Operation Fire Pelini may now proceed.
Well, 5-5. Yes, it’s pretty bad, but all the credit to the LSU Tigers for gutting out two wins to end the year, displaying heart and effort. Yes the defense was once again awful due to Bo Pelini’s failure to install more complex man match and zone coverages, but whatever, that is (God willingly) over. Saturday was about avoiding the stain of a losing season, and seeing some future pieces succeed. Both missions were successful, and LSU enters the offseason with some positive momentum, which seemed impossible a mere week and a half ago.
It started pretty rough, with a disjointed LSU three and out, and a six-play carving by Ole Miss for an early 7-0 lead after—you guessed it—an LSU busted coverage that put Ole Miss in the red zone. LSU then drove a little bit but punted again and things started to look dicey.
Thankfully, LSU was able to force a three and out of its own deep in Ole Miss territory. LSU got the ball at the Ole Miss 31 but failed to do much again and settled for a field goal. Then, Matt Corral missed badly on a horrific throw to the sideline that Jay Ward housed for a pick 6. Suddenly, it was 10-7 Tigers. The pass rush continued to do work and forced a quick three and out. LSU though had to punt it back after a feeble offensive possession.
Ole Miss got into LSU territory, but Matt Corral threw another pick on fourth down, this one to Todd Harris. LSU marched down and put it in the end zone on a QB sneak to make it 17-7. On the ensuing kickoff, Jerrion Ealy turned on the jets and took it to the house. In a flash, it was a three-point game. LSU drove a bit, but had to punt it back to Matt Corral…….who threw yet another pick. This one was a near tuck rule deal though, and essentially was a fumble, but counted as an interception for Ali Gaye. LSU answered with the first of Kayshon Boutte’s three touchdowns to go up 24-14. Ole Miss then took to the ground, and ran down LSU’s throat for a TD, 24-21. LSU answered right back though, with a nice drive culminating in Kayshon Boutte’s second score. With time running out in the half, Matt Corral proceeded to throw another interception (I did hint his wheels could come off, despite his talent), and this one was a doozy. See for yourselves, you really have to get a look at this one:
God bless that man. Bo Wallace’s first worthy successor.
LSU kicked a field goal and went into the half up 34-21. The second half started with, to all of our great shock, a Matt Corral interception, his fifth (not even his highest single game total on the year!), on a heave into coverage on third down. LSU answered with a field goal to go up 37-21. Ole Miss went to the ground again and found the end zone, failing on a two-point attempt, 37-27.
LSU quickly punted, and gave Ole Miss a chance to really crawl back in it. They ran it right down the field again, cashing in for 7 on a short touchdown pass from Corral to make it 37-34. LSU answered by driving a bit and having rightful Groza winner Cade York crush a 50 yarder (from where and beyond he kicks safely above the NFL average by the way). Ole Miss answered with a TD on a great possession through the air by Matt Corral to take the lead at 41-40. LSU drove down, but Max Johnson threw a rather inopportune pick in the end zone on a ball he forced to Kayshon Boutte, who had already entered sicko mode for the afternoon.
Ole Miss followed with a touchdown to go up 48-40 and make things really dicey. At a gut check juncture, LSU marched down the field and scored a touchdown, but missed the two-point attempt to keep it 48-46. The defense, having been shredded all day (despite the bizarre INT volume), picked the right time to hold fast, forcing three and out where Ole Miss lost 12 yards. LSU scored quickly on a 48-yard catch and run by the grim reaper himself Kayshon Boutte, who ended with 14 catches, 308 yards, and 3 touchdowns in a performance that shattered Josh Reed’s legendary game against Alabama. Ole Miss had the ball with time though, and began to drive. Then, Ali Gaye (he of the 91.9 PFF pass rush grade this Saturday) forced his second turnover of the game, this time a fumble by Corral, TIGERS WIN.
This one is actually gonna be pretty tough to do because the camera angle was even worse than most broadcasts. It was a bit more zoomed in as it often is at Tiger Stadium, and without All 22, it was hard to parse a lot about coverages, pass concepts, and what the coordinators were seeing and doing in those regards. As a result, I can’t, for instance, tell you specifically what prompted Steve Ensminger to start putting Kayshon Boutte digs on the backsides of almost every damn concept he called (hey, whatever he saw, he saw correctly), but I was able to ascertain a few things.
The story of LSU’s defense this year has been its incessant assignment busts whenever they play man match (man to man based on post snap coverage reads instead of exclusively simple, straight man assignments) and zone coverages, along with their subsequent, dear payment for only being able to play straight man to man on a regular basis.
Normally, they pay in the form of getting beat by certain pass concepts and looks like mesh and four verts against Leach and Mississippi State; slot fades against Florida; speed outs, slice routes, and bunch sets against Auburn; and basically everything against Alabama.
They were hurt in the passing game Saturday (when Corral wasn’t throwing crazy ass interceptions), but the big issue came with his scrambles. Straight man to man against athletic quarterbacks is dangerous, because nobody has their eyes in the backfield like zone. As you can see here, everyone underneath is occupied either by the rush or a man coverage assignment. Routes cleared Stevens and Baskerville right out of position here, and Corral took advantage. Honestly, I’m being kind by only including one gif of it, I could have had 10. Corral rushed for 158 yards, mostly on plays exactly like this.
Steve Ensminger called a terrific game against this awful Ole Miss defense. Here, LSU brings back Giant, Joe Burrow’s favorite play from a year ago.
When Brennan went down, for the sake of simplicity, LSU pared this down to a simple yankee concept, with just the post from the X-receiver and the deep over from across the field underneath, removing the backside dig and leaving the back and tight end in to protect. It was really cool to see LSU, against this terrible pass rush, empty out the protections again and open things up, giving Max Johnson a bit more trust. It’s kept simple here by Ole Miss, as the safety #5 stays deep on Boutte’s vertical, leaving the over open underneath. I can’t tell much what they’re doing coverage wise here since it gets so badly cut off by the camera. #All22ForBroadcasts.
Here’s a cool variant to attack the man coverage they’re playing. I think they’re playing Cover 1 robber but honestly it’s hard to tell because, again, no All-22. Anyway, in place of the deep over is a blaze out-esque route from the same side as the vert by Trey Palmer who really puts his foot in the ground and gets separation. Palmer had several moments that showed his sky high potential, he’s one to watch next year. Great scheme, great route, solid throw. Also gotta love the passing, particularly play action, on early downs this Saturday. Hats off to Ensminger.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the stylings of one Kayshon Boutte, particularly on this dig routes he kept catching balls on. I wish I could tell you why Ole Miss thought they could cover Boutte in man to man situations, but boy were they apocalyptically wrong. Ensminger just started attaching these digs to the back of every concept and Max Johnson just dropped back into clean pockets (best game of the year by the boys up front in protection) and threw to Boutte like those other Tigers passed to the Italians. (Look it up, then watch it).
As you can see, he is incredibly difficult to catch in space and turns 15 yarders into 50 yarders routinely a la Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith in the RPO/quick game heavy offenses Alabama ran with Tua. Watch how he generates separation, leans into his guy on his route stem, forcing him to respect anything vertical and to the outside, and just puts his foot into the ground and breaks inward. It’s fantastic route running technique paired with demonic athleticism. He’s got next, and he’s already done something none of the myriad LSU greats have done: eclipse 300 in a game.