When football teams talk about being balanced on offense, they usually mean being able to run the ball and pass it equally effectively when they need to.
But mathematically, LSU is taking the idea of a balanced offense to a ridiculous extreme. The Tigers have rushed for 1,101 yards and passed for 1,100 yards.
LSU spreads the wealth among the running backs and receivers. Spencer Ware has 432 rushing yards and five touchdowns, Michael Ford has 324 yards and six touchdowns, and Alfred Blue has 218 yards and four touchdowns.
Rueben Randle has 23 catches and four touchdowns, and Odell Beckham has 20 catches and two touchdowns. Now Russell Shepard, who was ineligible for the first three games, is rounding into form with five catches for 92 yards.
“We can do a little bit of everything,” Shepard said. “We can spread you out with a four-wide receiver set or run a set with two receivers and a tight end who can catch and block.
“We have a lot of personnel on offense, and a lot of players are stepping up at key times and making plays.”
Next stop, Neyland
The undefeated Tigers seem to be enjoying the distinctive venues they are visiting as they play out this year’s schedule.
They opened the season in Cowboys Stadium, the billion-dollar Palace in Dallas, the same place where they rolled over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl in January. Then they rolled into Starkville, Miss., and silenced tens of thousands of cowbells. Then they silenced an SEC-like sellout crowd in LSU’s first-ever visit to Morgantown, W. Va.
Now they’re headed to venerable Neyland Stadium, which has the third-largest seating capacity (102,455) in the country and where none of the current Tigers have played.
“I can tell you playing in Neyland Stadium is a joy and it is one of the great places to play in college football,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “We look forward to it. It reminds us of a number of places that we have played this year.
“Our team seems to get really excited about the opportunity to play in great venues. I think this is another one where our guys will look back on and say that this was a great place to play.”
Wide receiver Rueben Randle said the more hostile the environment the better.
“I think the fans help us out a lot,” Randle said. “They bring a lot of hostility, and that brings a little fire to us. We go out and play physical and take it to our opponents.”
Recruiting tale tells story
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, who was an assistant at LSU from 2000-04, summed up the talent level between the two programs with an anecdote about one recruiting battle between the Volunteers and the Tigers.
“They have a D-lineman right now that we were begging to get when I got here and we lost him to LSU and he is playing second-team fullback,” Dooley said. “That’s just the way it is. They are very deep and talented.
“He is a good player, J.C. Copeland. He’s playing a lot. He is really rolling at fullback, but we were begging to have him at nose guard. That’s what they are.”
Poking fun pays off
Offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert helped LSU pull off its improbable 16-14 comeback victory against Tennessee last season by snapping the football before time ran out on the confused Tigers. The snap in shotgun formation sailed past quarterback Jordan Jefferson and time expired, apparently securing a 14-10 Vols triumph.
But Tennessee was penalized for having too many players on the field, which gave LSU an untimed down, and Stevan Ridley scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard run. Had Hebert not snapped the ball before time expired, the Tigers would have lost.
Hebert has gotten credit for saving the day, snapping the ball after the clock had dwindled from 26 seconds to three while LSU changed personnel, but it turns out guard Will Blackwell, Hebert’s roommate who missed that game because of injury, had an indirect hand in the play.
“The year before against Ole Miss I didn’t snap the ball and time ran off the clock and Will always made fun of me,” Hebert said with a laugh.
“So I remember when the time was running off I could hear him saying, ‘you didn’t snap the ball,’ and I saw the clock and I remember snapping it and I remember being really mad because I saw it go past Jordan and I thought we had lost.”
Miles said his daughter, Smacker, found herself in somewhat hostile territory last week when the Tigers whipped Florida 41-11. She’s on the swim team at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, and both of her coaches went to Florida.
So Smacker really wanted LSU to beat the Gators and earn her bragging rights, but the Tigers might have overdone it.
“I got a text from her after the game and she said due to discriminating athletic views, she now has to clean the bus after a road trip and she will be required to do extra training so she said not to win by so much next time,” Les Miles said with a smile. “I told her, ‘get in shape.’”