Different view, but LSU checked all the boxes in Nashville

Just a quick house-keeping chore here to confess that, for only the third time in my 400 years on the beat, this essay is based on what I learned about an LSU game from watching it on the TV set.

Vanderbilt, I guess it was, a victory that LSU absolutely had to have to ward off full-scale anarchy amongst the fan base.

Different angle on the TV, it turns out, especially if the post-hurricane reception is “streaming” — more  often “buffering” —  from something called a “hot spot,” which in this den made it touch and go whether the …

… game ….

… would ….

… end …

… before …

… Mon …

… day …

But in between cursing profusely at that spinning do-hickey that lets you know you’re missing something and that you’re going to have to wait a minute of so to find out how a play ended, there was some acute analysis not available from the cocoon of your finer press boxes.

It was a different perspective, mostly some keen insight about famous LSU alum Joanne Woodard, who I already knew won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1958 (not 1957 as originally reported by the SEC Network) and was married to Paul Newman until his death they did part.

I did not know that she was the oldest living Academy Award winner, but apparently Wikipedia was available in the broadcast booth.

This was important to the LSU-Vanderbilt game because …

… well …

… wait for it …

… still spinning …

… the revelation that she graduated  from the same high school in Marietta, Ga., as LSU freshman tight end Arik Gilbert.  

For that matter, my buddies confined to a socially distanced press box, besides missing me immensely,  probably did not learn that Nashville’s Grand Old Opry is overrated and that Ryman Auditorium is the place to go for your country music fix.

Here’s what I can tell you about it.

All these trivial nuggets — broadcast “banter,” they call it in the business —meant that LSU’s trip to Nashville was a roaring success even if the Tigers skipped the both Opry and Ryman and never heard of Joanne Woodard.

If the telecast crew was reduced to wondering who Ms. Woodard might have dated at LSU in the 1950s, it meant that the 2020 LSU football team was leaving very little drama and no suspense in its game with Vanderbilt.

It reduced the broadcast booth to trivial pursuit, but  that was exactly what the Tigers needed to follow up last week’s  dud against Mississippi State.

It was, however, still Vanderbilt, so in the end we probably learned more about who Woodard is than who the Tigers might eventually be.

But LSU did as much in the bounce-back victory as you can possibly do in one night. The coming weeks will tell if translates into the meat of the SEC schedule.

They brought with them a laundry list of sins to clean up from the season opener, and seemingly spent the entire night checking off boxes on the to-do list.

Granted, that task became considerably more efficient when, early on, it was obvious that the outmanned Commodores were not going to do much more than annoy the Tigers.

I would point out that a week earlier Vandy held tough with Texas A&M in a 17-12 loss.

But I could also point out that as recently as Saturday night, running concurrent with the Tigers’ rout, Arkansas was beating Mississippi State, shutting down Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, for the Razorbacks’ first SEC win after 20 straight losses.

Still, LSU couldn’t have done much more with the team they had to play.

They had a rebuttal to the mountain of questions and criticisms over the last week.

Quarterback Myles Brennan was 23 of 37 for 337 yards, not markedly different from a week ago but this time the performance and the body language matched the numbers.

He looked more comfortable and mostly far more decisive in really taking command and leading the offense. There were still some drops but they seemed to get them out of the way early. It was a possible breakout game from Javonte Kirlin, who like Brennan waited a long time for his turn.

Head coach Ed Orgeron said he wanted to establish the running game, and there it was —  161 yards worth, 103 by John Emery, although I doubt Orgeron is ready to dissolve the committee back there.

Not to worry, though, as it opened up the passing game enough that the Tigers’ offense isn’t going back to the stone age again.

The same offensive line gave up seven sacks last week kept Brennan clean without one Saturday.

Defensively, while I’m not sure cornerback Derek Stingley makes the secondary 510 yards better, but that was the difference — 623-113 —  when he returned after missing the Mississippi State meltdown.

There was also evidence of a halftime adjustments, even if they weren’t really needed with a comfortable 21-7 lead at the break.

But Vandy made some noise, especially with its running game in the first half.

It was just some mild tinkering by defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, apparently, but after getting 203 yards in the first half, the Commodores managed only 63 in the second.

Yes, it was Vanderbilt.

So you might tap the brakes on Orgeron’s postgame declaration that “Tonight was LSU football. We played like LSU Tigers.”

Further, tougher tests may be needed.

… But …

… it …

… was …

… a …

… start.


 Jontre Kirklin runs for a touchdown during the first half of a game between LSU and Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020.

Gus Stark



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