LSU taps brakes on offense for “most complete game”

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BATON ROUGE — LSU finally found something that could slow down its new-found, high-octane offense.

All the Tigers had to do was look in the mirror.

And follow the game plan.

It wasn’t quite the jaw-dropping, rat-a-tat-tat style of previous games and even head coach Ed Orgeron admitted “It wasn’t as fun.”

“But it worked,” he added with the  Cajun grin of a coach who’d checked off all the boxes of a plan that sends the No. 5 Tigers’ into the meat of their SEC schedule with a 5-0 record.

He even called the 42-6 victory over Utah State “our most complete game.”

Missing were some of the quick-strike touchdowns and the big-gulp approach to offense.

But Joe Burrow still accounted for all six LSU touchdowns — five by air, one on a quarterback sneak — and the Tigers rang up 601 yards of offense.

At times, they just seemed to take their sweet time doing it, with only one scoring drive cracking in under the two-minute mark that fans — a bit  groggy on this day anyway due to the 11 a.m. start — had been accustomed to.

“Things have changed around here when you are not happy with this performance,” said Burrow, who threw for 344 yards.

“I care about the scoreboard at the end of the game, a 42-6 win with 600 yards of total offense. Last year we would have been very happy with that. But this is a new team and a new offense.”

Mostly, though, it was shades of the old Tiger defense, which had come under suspicion in recent weeks while living in the shadow of the glitzy offense.

“If our defense is going to play like that we can do anything we want to do,” Orgeron said. “Yes, there will be some games where we have to use that type of clock management.”

For that matter, the running game had been playing second-fiddle to the passsing game.

Not Saturday, not with 258 yards rushing, 72 by Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

“We ran the football like we wanted to run it,” Orgeron said. “We controlled the clock and kept the ball away from their offense. Our defensive tackled well in space. I thought we played lights out on defense and holding those guys without a touchdown was phenomenal.”

Utah State was no slouch offensively, coming in averaging 39 points itself.

But, properly challenged, the Tigers held the Aggies out of the end zone and to just  19 yards rushing and 159 yards total. Utah State converted only 1 of 17 third-downs and the Tigers got three interceptions.

“You name it, we couldn’t do it,” Utah State coach Gary Anderson said. “Couldn’t run it, couldn’t throw it … LSU is a very good football team.

“I have to give credit to our defensive coaches,” Orgeron said. “It was like going to the dentist going to work every day. We knew we had to get after it and get better. It was high intensity all day.”

The increased focus on the running game, Burrow said, is what happens when teams wants to drop eight defenders into coverage, which evidently was the Aggies’ plan.

“It opens up the running game,” he said.

Four different Tigers caught touchdowns, two by Justin Jefferson and one apiece by Derrick Dillon, Ja’Marr Chase and Thaddeus Moss.

“I left some throws out on the field. Turned the ball over way too many times and too many balls on the ground,” Burrow said of the offense, which gave up a deflected interception and lost one fumble. “But I mean we had 600 yards of offense; that tells us where we can go.”

“We can be as good as we want to be. The only team that can slow us down is us.”

That actually was kind of the plan to counter Utah State’s uber fast tempo on offense and may have contributed to the Tigers’ season-low point total.

“We were able to stay on the field longer which allowed our defense to rest and be just that much better when they hit the field,” Chase said. “Everybody just has to continue to do their jobs and be perfect out on the field. That is what it is going to take for us to win football games throughout the rest of this season.”

It did its job in frustrating the Aggies, who ran only 53 plays while the Tigers were relatively grinding away with 90. Utah State was averaging 82 plays per game coming in.

“We just told our offense to keep on chopping wood,” Orgeron said. “We are so used to having fun going down the field and scoring and everybody is happy.

“But this game was methodical. We were chewing up clock, the defense was resting, so it worked.”

“It really didn’t matter if (USU) was going fast or not,” said LSU linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, who was back after missing the last three games. “If you get three and outs that means you get off the field. That’s all that really matters. That’s the goal of the defense regardless of whether or not your offense scores points for you or not.”

It the Tigers’ final non-conference game of the season, setting the stage for seven straight SEC games.

“As long as we don’t turn the ball over in SEC play, we will be fine,” Burrow said. “I feel like I should play perfect every time.”

LSU 42, Utah State 6

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