It wasn’t so much a game for LSU as a checklist. A shakedown cruise. The ever-popular glorified scrimmage.
Last Saturday’s 40-27 win over then No. 3-ranked Oregon was a survival test. The kind of game that you’re happy to win anyway you can because the opponent is so talented (the Ducks destroyed Nevada on Saturday 69-20).
The Oregon win was deeply satisfying for No. 2 LSU, but left work to do with Southeastern Conference mountain climbing straight ahead.
The passing game needed a tuneup. The kicking game needed better mileage on kickoffs. And perhaps most importantly, the Tigers needed to shove as many purple-clad bodies onto the field as possible to help conserve energy with a Thursday game at Mississippi State looming.
Consider mission pretty much accomplished on all fronts in LSU’s 49-3 win over the plucky but completely outclassed Northwestern State Demons.
Except for one scary sack, Jarrett Lee looked comfortable going 9 of 10 for 133 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone. Zach Mettenberger, the Mett-siah, finally took the field for the second half (yes, his feet actually touched the ground) as he went 8 of 11 for 92 yards and a touchdown to Kadron Boone. By the time the clock ran out, Lee and most of the rest of the starters were on the sideline in bathrobes ordering off the club seats menu (Alfredo, a tray of Monte Cristos, please).
It may have looked boring, but ask Miss. State if it could have used a little humdrum after the Bulldogs’ 41-34 loss Saturday afternoon at Auburn. That was a bruising, pounding, draining, emotionally deflating gut-punch of a loss after MSU came up inches short of a would-be game-tying touchdown as the clock ran out.
Big plus in the Tigers’ favor there. The only negative is that the Bulldogs will have their backs to the wall, knowing another loss will make them 0-2 in the conference and just about put them out of the SEC West race.
There was just one troubling note, which like so many of LSU’s August issues came out of left field.
Senior linebacker Ryan Baker was suspended for the game, the reason given the vague violating of team rules.
It’s not as though LSU needed him. Despite the ignominy (insert heavy sarcasm notice here) over being the first Tiger team ever to allow the Demons to score on LSU in 11 meetings (the all-time ledger now reads LSU 466, NSU 3), the Tigers throttled Northwestern’s attack. LSU allowed just 95 total yards, including minus-4 yards rushing.
Les Miles said Baker’s suspension was for just the one game, so on first glance nothing as disturbing as the Aug. 19 barfight that turned this program’s offseason on its ear hole.
Assuming Baker is back Thursday, the Tigers know who they’ll be able to depend on when they head to Starkville, Miss.
These Thursday night games can be trap doors. At least the Tigers can feel confident they’ve checked just about all the boxes on their list on such short notice.