After years of waiting to implement the offense he always wanted, the one his program desperately needed to keep up with an ever-changing college football landscape, LSU coach Ed Orgeron is facing a dilemma of sorts as the season continues to unfold.
The good news is LSU's new, up-tempo spread offense has been humming along beautifully in its first two games.
The bad news is the Tigers' defense doesn’t get a lot of rest considering the frequency and rapidity with which Joe Burrow and his offense is producing points so far.
It's one problem most coaches would love to have — most of all Orgeron.
“Sometimes, we’re going to have to slow it down to give our defense some rest,” he acknowledged this week.
Now, after a hard-fought win over Texas on Saturday night in which his defense was on the field for 85 plays in sweltering conditions, Orgeron and his defensive coaches know they have to find ways to shorten their time on the field.
There needs to be a balance between offensive tempo and defensive rest, he said, to avoid walking a thin line.
That's imperative because, even though he has coached his entire career on defense, Orgeron doesn't want his offense to take its foot off the pedal.
LSU junior safety JaCoby Stevens said the Tigers have learned a lesson after giving up the most passing yards in nearly a decade.
It’s counter to everything an up-tempo offensive scheme is designed to do, and, more importantly, how it’s supposed to work.
Going in, he knew there would be a tradeoff, some give-and-take, when you unleash an offense the way offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and passing-game coordinator Joe Brady have.
The numbers prove it in the 23 meaningful series (excluding kneel-downs at the end of a half) that LSU has possessed the ball in its first two games.
In a 55-3 thrashing of Georgia Southern and a 45-38 victory at Texas, the Tigers put together 17 scoring drives with 12 touchdowns and five field goals.
Just three of the touchdown drives have lasted longer than six plays — those being 10, nine and eight plays in length — and only two have used more than three minutes of clock time.
On those 12 possessions that resulted in touchdowns, LSU averaged 6.2 plays and 2 minutes, 13 seconds per drive.
Against Texas, when the Tigers got into a shootout with the Longhorns, the average touchdown drive dipped a little to 5.8 plays and 1:58 of clock time.
That’s where LSU’s usually stingy defense got into a bit of a jam, giving up 17 points and 191 yards in the fourth quarter as Texas piled up 530 total yards on Dave Aranda’s group.
Orgeron said when the defense is playing great, they might have the luxury of dialing back the offense a little to allow the defense time to get some rest.
The LSU Tigers go for their 800th victory Saturday night against Northwestern State.
But they couldn’t afford to slow it down at Texas because of some defensive breakdowns in the second half.
“Here’s the dilemma, OK?” Orgeron said. “You want to be able to maybe slow it down a little bit, give your defense some rest. … But your defense has to stop them from scoring points, otherwise you're in a shootout.
“We knew we were in a shootout,” he continued. “In the second half, we felt like every time we had the ball we had to score. That's what happened.”
Still, safety JaCoby Stevens said it’s on the defense to get into better shape and do its part regardless of the opponent or situation.
“The offense is going really fast, and I commend them on that,” he said. “But a lot of it is just us needing to get off the field.
“Joe and his receivers, they’re doing a great job of scoring. A lot of times (against Texas) we could have gotten off the field, but we missed tackles or didn’t run to the ball.”
“We should have played better defensively,” he said. “We didn't, and it's not because of the pace of (our) offense.
“Those things, Dave Aranda and the staff, I know we’re going to fix it. We just need to work together, offense and defense, on the tempo of the game.”