The LSU offense, averaging a cool 55 points per game, definitely has found its identity.

The Tigers have traded their staid and stodgy Conestoga offensive reputation for something that more resembles that video the U.S. Air Force released this week of a rocket sled hurtling along at 6,600 mph. That’s Mach 8.6, for those of you scoring at home, which is roughly how fast wide receiver Trey Palmer returned that fourth-quarter punt in LSU’s 65-14 victory.

But along the way, the Tigers seem to have traded their bedrock defensive identity of seasons past for something just as unfamiliar to those of us who have watched LSU run between the tackles into eight-man boxes for years.

LSU played some truly smothering defense in its season-opening 55-3 rout of Georgia Southern, limiting the Eagles to 98 total yards. But that was against a one-dimensional, triple-option offense. Georgia Southern attempted just 11 passes despite trailing from the first Joe Burrow pitches of the night.

Texas last Saturday was a different story. Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger went off on the Tigers for 401 yards and four touchdowns in LSU’s 45-38 win in Austin, rolling up 31 second-half points on a gassed and cramped-up Tigers defense.

That was easily rationalized, though. Texas owns one of the best passing offenses LSU will face this season. And it was on the road to boot. The Tigers went to Austin and, no surprise, a Big 12 Conference game broke out.


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But Northwestern State, which got rolled 33-7 in its previous game by Division II Midwestern State, was supposed to be a different story.

Instead, LSU actually trailed early on 7-3, backtracked its way to surrendering 200 yards of first-half offense to the Demons and found itself on the north side of a rather shaky looking 24-14 halftime score. A score that included a wide-open 26-yard touchdown pass from Shelton Eppler to David Fitzwater. If you wanted to teach a Pee Wee-leaguer how to blow a coverage, you could show them that play.

What in the name of Bill Arnsparger is going on here?

“I don’t think we’ve found our identity yet,” linebacker Jacob Phillips said candidly. “Each group, the line and the linebackers and the secondary, we’ve got a lot to improve on.”

There was, according to those there, surprisingly little yelling and a lot more adjusting in the halftime locker room. Ed Orgeron even told a story of how legendary coach John Robinson, one of his most trusted advisors, basically told him to find his calmer self in times of stress.

“But after the first quarter I was a little mad,” Orgeron confessed.

To be fair, LSU was without four defensive starters injured at Texas: linebackers K’Lavon Chaisson and Michael Divinity, defensive linemen Rashard Lawrence and Glen Logan. The latter two may or may not be back for next Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt.

To his credit, safety JaCoby Stevens sought no shelter in plausible excuses.

“When you’re missing one of your best pass rushers and some of your best defensive linemen, you’ll feel it,” he said. “But I don’t want to make any excuses. We have a ‘Next man up’ mentality.”

The bigger problem was, not surprisingly after an enormous road win, attitude.

“We came in thinking Northwestern State would lay down for us,” Stevens said. “Once we woke up you see what happened.”

Indeed, LSU finally set their world right in the final 30 minutes. The Tigers marched for an opening -drive touchdown on a 5-yard keeper by Burrow, the first of 27 third-quarter points sandwiched around three defensive three-and-outs. Burrow orchestrated two more scoring drives before tapping out for Myles Brennan late in the third with 373 yards and two TDs passing on a surgical 21 of 24 night.

Of course, coming into the game I assumed by LSU’s fourth possession of the second half Burrow would have gone into the stands and ordered a beer. Still, he has amassed some breathtaking numbers; 1,122 yards and 11 TDs in three games on 83.3 percent passing (75 of 90). That that should definitely keep him in the thick of the Heisman contender talk nationally for another week.