Before the first snap, Matt Canada had the crowd gasping.
On LSU’s first play from scrimmage, the first-year offensive coordinator shifted four offensive linemen, debuting his patented pre-snap movement. KJ Malone, lined up at right tackle, moved to left tackle. Garrett Brumfield moved from right guard to left guard. Toby Weathersby and Saahdiq Charles, originally on the left side of the line, replaced Malone and Brumfield on the right side.
The rumbling from LSU fans bounded around the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“It was a play. It was a whole play. It was part of the whole deal,” quarterback Danny Etling said. “I’m not going to tell you if I could’ve snapped the ball before or if I could’ve snapped it after, who could’ve got the ball. Everything is kind of hidden with our offense right now, and we’d like to keep it that way.”
No, players and coach Ed Orgeron say, you did not see the complete Canada offense during the Tigers’ 27-0 season-opening win over BYU on Saturday night in New Orleans. Part of it — a big part — remains shrouded in secrecy.
There were no throws to offensive linemen, for instance, or a single shovel pass. Admittedly, 13th-ranked LSU (1-0) was vanilla, running the ball a whopping 57 times in a stat reminiscent to years past at this school. LSU passed the ball just seven times on its first 31 first-down attempts.
Don’t worry, Orgeron quipped afterward.
“All the first down passes, intermediate passes … there’s a lot of stuff we didn’t have to run, but had it in his call sheet. He gave me his call sheet. About like that,” Orgeron said, gesturing with his hands as if he were holding an object that ran from his head to his chest. “Might have used 10 percent of it.”
There’s so much more to come, they say. How much exactly?
“I couldn’t even tell you,” center Will Clapp said. “His play sheet is ridiculous.”
LSU ran the ball on 76 percent of its plays, giving 48 times to a running back, six times to receivers and once to an H-back, John David Moore. The promises to open up an offense that for years has leaned on the run didn’t necessarily materialize, but that doesn’t mean it won’t at some point.
So much has changed for LSU football in the past few months.
Coaches and players say BYU was “daring” the Tigers to run the ball, playing what Etling called a “soft” defense. So, they ran the ball, calling basic rushing plays out of new fancy formations with those crazy pre-snap shifts.
The truth, maybe, about LSU’s more vanilla attack: The Tigers didn’t want to show all of its tricks when it didn’t have to.
“There is a little bit more,” Etling smiled when asked the offense. “We found what plays we liked and found what plays worked and stuck with those. (We’ll) probably change it up again next week. It’s whatever the defense is going to give us and whatever we think is the best way to attack them. Tonight, we were able to run the ball however we wanted to, and we kept putting it down their throats.”
They were efficient, specifically Etling, the fifth-year senior playing pain free for the first time months.
His mended lower back “felt great,” he said, and it showed. His 82 percent completion rate (14 of 17) was the best by an LSU starting quarterback since Zach Mettenberger in 2013.
The derisive cheer for when LSU crossed the Mercedes-Benz Superdome’s 50-yard line never mat…
“I felt as good as I’ve felt in a game,” Etling said. “(I was) sitting out there in warmups and feeling really good and I was like, ‘I haven’t felt this good in a game in a long time.’ ”
He was behind what Orgeron called the “difference” in the game: two third-down conversions, through the air, that eventually led to the team’s first touchdown. Receiver Derrick Dillon made his first two career catches on those grabs, 10- and 11-yard receptions from Etling on a pair of third-and-8s.
Orgeron described Canada’s play-calling as “fantastic.”
“He was on fire tonight. That’s what I’ve seen (at practice),” the coach said. “There are some days … you saw how good our defense was tonight. There are days we cannot stop them (at practice). I know he has some more things he wants to get better at.
“He calls those games, on that headset and is enthusiastic, very knowledgeable. A-plus.”
There’s much more in the tank, too, they all say — more first-down passes, more snazzy formations and pre-snap motions. But Canada’s offensive foundation is like many offenses, he said this spring. It’s built on two age-old rushing plays: zone and power.
BYU got its full Satuday night.
“Coach Canada is a run-heavy guy,” Clapp said. “That’s his thing.”
By now you probably know the story....