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LSU wide receiver Russell Gage (83) looks at the official after downing the punt on about the 3-yard line leaving Auburn in a hole late in the second half of LSU's football game against Auburn Saturday Oct. 14, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La.. LSU won 27-23. LSU safety Todd Harris Jr. (33) and LSU linebacker Michael Divinity Jr. (45) celebrate the play.

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY BILL FEIG

Welcome to Film Room, our weekly analysis of LSU’s last football game.

Have a seat. No talking. No tweeting. No texting. Pay attention.

(Editor's note: Click the images to enlarge)

How They Happened (big-play analysis)

Safety bite: On second-and-7 early in the first quarter, AU QB Jarrett Stidham hits WR Will Hastings for a 49-yard touchdown reception. 

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  • The key on this play comes from safety Grant Delpit (black circle), who is locked in man-to-man coverage with slot receiver Hastings. It's Hastings' cut to the outside that briefly fools Delpit and makes the play work. As the receiver cuts outside to sell the out route, Delpit takes one critical step that way before Hastings runs by him.
  • CBS color analyst Gary Danielson is critical of LSU's defensive formation on this play. The Tigers rush only three players, he said, and drop eight. How can you drop eight into coverage and leave the middle of the field wide open, he asks (LSU actually rushed four). "Not very good defense. Not smart use of your tools," he said. 
  • We're not exactly sure why other safety Eric Monroe (yellow arrow) wasn't guarding the deep middle of the field. It could be LSU's defensive call or it could have been a miscommunication. 

Screen vs. blitz: On third-and-13, Auburn executes a 52-yard screen pass to WR Ryan Davis to set up a touchdown and a 17-0 lead.

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  • Coach Ed Orgeron seemed pretty perturbed about this play after the game. The Tigers have on a five-man blitz (yellow numbers). That's what really makes this play work. That and the motion man, RB Kerryon Johnson, removing from the play LB Tyler Taylor (black circles). 
  • Davis (red arrow) gets somewhat lost behind another Auburn receiver. He cuts to the inside, catches the pass and barely eludes the only LSU blitzer to recognize the play: senior Christian LaCouture (yellow 3). 
  • I'm no coach and we do not know the defensive call/assignments so putting blame on any specific player would be guesswork, but more blitzers must recognize the play, like LaCouture did. 

F sweep: Russell Gage, on a jet sweep from the F position, runs 70 yards to set up LSU's first touchdown.

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  • This is a jet sweep, yes, but it comes from the F position, and it's almost the exact same play that Gage scored on at Florida last week — even to the same side of the field.
  • The key on this play is Auburn safety Nick Ruffin (yellow arrow). For one, Ruffin does not get "wide enough," Danielson says. Also, he's looking at RB Derrius Guice (yellow circle), fooled on the play-action to the tailback. Meanwhile, Gage (red circle) totes the rock and runs right by him.

Chark attack: On the second play of the fourth quarter, DJ Chark returns a punt 75 yards for a touchdown to pull LSU within 23-21 of Auburn in a game-changing play.

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  • There is not a ton to break down here. Chark gets five key blocks for this return. Each is marked in the photo above with a number. Here's the key:
  1. Greedy Williams
  2. Jacob Phillips
  3. Todd Harris
  4. Jonathan Rucker
  5. JaCoby Stevens

POSITION ANALYSIS

Big Ugly Booms (OL analysis) 

  • The line seems to be improving in pass blocking each week despite starting a different lineup for a fifth game this season. That said, there were still several misses in pass protection. In all, Etling was pressured 8 times in 28 dropbacks. Most of those miscues came at the tackle positions via inexperienced players: freshman LT Saahdiq Charles and redshirt sophomore first-year starter Adrian Magee.
  • There is a more disturbing issue: the inefficient run-blocking between the tackles. That leads to long third downs. LSU faced eight third downs of 8 or more, mostly because of the inability to pound the rock on first and second downs. Here are the numbers in between the tackles (it's more like, between the tight ends; off-tackle plays are included)

Carries: 22

Yards: 59

Average: 2.6

Runs of 5+yards: 5

Runs of 2 or fewer yards: 11

Monday Morning Quarterback (QB analysis)

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  • Danny Etling for a second straight week drew the ire of CBS color analyst Gary Danielson for his struggles in progression reading. To the right, you'll see a play in which Etling has three reads
  1. DJ Chark on a deep post route
  2. Stephen Sullivan on an intermediate out route
  3. RB Derrius Guice in the flats
  • The result of this play is an incompletion to Sullivan, who is double covered and caught in traffic. Etling moves from his first progression (a deep safety out of the picture guards Chark) to Sullivan but he does not shift to Guice, something for which Danielson criticizes him.

"He’s got to know where his other guys are," the color analyst said. "He’s got other guys to drop the ball off to. Coaches are depending on you to say, ‘Go through your progression.’"

  • Below is a video of one of the better throws Etling's made in his career in Baton Rouge. He might tell you it's one of his better passes of his career period. The ball is placed perfectly, with just enough air for WR Russell Gage to leap and make the touchdown grab. Etling does it all off his back foot and with a man in his face. 

  • Remember last week when Etling carried the ball on five designed QB runs for 29 yards? He did that twice on Saturday for 7 yards. Looks like the QB runs will be a design moving forward. OC Matt Canada likes to run them on second and third downs with 5 or fewer yards to go.
  • Lastly, Justin McMillan's one snap: A designed QB run that Orgeron said the QB worked on during practice this week. The play was blown up by an Auburn defender busting through Ed Ingram's hole at right guard. It's below.
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Five Yard Out (WR analysis)

  • It's easy to see what Russell Gage is developing into for LSU: the Tigers' possession receiver (along with that jet sweep man). Check out the two photos below. Auburn gave Gage space on off man coverage throughout the game, and LSU took advantage, completing short passes to the small, shifty wideout. You see first below a slant and then a quick out .
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  • DJ Chark caught a career-high 5 passes and a career-high 150 yards. How? We broke down all five of them.

 Down

 Route

 Gain

 Why it worked

 3rd-10

 In and go

 39 yards

 Chark sold the double move well, cutting in as if he were running a crossing route

 1st-10

 Curl/comeback

 37 yards

 Chark catches a 6-yard pass and races 31 more yards after breaking a tackle

 3rd-11

 Button hook

 14 yards

 Etling fired the ball out quick, and Chark got open vs. zone

 1st-15

 Wheel/go

 31 yards

 Etling hits Chark with a back-shoulder throw that’s tough to defend

 3rd-15

 Go

 29 yards

 Etling threw to Chark’s back shoulder and the DB did not turn around

Front 7 (DL/LB analysis)

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This is LSU's Cheetah package with Arden Key (red circle) aligned in a three-point stance at defensive tackle.

  • Let's start with edge rusher Arden Key. We believe he played his best game since returning five games ago. The proof is in the numbers. We charted him for 6 QB pressures, and he got the first full sack since he returned against Mississippi State - toppling AU QB Jarrett Stidham on the Tigers' final offensive snap. He also had 2-3 strong plays on run support. 
  • DC Dave Aranda shifted Key around more than normal in this one. Early in the game for instance, Key aligned at a defensive tackle position in the Tigers' Cheetah package. Check it out above. This alignment didn't produce great results, and Key only lined up here about 5 times. 
  • Frank Herron played in his first game this season against Auburn. The fifth-year senior DE played in about 15 snaps, often spelling either Christian LaCouture or Rashard Lawrence. NT Ed Alexander spelled Greg Gilmore on about 14 snaps.
  • The Tigers got pressure in this one. We've already mentioned Key's 6 pressures, but there were 5 more: Devin White (2), K'Lavon Chaisson (1), Herron (1) and Corey Thompson (1). 
  • Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson's numbers really speak to LSU's adjustments at halftime against a guy who had 123 in the first two quarters. The Tigers adjusted, locked down and tackled better. Here's Johnson's yards after contact numbers

YAC in first half: 77 (on 21 carries)

YAC in second half: 20 (on 10 carries)

Runs of 3+ YAC in first half: 8

Runs of 3+YAC in second half: 2

Break it up (DB analysis)

  • You can see this group gelling after coaches made the change in moving Donte Jackson inside to nickel and replacing him out wide with Kevin Toliver. It gets what many would say are LSU's best three cornerbacks on the field in Toliver, Jackson and Greedy Williams and leaves on the sideline a true freshman, Kary Vincent, who started the year at nickel.
  • We charted DB targets in this one. Three DBs did not allow a completion against them. In all, the secondary had about 10 PBUs in downfield man coverage
  1. Donte Jackson: 0 for 5 (4 PBUs)
  2. Greedy Williams: 2 for 5 for 8, 25 yards (1 PBU)
  3. Grant Delpit: 2 for 5 for 49, 15 yards (1 PBU)
  4. Eric Monroe: 0 for 3 (1 PBU)
  5. Kevin Toliver: 0 for 3 (2 PBUs)
  • Monroe did not only allow a completion in man/help coverage, but the redshirt freshman made two solid play in run support. He replaced starting safety John Battle, out with what is believed to be a stinger (he could be battling other injuries). Battle was in good enough shape to dress out and for Orgeron to tell CBS' sideline reporter before the game that he'd play. He never got into the game, though.

The DBs had a hand in Auburn's failed third downs in the second half. Here's a breakdown of each

Auburn failed third downs in second half

 Down

 Result

 Why it didn’t work

 3rd-17

 Incomplete pass

 WR Will Hastings dropped the pass

 3rd-4

 Stidham -1 sack

 Stidham can’t find anyone open, pulls it down to run and Devin White corrals him

 3rd-5

 Incomplete pass

 Stidham throws just barely out of the reach of his WR, covered by Toliver

 3rd-1

 Kerryon Johnson no gain

 LB Donnie Alexander sticks Johnson at the line of scrimmage

 3rd-10

 Incomplete pass

 Auburn WR dropped it

 3rd-10

 Incomplete pass

 Donte Jackson PBU

Photos courtesy of CBS.


Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.