of 250 yards per game. That is the balance the LSU offense is seeking and they should get it with better protection and more sure handed receivers.
A win over Towson will not be a national attention-grabber. But that does not matter. There are enough opportunities left on LSU’s schedule to gain respect and quality wins. Those will only work in LSU’s favor, however, if they improve Good vs. Good.
LSU 38, Towson 7
Matt Moscona is the host of “After Further Review” weekdays from 3-6pm CT on 104.5 ESPN Baton Rouge and 1045espn.com