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WVU QB Geno Smith lined up at guard once in this game. Typically the ball is snapped by the center, but in this case…well, the center had the ball, and Smith didn’t know where he was.
This single moment sums up West Virginia’s offensive performance in the second half against LSU. Their only TD came off a short field provided by a Jordan Jefferson pick. Their remaining offensive threat got no more dangerous than a 48 yard field goal attempt that sailed wide and left the Mountaineers starting at a six point gap they had no chance of surmounting.
That desperation came from facing an inspired LSU defense led by emerging pass rusher Barkevious Mingo. Mingo pressured Smith on the final drive on numerous occasions, nearly had Smith in the endzone for a safety, and led the charge along with tackle Drake Nevis to make his life extremely unpleasant as the Mountaineers attempted to get back in the game. He would finish with only 119 yards passing on the night, but he wasn’t alone in poor production; Noel Devine had 14 carries for 37 yards on the night, and was a non-factor despite returning in in the fourth.
LSU fared worse in the passing game than West Virginia did,throwing for only 80 yards on the night. With the defense strangling the Mountaineer offense, however, rushing the ball effectively with Stevan Ridley (20 carries, 113 yards, and one TD) to control the clock late and allow punting and defense to do the rest. At this point in the season the Tigers seem to be two-thirds of a good team, which Les miles will tell you is just one fourth of the way from being 110% of a team halfway to being 50% perfect.
This makes perfect sense if you take this actual Les Miles quote into account:
“Certainly, we were penalties, and we stopped ourselves.”
If you actually are penalties, though, and you still manage to go into October undefeated, then you must be doing something right, Coach Miles (proper grammar and diction be damned.)
Noel Devine, the speedy West Virginia running back who missed much of the second and third quarter due to a toe injury, is back in the game for the Mountaineers. He appears to be unhampered by injury, or if he is in fact suffering it appears to be productive suffering. His first carry went for ten yards with relative ease.
This is setting up for the usual cardiac arrest accompanying both LSU and West Virginia’s games this season thus far: a tight game in the fourth quarter with little in the way of effective offense between two teams who could do anything at any moment. LSU just rode Stevan Ridley’s powerful running deep into WVU territory for a field goal, but 20-14 is still a one score game, and West Virginia’s Geno Smith has had a vastly improved second half, so the forecast is for sheer terror for both sides down the stretch here.
LSU believes in fair play, evidently. The Mountaineers gave the ball away generously in the first half, so the Tigers are returning the favor through Jordan Jefferson’s INT setting up a 2 play, 30 yard scoring drive capped by a Geno Smith TD to Jock Sanders.
The audible groaning started before the INT, however. Jordan Jefferson has been scattershot all night, throwing well over his receiver’s heads, scrambling hesitantly, and looking as comfortable under center as a giraffe looks on roller skates.
Now, I might be selling giraffes short here. Maybe they’re superb on roller skates, and I’m unfairly judging their agility without seeing it for myself. I have seen Jordan Jefferson play quarterback, however, and if giraffes handle wheels on their feet anything like this performance, then it’s an ugly thing indeed.
Geno Smith is a very pleasant quarterback to watch when he’s not having his life threatened by the LSU defensive line, as the last drive clearly illustrated. Smith scrambled, found a Jock Sanders for a big first down, and finally capped the 52 yard drive with TD pass to Stedman Bailey for WVU’s only score. It’s still a steep hill to climb on the road, but West Virginia’s status just improved from “bleak” to “slightly hopeless” now that they’re only down ten points and might have lost their biggest playmaker, Noel Devine, to a toe injury in the first quarter.
He struck a Heisman pose in the endzone afterwards, but that’s okay: Patrick Peterson is running so well tonight on punt and kick returns that he’ll get that fifteen yards back somewhere in the next quarter or so. Patrick Peterson juked his way through WVU’s punt coverage following another WVU three-and-out, and then displeased Desmond Howard by getting an early start on his self-proclaimed trophy campaign. 17-0 Tigers, and West Virginia looks like they missed pre-game warmups and will not be participating in this contest until they loosen up sometime in the early third quarter.
It did take them four downs to do it, but if you know anything abou Les Miles he’s fine with that, especially since he had another couple of downs to work with before kicking the field goal. Fortunately the math doesn’t matter much when you hand the ball to the other team at the seven yard line, which the Mountaineers did via a Ryan Clarke fumble on third down and long. Stevan Ridley ran in the TD from the half yard line on 4th down, and LSU took a 7-0 lead with the PAT
WVU’s Geno Smith threw an interception on the ensuing possession to continue the Mountaineers’ offensive woes and hand LSU another three points. We stand at 10-0 LSU over West Virginia after two mistakes turned to two scores. If that math continues for the Mountaineers, this game won’t be close for long.
Two huge penalties allowed West Virginia to work its way down the field here in the first quarter, but a broken-up third down play deep in LSU territory led to a field goal attempt. This field goal attempt was blocked by Patrick Peterson, the same corner who provided lockdown coverage on the drive and who returned the opening punt for 26 yards to put LSU in scoring position. Ten minutes into this game and nothing has happened to convince me he’s not the best cornerback in the country, and there’s still the possibility LSU could throw in the towel and just put him back in the Wildcat. Laugh at the idea, sure. When LSU scores forty with him under center, I’ll be the one who looks like a genius.
It’s hard to overthrow a six foot five man, but Jordan Jefferson likes a challenge. After a smashing 27 yard punt return on LSU’s first possession, Jefferson overthrew Terrence Tolliver and ended a productive offensive drive with a tipped interception to give West Virginia the ball on the WVU 22 yard line. The LSU defense looks splendid, and the offense just shot itself in the foot, and this remains LSU football in 2010.
Where do pull a live tiger in a cage topped with cheerleaders around a teeming stadium? And where does one do this with a standard Ford F-150 dualie pickup truck? If the forecast is bat country mad and redolent of bourbon (and there happens to be a live tiger running laps around the stadium) then it must be Baton Rouge, where we are live in the booth for the duration tonight.
The teams are done stretching, the crowd is stumbling in for a late kick, and the stereo system at Baton Rouge is blasting. There’s no complaint there: it really is the stereo system put on this earth to announce the second coming.
SB Nation's And The Valley Shook and The Smoking Musket discuss the Tigers' now-traditional woes at the quarterback position:
How are LSU fans feeling about the quarterback situation in Baton Rouge? Jordan Jefferson has struggled out of the gate and Jarrett Lee seems to be knocking at the door. WVU's 3-3-5 stack defense has been known to confuse quarterbacks, especially those facing it for the first time. Any concern about this when WVU comes to town?
ATVS: Despondent, dejected, downtrodden, deflated... if you can think of any other negative adjectives that start with D, they probably apply. I remain optimistic (probably naively so), because the numbers from Game 1 and Game 3 were actually very solid. He's had 2-3 TDs dropped (a couple of them long ones) as well, so that gets hidden in there. JJ is certainly a work in progress, and we all wish he was doing more right now, but against MSU he didn't make any costly mistakes. He takes care of the football, generally, and appears to now be operating the offense, rather than just participating in it.
As for the matchup against the 3-3-5, one thing in our advantage is that Florida actually runs the same system. So JJ does have SOME exposure to this. How will he respond? I wish I could know, but I expect he will be pretty limited with a heavy dosage of handoffs.
SB Nation's Andy Hutchins is looking forward to a flurry of sideline ineptitude this weekend in Baton Rouge:
There is a very real possibility that this could be the worst-coached football game in human history. That team that Ed O'Neill coached in Little Giants — you'll remember it as the one that gave up a game-winning 99-yard touchdown on The Annexation of Puerto Rico — might have had a better sense of time management in football than the squads marshaled by Les Miles or Bill Stewart do. Both of these teams' primary deficiency is at quarterback, too, which may lead to an entertaining, "Here are some chickens with their heads cut off playing football" sort of affair. LSU's defense should be the best unit on the field, though, and it would take a lot of Noel Devine magic (and yardage) to beat that crew.
Chances of Upset: 35 percent. Chances that both quarterbacks throw interceptions: 97 percent. Chances that at least one laugh-out-loud decision made by a head coach: 175,029 percent.
SB Nation's And The Valley Shook and The Smoking Musket discuss West Virginia's relative offensive woes in 2010:
I don't think anybody doubts Noel Devine's explosive ability -- so how is West Virginia only averaging 3.9 yards per carry?
CR: There are three reasons, really: offensive line, offensive line and offensive line. This is a unit that has struggled mightily the last couple years while transitioning from a zone blocking scheme to a more traditional scheme. It seems like on most of Devine's carries, there is a linebacker or defensive end waiting for him as soon as he gets the ball - and he's not the kind of back that can just pick up a few yards on his own in the trenches. If you look at his history, though, he consistently has a number of carries that go for between -1 and 3 yards, and then he will break a long one. He just hasn't broken many long ones yet this year, but it seems like he's about due. I also think teams have been loading up the box to stop him, which may change over the course of the year as Geno Smith continues to improve and burn teams in the passing game.
At 3-0, the Mountaineers have passed all their early season tests and they are now out to prove they are worthy of an even higher ranking. Last weekend, WVU got the job done at home, scoring the first 28 points en route to a 31-17 triumph of Maryland.
"I was pleased with how we finished the fourth quarter," said coach Bill Stewart, who turned to the ground game to complete the solid performance.
The victory was much more convincing than the prior week, when WVU used a late rally to squeak by Marshall, 24-21, in overtime. That marked the team's lone road game up to this point, so WVU will need to come out better prepared in a much more hostile environment this weekend if the team is to have any shot.
As for the Tigers, they kicked off a three-game homestand last weekend with a solid 29-7 victory over Mississippi State.
"This is a young football team and a team, in my opinion, that if they continue to put their nose to the grindstone and fight like hell, they have a very, very good upside," stated head coach Les Miles. "I think that our team beyond this game certainly understands there is a lot to accomplish."
LSU extended its winning streak over Mississippi State to 11 games, as it improved to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the SEC. This is the second game versus a ranked opponent for the Tigers, who held off a depleted and 18th-ranked North Carolina squad in the opener.
This game represents the first-ever meeting between LSU and WVU on the gridiron.
Quarterback Geno Smith has yet to be rattled this season and has played like a veteran, completing 70.3 percent of his tosses with seven TDs against just one INT. The sophomore gunslinger was especially impressive last weekend, when he hit on 19-of-29 tosses for 268 yards and four TDs in the win over Maryland. If WVU is to come out on top, Smith will need to be at his best against one of the stingiest defenses in the nation.
At Smith's disposal are several weapons, including wideouts Tavon Austin and Jock Sanders. Austin, a converted RB, leads the team with 21 receptions for 281 yards and two scores, while Sanders, a proven playmaker, ranks second with 19 catches for 214 yards. The duo had their way with Maryland last weekend, accounting for 13 catches, 192 receiving yards and two TDs from Austin.
Tailback Noel Devin also enjoyed a nice game last weekend, as he rushed for 131 yards on 27 carries. He has now gone over the century mark in each game this season and the speedy back is averaging 118.0 rushing ypg during that stretch.
The Mountaineer defense dominated for most of the game last weekend, aside from two long plays that accounted for 140 yards and both of Maryland's TDs. WVU allowed just 77 total yards besides the pair of long passes, while holding Maryland to a miserable 2-of-13 effort on third downs. WVU has been especially effective on third downs this season, allowing opponents to convert just 22 percent of the time.
The defense continues to shine against the run as well and is holding foes to just 62.8 ypg on the ground this season. Furthermore, the unit has yet to surrender a rushing TD. The pass rush also came to life last game, as WVU recorded eight sacks after being held off the board the first two games. DE Bruce Irvin, a JC transfer, finally made his presence felt, recording three sacks and forcing a fumble in last weekend's win.
LSU may have controlled last game, but the offense was by no means impressive, managing just 264 total yards. The Tigers benefited from great field position thanks to the defense, but settled most of the time for field goals, with Josh Jasper connecting on all five of his attempts to break his own school record.
The problem for the Tigers comes at QB, where they have yet to get any real solid play from Jordan Jefferson, who has completed just 57.9 percent of his tosses for only 344 yards and two TDs this season. Jefferson threw for just 97 yards last weekend, but did have 40 rushing yards and a TD to earn a little complement from coach Miles.
"I felt like the quarterback play was better and felt like it will continue to be better."
The Tigers, who are averaging 203.0 rushing ypg on the season, churned out 167 yards and two scores on the ground versus Mississippi State. Stevan Ridley headed the charge with 78 yards and a score on 19 carries, giving him a team- high 318 rushing yards for the season.
On the defensive side of the ball is where the Tigers have been able to dominate and they were on top of their game last weekend. The unit not only limited Mississippi State to just 268 total yards, but the group also came up with five INTs. That is the most for LSU since picking off six passes in against Mississippi State in '07.
Cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne had two each for the Tigers, who entered the game without a single INT. The secondary came up with the big plays last weekend, but the run defense has been the strength for LSU. After three games, the Tigers are allowing just 80.3 ypg on the ground and opponents are averaging just 2.2 yards carry. Kelvin Sheppard leads the defense with 27 stops, while Drake Nevis has accounted for 3.5 of the team's 11 sacks.
This is a good test for both clubs, as WVU's potent attack goes face-to-face with LSU's stingy defense. Expect the defense to once again keep the Tigers in the game, while their offense comes up with just enough big plays to top the Mountaineers this weekend.
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