We’re getting an early jump this week on our “Five questions, five answers” post previewing Saturday’s opponent — LSU.
Our guest this week is David Helman, who writes for ESPN’s LSU site, GeauxTigerNation.com.
So here we go with my questions and Helman’s answer:
Q: What was the general assessment of LSU’s opener against North Texas? Positive, negative, neutral?
A: All in all, pretty neutral. LSU came out and handled business against an overmatched opponent in a 41-14 win. But fans didn’t get the passing showcase they were hoping for after last season’s quarterback struggles, so there hasn’t been much excitement about the game. The Tigers did what they were supposed to — nothing more, nothing less.
Q: It sounded like LSU was rather conservative in much of what it did. Do you agree?
A: Absolutely. The Tigers leaned on the running game to the tune of 46 carries, and they didn’t show much desire to go for any kill shots. When they did throw the ball, it was predominantly into the flat on bubble screens, swing passes and hitch routes. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger only connected on three passes of longer than 20 yards, and LSU only brought four wide receivers onto the field on one occasion.
Defensively, the looks were predominantly a 4-3 base package, with very few of the nickel and dime blitz packages that defensive coordinator John Chavis has shown so much affinity for in the past.
Q: What was your assessment of how QB Zach Mettenberger played?
A: Compared to the 600-yard firework show fans were hoping for, it wasn’t much. But realistically, he completed 65 percent of his passes for roughly 200 yards and a touchdown, which is about all he’ll need to do to compliment the Tigers’ loaded ground game.
It wasn’t perfect, though. He threw a red zone interception and took two costly sacks, including one that knocked him out of the game for 10 minutes with a shoulder bruise. And he’ll certainly have to complete more downfield passes when the level of competition picks up. But for his first FBS start, it was a respectable showing.
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge LSU poses for UW?
A: The run game. It’s common knowledge that the Huskies allowed nearly 500 rushing yards to Baylor in that arcade game of a bowl loss last winter. Allowing 199 yards on the ground to San Diego State last weekend doesn’t bode well for their visit to Baton Rouge.
The Tigers boast 110 combined starts between their returning offensive linemen, all of whom helped pave the way for a rushing attack that averaged 202 yards per game in 2011.
On top of that, LSU returns all four of its talented backs from last year and has added a highly-touted freshman in Jeremy Hill. If the 316 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns against North Texas are any indication, the Huskies could be in for a long night of ground and pound.
Q: And what do you think is the biggest challenge UW poses for LSU?
A: Keith Price. Not many teams had success throwing the ball against LSU in 2011, but Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron showed in the BCS Championship Game that it’s possible to beat the Tigers if given enough time.
LSU’s vaunted pass rush failed to register a sack against North Texas, which is slightly concerning. If the Tigers can’t get to Price, or if Price can use his mobility to evade tacklers, he could cause some problems.
LSU is still breaking in two freshman corners to replace dismissed All-American Tyrann Mathieu, and Price may be able to take advantage of that — provided he can stay on his feet.
North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson only completed 8-of-21 passes for 143 yards Saturday night, but one of those was an 80-yard touchdown strike — a longer completion than the Tigers gave up in 14 games last year.