On the first play from scrimmage Saturday night, Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey dropped back and looked to his right sideline where he was supposed to hit his receiver on a simple curl route.
It was supposed to be a quick, easy play for a short gain. And it would’ve been — if it weren’t for Andraez Williams.
Williams saw the ball going to his man and jumped the route for an interception at around the 30-yard line, his third in four games for the freshman. He almost scored the first touchdown of his career, too, except Dungey lunged at him just before the goal line to salvage the play.
Guice punched it in from 1 yard out on the next play to give LSU a 7-0 lead.
And while Guice was credited with the score, Williams — better known as “Greedy” — was the one who did all the real work.
That was the unquestionable high point for the LSU defense Saturday night.
The rest of the night was a different story.
The Tigers defense had an up and down night, none more so than its initial hero.
While Williams gave LSU the spark it needed to take the early lead, he was also beat on potentially the most crucial defensive lapse of the evening.
With 5:39 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Williams was beat on a deep pass from Dungey to Steve Ishmael that put the Orange within two points of handing LSU its first nonconference, home loss in 48 games.
"The first-half defense, that was LSU defense," said linebacker Devin White. "We came in fired up, ready to win. The second half, I don't know what happened, but we started to lose it. That's something we need to eliminate going forward."
Fortunately for LSU — especially Williams — the Tigers extended the lead with a touchdown on the next drive and then a defensive stop the next series to stop any chance at a miracle comeback.
But while it was certainly the most significant defensive breakdown of the game, it was far from the ugliest.
The worst play of the game was Syracuse’s first touchdown when Dungey handed the ball off to Devin Butler, who pulled up, avoided a charging Rashard Lawrence and found receiver Ervin Phillips open in the end zone thanks to LSU nickel back Kary Vincent biting on the fake run.
"Busts," said coach Ed Orgeron of the inconsistencies on defense. "We had a man-to-man coverage and we let our man go. Sometimes we missed some tackles and missed some assignments. Nothing we can't fix."
LSU needed a strong performance from its defense this weekend after a poor showing against Mississippi State last weekend in which the Tigers allowed 465 yards in one of the worst losses in recent memory.
It got some strong performances in some spots, such as Lawrence and his five tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss.
Lawrence was questionable to contribute anything this week after not playing since the season opener two weeks ago, but coach Ed Orgeron decided the sophomore defensive end could play Thursday.
Lawrence played through an ankle injury Saturday night but said it didn't hold him back. He left the game with about eight minutes left to play.
Freshman linebacker Tyler Taylor also recorded the first sack of his career Saturday, and LSU as a whole brought down the Orange eight times behind the line.
The Tigers also brought back linebacker Donnie Alexander after he was suspended for the first half of Saturday night due to a targeting call against the Bulldogs.
But the Tigers also allowed 384 yards of total offense to a team believed to be far beneath them heading into the game.
"Any time you get beat like that, you want to come out and respond," Lawrence said of rebounding from Mississippi State. "We did that. We wanted to defend Death Valley. It's not always going to be pretty. We know that. We wanted to fight and scratch and claw and we came out on top."