Wow. Just......wow. I'm not sure I have words to express how I feel about what I just saw. For 56 minutes, the Dawgs dominated LSU. The last 4 were as nerve wracking as any we've had in years. And then the final Hail Mary.....I didn't think the ball would ever come down. But in the end, THE STREAK IS OVER!!!!! Here's what I saw:
1. We have the best front 7 in the country. They dominated LSU at the LOS. The goal line stand in the 1st quarter was one of the keys turning points of the game. I was rooting for LSU to keep running it, because I was certain they weren't punching it in that way. LSU had what some thought might be the best OL in the nation. We absolutely stoned them all night, holding the Tigers to 89 yards rushing and just 2.5 YPC.
2. I repeat: Preston Smith is a Bad, Bad, Grown Man. 5 total tackles, 2 TFLs, and 1 Sack. SEC DL of the Week for the 4th week in a row?
3. Our secondary needs serious work. Our safeties are solid, and we had a Justin Cox sighting tonight. But it's amazing how much our CBs have regressed since the end of last year. It really makes me wonder what they were doing in the offseason. That said, they made the plays when they needed to. When you gamble and blitz as much as we do, you're going to give up the occasional big play. And one of the last 2 TDs was against the Prevent.
4. Tolando Cleveland is going to be a big time player before he leaves. He was everywhere tonight. Seemed like every time there was a big play, number 31 was somewhere in the vicinity. He's young and will have his struggles, but his talent and athleticism is legit. He finished with 4 total tackles and a 1/2 sack.
5. I'm still waiting on Benardrick McKinney to impose his will and really take over a game. He finished tied for the team lead with 7 tackles, but only 1 solo tackle. That's not a good showing for a potential first round draft pick. We need him to step up and find that mean streak, that swag where he says "I'm making the big plays and there's no one on the field bad enough to stop me."
6. We opened up the defensive playbook tonight. You saw a lot more creativity and multiple different defensive looks. We blitzed. We disguised coverages. We even played guys at different positions than we've seen them so far. Prime example was sliding Preston Smith inside to DT. He destroys the center and sacks Jennings for a huge momentum play.
7. We were smarter in the way we shuffled our subs, although we weren't afraid to sub in whole units at times, either. We have some SERIOUS depth in our front 7 in particular.
8. Tackling was much, much better tonight. We wrapped up and had very few broken tackles. That made a big difference and forced LSU to have to sustain drives as opposed to hitting the big plays. I feel good about our chances in any game when we force teams to sustain drives on our D.
1. Smokey Graham is a huge asset. The kid is a natural returning punts. He did have a couple of freshman mistakes tonight, namely fielding a punt inside the 5 and fair catching a punt he could've returned. But overall, he made good decisions about whether to run or fair catch and caught the ball to keep us from losing field position due to bounces. That's a little thing that becomes huge over the course of a game.
2. Evan Sobiesk: Hats off, kid. You stepped up and nailed 2 FGs and all your XPs in one of the most hostile environments imaginable. That's guts. And considering we only won by 5, all 10 of those points, particularly the 6 from FGs, were crucial.
3. Devon Bell was big. He didn't have the greatest average punting, but he kept LSU pinned and prevented returns all night with great hang time.
4. On the whole, a very solid game from this group. They've rightfully caught a lot of flak, but they got the job done in this game. And tip of the cap to Dan for deciding to boom it out the back on KO all night to prevent LSU from getting a cheap return TD.
1. Unreal. Offense absolutely dominated the game. 570 total yards, 302 rushing, 268 passing. 6.2 YPC. 23 first downs.
2. All questions about our OL can stop now. They absolutely demolished LSU. Look at the rushing numbers above. That screams "domination." And they gave Dak plenty of time to throw. Easily the best game this unit has played. But what I liked most was how physical we were. It seemed like almost every series, particularly in the second half, you would see an LSU player limping off the field. They just mauled LSU at the point of attack.
3. Josh Robinson shall no longer be known as J-Rob in this column. I dub him "J-Beast." 16 carries, 197 yards, 12.3 YPC, 1 TD. And just for good measure, one reception for 4 yards. Feed the Beast. SEC POTW Candidate?
4. Dak Prescott showed what we all believed: He's a big time QB. It isn't just the numbers, which are impressive enough - 15/24, 268 yards, 2 TDs, 63% completion rate. 22 rushes, 105 yards, 4.8 YPC, 1 TD. 373 yards of total offense, 3 total TDs, for those keeping score. What's most impressive is how and when he gets those numbers. Two examples: 1) The D has just stoned LSU on the goal line, and we get the ball at the 2. Dak proceeds to march us 98 yards in 5 plays, capped by J-Beast's TD to extend the lead to 14. Death Valley goes quiet. 2) LSU has just scored a fat guy TD on a Dak fumble to start the 3rd quarter. Lead is down to 7. Camera cuts to the sideline and you see Dak rallying the offense. Dak proceeds to lead a 6 play, 76 yard drive. He caps it with the tremendous 56 yard run for a TD that extends the lead back to 14.
Dak's leadership and will to win separates him from most QBs. When we need it most is when he makes his biggest plays. And he does it in different ways, not just with his legs or his arm. He does it by inspiring the OL or by making the right read and letting J-Beast tote the rock. He just refuses to quit or let his teammates quit. He's still got some stuff to work on, though. He tried to do too much at the end of the half and nearly threw a pick-six. But overall, you couldn't have asked for much more.
5. I said we needed to hit some chunk plays in the middle of the field to be successful offensively against LSU. Mission accomplished. We hit several plays of 20+ yards in the middle of the field.
6. Run the "Darn" Football Update: The Dawgs ran 73 offensive plays and rushed 49 times. That's a 67/33 run/pass ratio. Dak got 22 carries and J-Beast got 16. Mission accomplished.
7. Bear Wilson is a stud. Hard to believe he's only been playing football 3-4 years. He's tremendously improved from a season ago and is still learning how to play the position. His TD catch was just a display of raw strength. DB hanging all over him, clearly committing pass interference with his arms wrapping up Bear's shoulders, and Bear still somehow manages to make a near one-handed catch and get a foot down inbounds. Incredible. Then later he used his size to shield off a DB and make one of the long chunk plays we needed.
8. Tubby Lewis gonna Tubby Lewis. 5 catches, 116 yards, 1 TD. Also had 2 rushes for 7. Just another day at the office for Tubby. Continues to display good enough speed and excellent quickness.
9. Good to see the offense start fast. Drawing first blood early really tamed the crowd.
10. Loved the long TD pass from Dak to Tubby. Broken play, Dak improvises, then finds Tubby wide open. That's the kind of explosive play other teams hit and has been missing from our offense. And in many ways, it was the play that wound up being the dagger for LSU.
1. Overall, a very good game plan by both Mullen and Collins. Like I said in the opening, we dominated 56 minutes of the game.
2. I understand why Mullen put in the 2nd team OL late. You're up 3 scores and dominating the game. Those guys need reps and you want to reward their work in practice by getting PT in a game. But it was almost disaster. When you've got your foot on the throat, STOMP. To his credit, Mullen admitted he made a mistake and said he'll learn from it. I'll be watching.
3. We had 3 false starts that killed drives. Need to clean that up.
4. When is the last time you saw Death Valley that empty before the game was over? Or that quiet for most of a game?
5. We found a way to win a game we would've lost wayyyy too many times in the past. We were playing LSU, you should've known it wouldn't be easy.
5. We won. In Death Valley. At night. And we essentially dominated. Sweetest win in a long, long time. Savor it, peeps. Wins like these haven't happened often for us. But I believe they will happen more frequently.
That's how I saw it. Fire in the hole!!
In Mullen We Trust,