That’s more like it, freshmen WRs get LSU offense going

Published 9:50 am Sunday, September 19, 2021

BATON ROUGE — Whether LSU football is ready for the rigors of the Southeastern Conference is subject to further review.

But the Tigers no doubt would flourish in the Mid-American Conference.

The MAC’s Central Michigan was no match for the Tigers, who moved the ball at will and for the most part put a defensive clamp on the Chippewas while rolling to a 49-21 victory.

It was easily the Tigers’ most complete game of the season — conveniently coming a week before SEC play begins in Starkville against Mississippi State this Saturday.

“We saw improvement,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said. “This wasn’t about Central Michigan. This was about us, our identity, who we’re going to be and what are the things we’re going to do well. I thought you saw some of them tonight.”

The commitment to the up-tempo offense and all but trashing the “check-with-me’s” that were slowing things down brought immediate results.

Quarterback Max Johnson, given time to throw, wasn’t sacked and took advantage of his young receivers’ coming out party to throw for 372 of the Tigers’ 400 yards passing while tossing five touchdown passes.

“Whether they played base or man, it allowed us to take shots when they were vulnerable,” Johnson said of the newfound up-tempo tactics.

He also liked the lack of looking to the sidelines for further instructions and checkoffs.

“It helped us a lot,” he said. “Last week McNeese would check out of our check.”

“I thought we were in synch,” Orgeron said, “especially in the first and second quarter. I liked (taking) the shots (downfield). I think it opened up their defense a little bit.”

Five Tigers scored their first career touchdowns and five freshmen caught passes to take the pressure off of No. 1 target Kayshon Boutte, who had six catches for 44 yards and score.

But often moving Boutte into the slot opened up things for others.

Freshman Deion Smith led all receivers with five catches for 135 yards and touchdown catches of 28 and 40 yards. Fellow freshman Jack Bech had five for 81 yards and a score and another firstyear receiver, Devonta Lee, had a touchdown catch among his five receptions for 47 yards.

“It was fun to see them do it in Tiger Stadium,” Orgeron said of the freshmen uprising. “I see them do it all the time in practice and they finally got their chance.

“Those guys are going to be great players for us.”

The Tigers defense got into the act with defensive end Andre Anthony’s 33-yard return for a score after cornerback Derek Stingley jarred it loose.

Save for one blatantly blown coverage in the first half that led to a 78-yard CMU touchdown pass, LSU’s defense mostly toyed with the Chippewas (1-2) and sacked quarterback Jacob Simon five times.

“We were very disappointed we gave up that big play,” Orgeron said of the lone reminder of the defensive struggles during the season-opener at UCLA. “It was a missed assignment and we have to fix that and fix it fast.

“But for the most part we played a very good (defensive) game.”

It was basically window dressing on an otherwise dominant night for LSU (2-1).

The Tigers led 21-0 and 42-7 before the Chippewas got two scores in garbage time — one on an interception of Johnson’s final pass, another offensive score in the waning moments against defensive reserves.

LSU had 84 yards rushing, but didn’t really seem to be trying to move on the ground while Johnson was peppering away with his new weapons.

“We were taking what they were giving us,” Orgeron said. “We passed to set up the run.”

Yet another freshman, Corey Kiner, took over the fourth quarter on the ground and finished with 74 yards on 12 carries, capped by a spinning 5-yard touchdown run.

“It’s the beginning,” Orgeron said.