No matter what direction quarterback Jordan Jefferson looks when he’s trying to make things happen for LSU’s offense, he finds somebody with a lot of experience.
So unless Jefferson keeps the ball himself or gives it away to Russell Shepard, he always knows somebody who has been there and done that is about to get the ball in his hands.
Saturday’s 31-3 victory against Louisiana-Lafayette was a testament to the tools at Jefferson’s disposal.
When No. 7-ranked LSU (3-0, 1-0 SEC) plays at Mississippi State (2-1, 1-1) at 11:21 a.m. Saturday (on WAFB), it will be the next chance for Jefferson to reach into the offensive toolbox and see if he and LSU can be a little more productive.
The Tigers are generating a respectable 325.7 total yards per game and have topped 320 yards in each game this season.
Veterans are at the heart of LSU’s production. Senior running backs accounted for 118 of the 164 rushing yards against the Cajuns — Scott with 63 yards, Williams with 41 and Holliday with 14. Scott also caught a 1-yard TD pass and Holliday dashed 11 yards into the end zone on a run.
Upper classmen combined for 13 of the 14 receptions by receivers and tight ends: Terrance Toliver (6 catches for 68 yards), Brandon LaFell (3-57, 2 TDs), Richard Dickson (3-27) and Chris Mitchell (1-4)
“It’s a really good feeling having all of those guys around me,” Jefferson said after hitting 16 of 25 passes for 165 yards. “I know those guys are going to get the yards and catch the ball for me. I’m going to keep feeding them the ball, and they’re going to keep doing good things with it.”
Nobody can question whether Jefferson is learning on the job.
There was more evidence of that Saturday as Jefferson made sure he got the ball to his most veteran playmakers at the right time.
Of LSU’s seven third-down conversions (in 12 chances), five came on pass plays to Dickson, LaFell and Toliver. The other two were on running plays: Williams’ 12-yard scamper on an option and Scott’s 2-yard blast from the fullback position in the third quarter.
After three games, it seems like Toliver has emerged as Jefferson’s top choice on third downs. On a drive that led to a 52-yard Josh Jasper field goal on the last play of the first half, Tolliver caught three third-down passes to keep the chains moving.
The lanky junior receiver repeatedly faced man coverage Saturday, and time after time he ran crisp curl patterns ranging from 10-15 yards, usually standing wide open with no defender close enough to make a difference.
With the right combination of size, explosion off the line of scrimmage and power to separate from the defender, Toliver has become an attractive target for Jefferson whenever defenses devote too much attention to LaFell split wide and Dickson roaming over the middle.
LaFell leads LSU with 14 receptions and three TD catches, while Toliver has 13 grabs and a team-best 15.8 yards per catch.
Likewise, the ball has been spread just as evenly on the ground. Scott has 37 carries and Williams 27 — both for 164 yards. Jefferson has carried 19 times for 112 yards.
Despite the 3-0 start, an undercurrent of grumbling among the fans persists that LSU hasn’t tapped its offensive potential.
That’s news to Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, who said LSU has “unbelievable talent at every position on offense.”
“Their offense is loaded with NFL talent at every position,” Mullen said Sunday. “It’s not the one thing you have to stop with them.
“They have a big, physical, strong offensive line and some really big powerful backs that have played a lot of football. You want to go load ’em up and stop the run, they’ve got a really athletic quarterback that can break contain and get out there and cause problems for you. You go to contain him, and you look out there and have every five-star wide receiver that’s come out of high school the last 3-4 years. It’s the depth of their talent across the board. There’s so much balance for them across the board, and that’s what makes them so difficult to defend.”
At times this season, the cast of playmakers has been tough to stop.
But consistency has been elusive, and LSU coach Les Miles doesn’t hide his dissatisfaction with the sporadic performance in the running game.
For the second week in a row, Miles spent part of his postgame session lamenting the inability to line up and grind out the clock once LSU had a comfortable lead.
Scott bulled his way to 42 yards in the final quarter, but there was never a sense LSU was controlling the line of scrimmage.
The Tigers are averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 163.7 rushing yards per game.
“We have too many good runners to not run the football more efficiently, so that’s our quest,” Miles said.
The Tigers are off to a great start!
To all of the naysayers who didn't think the Tigers looked very good against Washington, and who laughed at Les Miles when he said that the Huskies were tough... what do you say now that they beat #3 USC??? I think I hear crickets chirping!