Remember that LSU team last season that put up 41 points at Georgia, that rolled up an average of 453 yards per game?
You know, the one that had a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard running back for the first time in school history?
Remember that team that allowed 38 points at Alabama, couldn’t hold Ole Miss scoreless late in the game and allowed 44 points to Georgia?
That’s not this team.
This is the LSU squad of old, the one without big-gun quarterback Zach Mettenberger and a pair of NFL-ready receivers, the one that must rely — during ugly offensive growing pains — on a stifling defense.
That’s the one we’ve seen so far this season; scratch that outburst against lower-level Sam Houston State. It’s the crew we saw on this cooler-than-normal Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
This LSU bunch beat Louisiana-Monroe 31-0, using defensive stars while its young offense grows.
This is the smash-mouth, ground-and-pound, defense-led crew that has been a staple of this program since Nick Saban began his championship-building in 2000.
It took last season off. That squad had to beat good teams by outscoring them. It lost games because of defensive lapses.
Its crew of linebackers was heavily criticized. Its secondary had major depth issues, and its two defensive tackles had what many believed were disappointing seasons.
Outside of the stiff performance against Texas A&M, it struggled against solid offenses.
Rumblings during fall camp were that this would be a different defense — a better one, a dominating-like-old LSU.
It showed Saturday.
How solid was this performance? LSU did it with a slew of No. 2s playing much of the time.
Starting linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lamar Louis were held out of the game. Backups Deion Jones and Duke Riley flew around and made plays, and the defensive line got tons of pressure — with a true freshman (Davon Godchaux) getting his first start at tackle.
LSU is so deep in the secondary that it could rotate in young guys like freshman Jamal Adams and sophomore Rickey Jefferson at safety during key moments.
Louisiana-Monroe never hit the 100-yard mark for total offense, and the Warhwaks took more than a quarter to gain a first down.
Sure, this was against a Sun Belt team. The real tests begin next week with a home date against Mississippi State.
Still, through three games, a veteran LSU defense has grabbed the hand of its young, star-studded offense and led it to a victory.
Opponents have failed to score against this LSU defense on 31 straight drives, dating to the middle of the third quarter in the season-opening win over Wisconsin in Houston.
The Tigers offense scored a total of 17 points in the first half of games against the Badgers and Warhawks. They had just 10 points at halftime Saturday, looking like a struggling bunch who couldn’t find their rhythm until midway through the third quarter.
Receivers dropped passes, running room was slim and Anthony Jennings misfired several times and threw his first interception of the season.
Don’t worry. Eventually the offense clicked, but the defense never missed.
No, this ain’t last year’s team.