LSU cruises to win vs. Western Kentucky; 4 big takeaways from Tiger Stadium _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs for the first down after taking the handoff during the first half Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, in Tiger Stadium.

Welcome to Film Room, our weekly analysis of LSU’s last football game. Have a seat. No talking. No tweeting. No texting. Pay attention.

(click photos to enlarge)

How They Happened (big-play analysis)

On the side: After scoring a touchdown to crawl within 34-20 of LSU with 13:04 left in the game, Western Kentucky executes a perfect onside kick, recovering near midfield.

  • Coach Les Miles was not happy about this after the game, mentioning it several times during his postgame news conference. LSU appears to be in its regular kickoff return formation. You can see the guys on the front row below: LB Devin Voorhies, CB Ed Paris and WRs Kevin Spears, John Diarse and Trey Quinn.
  • The shot above is about 1 second after WKU kickoff man Ryan Nuss kicks the ball (yellow circle). It’s just a nudge, meant to go past the 10-yard minimum. It goes 11 yards, ending up where the red “X” is marked. Nuss (white square) recovers the kick.
  • Spears (white circle) has the best opportunity to fall on the ball, but a replay shows two things: One, he seems to slip while leaping for the ball, and, two, he takes a step away from the ball at the time of the kick, thinking Nuss was going deep. Paris did the same thing. That step is all it took.
  • This play is the epitome of Harris’ career-high, 286-yard passing night. When Harris moved around in and out of the pocket, he had success. Harris was 5-for-5 for 167 yards and a touchdown Saturday on throws after scrambles or on designed rollouts like this one below. This is a designed rollout for the quarterback, and LSU executes it to perfection.
  • This gives us another example of The Leonard Fournette Effect. Harris’ play-action to Fournette in the backfield causes WKU cornerback Prince Charles Iworah (red circle) to take a step toward Fournette, allowing Dural (black square) to get open. WKU is so focused on the Heisman Trophy frontrunner, and LSU’s rushing attack. The Hilltoppers have nine men in the box on this play.
  • Harris has just two receiving options on this play: Dural and TE Colin Jeter (black circle). Both are available for Harris as he makes his rollout (yellow arrow).
  • Bear with us on this one. We’re not exactly sure if one person is completely at fault. John Battle (black circle) is the safety on the top side of the field. He moves from the bottom of your screen to the top when WKU WR Nicholas Norris moves in motion in that direction. Battle is focused on Norris (black line), but he’s in no position to cover Norris. Despite that, Battle races all the way up to cover Norris, leaving the deep field uncovered for Grant (red square) to get wide open.
  • There’s something else that happens here, too. CB Ed Paris and S Rickey Jefferson (yellow circles) converge on the coverage of one guy, WR Taywan Taylor, who slips out of the backfield. That probably isn’t supposed to happen. Two guys one one WR. There’s a good chance that Jefferson is at fault on this entire play. Why? Because he doesn’t play another down after this play. Jefferson probably was supposed to pick up on the man in the flat running out of the backfield or take Grant.
  • LSU is in its Dime on this play. Jamal Adams (red circle) is the dimeback and takes the tight end. Kendell Beckwith (orange) circle) crashed into the backfield and nudges the motion man.
  • Will Clapp, once again, played really well, and LSU continues to run behind him – either pulling him out wide or running at the C-RG-RT. Clapp had five Booms in the game. Remember, a Boom is a key block that springs a successful running play. He did not have a Blip, a missed block that results in a negative rushing play or prevents a rushing play from being more successful.
  • LSU didn’t waste time in running behind Clapp. On the Tigers’ first play of the game, RB Leonard Fournette ran to Clapp’s side. The big man (red circle) pushes his defender well out of the play.
  • LSU seems to have a good problem: the Tigers have six offensive lineman they feel good about. Freshman Toby Weathersby played in three second-half drives – a total of about 15 plays. Weathersby replaced Will Clapp at RG, and Clapp moved to LG for Maea Teuhema, who sat out those three drives. Is Weathersby and Teuhema – both rookies – battling for a starting gig? Sure seems like it. Weathersby, by the way, picked up one Boom during his playing time. Teuhema finished with one Boom as well.
  • Entering the game against WKU, Fournette got 504 of his 1,202 yards outside of left tackle, according to an ESPN graphic. The Tigers love to pull the backside guard (Clapp) to the left, leading for Fournette around LT Jerald Hawkins.
  • ESPN showed another graphic late in the game, just before Fournette’s final carry. This show that LSU really exploited the middle of WKU’s defense. Who plays there? RG Clapp, LG Teuhema and C Ethan Pocic.
  • Speaking of Pocic … he picked up a personal foul early in the game for this (I’m sure the coaches will have a nice talk with him):
  • Brandon Harris had nine incompletions. Three were misfires on his part meant for Leonard Fournette, TE Colin Jeter and Travin Dural. Three were drops: Malachi Dupre, Dural and RB Derrius Guice.
  • Harris’ accuracy on intermediate to long passes continues to be a key to his success. Take for instance, the 55-yard touchdown pass to Dupre on a post route (red line). The ball (yellow circle) is released just as Dupre makes his cut toward the center of the field. Dupre doesn’t have to break his stride. It’s a perfect throw.
  • So here’s what Harris did poorly: Throw into triple coverage. If the below passes isn’t thrown perfectly accurate (it is), this probably gets intercepted. This show A) Harris’ accuracy and B) a bad decision.
  • Harris’ accuracy on the intermediate and long passes, as mentioned above, has been really good. The bad: the accuracy on the short ones. His misses to Jeter and Fournette were 3-5-yard passes.
  • Leonard Fournette broke 14 tackles. He now has broken 60 tackles in the last six games (we haven’t charted his broken tackles in the season opener against Mississippi State). He has 148 carries in those last six games. That’s about one broken tackle every two carries.
  • It’s been pretty well-documented that Fournette is taking some after-the-whistle abuse from defenders. He said he was poked in the eye against Florida, for example. And teams have driven him well after the whistle has blown. Western Kentucky DB Branden Leston drives his shoulder into Fournette out of bounds. He’s called for a personal foul.
  • ESPN play by play man Allan Bestwick said that Fournette “makes his own call on when to take a breather.” Remember, TV crews spend time with the coaching staff leading up to the game. Just an interesting note.
  • Now, to bad news: LSU really misses fullback JD Moore. Freshman Bry’Kiethon Mouton is making some rookie mistakes, and, boy, he really heard about them from Fournette. The two even glance up at the replay on the Tiger Stadium jumbotron after one play.
  • Fournette and Mouton were responsible for the only pass protection breakdown of the game for LSU. Harris was sacked on this play.
  • We charted Mouton for five Blips, including that pass pro mistake. He had two Booms.
  • LSU coaches were well aware of Mouton’s struggles. The Tigers ran about half of their plays in the second half without a fullback (16 of 31). In the first half, they ran about seven of 32 plays without a fullback. The reasoning behind this halftime adjustment might not solely have been Mouton. Western Kentucky was loading the box (photo below), and OC Cam Cameron did something about it, spreading out the Hilltoppers. LSU aligned in shotgun on the first five plays of the second half.
  • As we mentioned above, Dural and Dupre each dropped a pass. Neither were easy catches, and some wouldn’t have called the passes dropped.
  • Other than the drops, I don’t have much more written down about the receivers. Dural obviously had a big day with five catches for 132 yards. He turned a 15-yard reception into a 67-yard catch to set up LSU’s second touchdown in the first half.
  • The Tigers continue to use Tryon Johnson as a No. 3 receiver on passing downs. What they aren’t doing? Throwing to Trey Quinn and John Diarse. I’m not even sure that Quinn or Diarse was targeted one time in this game. We’ll keep watching that moving forward. Diarse and Quinn have combined for zero catches in the last four games. They continue to serves as the Tigers’ run-blocking receivers.
  • Deion Jones continues to excel in his dynamic role. He covers receivers, tackles running backs and pressures quarterbacks. He might be LSU’s most vital defender. It’s a reason for this: He played every single snap (at least that’s what we charted). MLB Kendell Beckwith was replaced by Donnie Alexander for at least one series in the fourth quarter – Beckwith’s only spell of the game. DE Lewis Neal also, like Jones, played every single snap of the game. Beckwith, Jones and Neal played every single snap of the win over Florida. They are the most used front seven players.
  • Against a pass-happy team like Western Kentucky, LSU showed a few looks we haven’t seen much this season (looks that we’ll likely see again when the Tigers meet Texas A&M and/or Ole Miss, both teams that run the pass-crazed spread). The looks came out of the Tigers’ six-defensive back Dime defense (or the old Mustang). The big difference with these sets: LSU has just two down linemen.
  • In this first shot, LSU rushes five. The two down linemen rush and so does Arden Key, who’s lined up as a LB and then rushes into the middle at the snap. LB Kendell Beckwith, playing the “Buck” role as a stand-up end, rushes on the outside, and S John Battle comes to rush the QB late from the middle.
  • Here’s the two down linemen set again. This time, LSU only rushes four (all of the names listed).
  • The Tigers ran this version of the Dime three or four times, each coming on long distance downs and each having very good success.
  • LSU played in the six-DB Dime more in this game than they ever have this season: about 31 times in 84 defensive snaps They showed variation of the scheme outside of the two down linemen plays. For instance, here’s a Dime look in which LSU rushes LB Deion Jones and S Jamal Adams while DE Lewis Neal is in man-to-man coverage against a tight end.
  • Remember when we were talking about all of the ways Deion Jones is used? Well, the Tigers love to have him stunt. Here’s one example of that. Jones gets the pressure on a long third down, forcing a poor pass. Jamal Adams, LSU’s dimeback, blitzes from the outside, and DT Davon Godchaux darts at the gap between right guard and center, confusing the center just enough to allow Jones to get a free patch to the QB.
  • Another not-so-great day for this gang, but they did keep WKU QB Brandon Doughty about 75 yards short of his per-game average. Still, there were two serious coverage busts. We discussed one above in big-play breakdowns. Rickey Jefferson seemed to be at fault there. The other is also a touchdown – the 9-yard pass in the fourth quarter. Kevin Toliver seemed at fault for that one.
  • LSU shuffled and rotated defensive backs like never before. This was a result of poor play and injuries at various times to Kevin Toliver and Jalen Mills and the absence of starting CB Tre’Davious White. Here is somewhat of a breakdown of what DBs played what role and when:
  • 1CB: Kevin Toliver (Ed Paris for 1 series when Toliver suffered a minor shoulder injury; Toliver played the position with Tre White out)
  • 2CB: Dwayne Thomas and Ed Paris rotated (but Paris received most of the second-half snaps after Jalen Mills missed the second half with injury)
  • Nickelback: Jalen Mills, but Dwayne Thomas and Donte Jackson rotated after Mills’ injury and Jackson finished playing the position predominately (he got about 30 snaps in the game)
  • Dimeback: Jamal Adams
  • 1S (in 4-3 or nickel): Jamal Adams
  • 2S (in 4-3 or nickel): Rickey Jefferson, but Corey Thompson replaced Jefferson after WKU’s 39-yard TD early in the third quarter (Thompson received a whopping 38 snaps, his season high)
  • 1S (in dime): Rickey Jefferson, but, again, Corey Thompson took over here in the second half
  • 2S (in dime): John Battle
  • So, LSU, for much of the second half, played with Battle and Thompson at safety and Paris at cornerback with Jackson at nickelback. All of those players combine for very little playing time in the first six games, especially Battle, Thompson and Paris. Why did this happen? Injuries and poor play. Coaches seemed to bench Jefferson and Thomas and, of course, they did not have Mills and White. Here’s a shot of them all on the field together in the Dime:
  • So how did these young guys/reserves perform? Paris was targeted about six times and WKU had four completions on him. He really went through struggles on one drive in specific, when Doughty found an open receiver three times in a four-play span. Jackson wasn’t targeted much at all, and Corey Thompson and John Battle seemed fine.
  • Dwayne Thomas was targeted six times, like Paris. WKU clearly honed on those two guys. The Hilltoppers also used short crossing routes to pick on Jamal Adams. Adams struggled in defending these. WKU completed four of five passes targeting him as the dimeback – many of those short crossing routes. Toliver was rarely targeted, and Mills was targeted twice during his play in the first half (WKU went 1 for 2 on those).
  • If you didn’t see it on the TV broadcast, here’s Paris’ holding call that wiped out Donte Jackson’s sack-fumble TD:
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