BATON ROUGE–For last Tuesday’s practice in preparation for LSU, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian brought in a live, caged tiger to represent LSU’s live Mike the Tiger, whom opposing teams must walk by as they enter the playing field at Tiger Stadium.
NBC.com writer Ben Kercheval would later write, “If Sarkisian really wanted to prepare his team, he’d have opened the gate.”
Metaphorically speaking, Kercheval couldn’t have been more right.
Behind an unyielding defense and an unstoppable offense, the No. 3 Tigers devoured the Huskies 41-3 before an announced crowd of 92,804 in Tiger Stadium.
The victory tied an FBS record for regular season wins over non-conference opponents at 39. It also tied a school record for consecutive home wins at 19.
“Not a bad night,” LSU head coach Les Miles said. “Nice to be a Tiger.”
Such an understatement may be meant to be a show of humility by Miles, but the matter-of-factness with with LSU dismantled Washington made the Huskies look like just another early season cupcake instead of a BCS school on the rise.
“Their tailback group is probably the most impressive group I’ve ever seen,” Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said after Alfred Blue, Spencer Ware, Michael Ford and Kenny Hilliard pounded the Huskies for a combined 233 yards and three touchdowns on 45 carries. Those are four NFL backs.”
Blue led the way with 101 yards, becoming the first player to rush for over 100 yards in consecutive games since Stevan Ridley did it in 2010 and the first to open the season doing it since Charles Scott in 2008.
“From an offensive perspective we thrive on breaking an opposing defense’s will,” LSU receiver Jarvis Landry said. “Running the ball late and seeing defensive players on the other side tired and just not as fast as they used to be is a great thing.”
LSU’s depth on both sides of the ball is one reason why this game got out of hand. Washington was riding high after taking a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter after LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. fumbled the opening kickoff. But it was as close as the Huskies would come to scoring. The Tiger defense held Washington to 183 total yards and 26 yards on 24 carries.
“Our twos should be starting,” LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo said of the defensive line. “There’s just no room for them.”
Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins agrees.
“They are definitely the best defensive line I have ever seen,” he said.
“We play a lot of people,” LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis said. “We don’t recruit guys to redshirt. If you’ve recruited the right kind of people, they’re not going to be here for four years anyway.”
Obviously the LSU football team has the right kind of people. Such competition at all spots forces the starters to stay hungry, and in the usual blowout victory, allows more and more players to gain valuable experience on the field. Such a snowball effect, combined with Miles’ philosophy of beating down his opponents with raw power, speed, and smarts, has put this team on the very short list of truly great teams in college football.
“It was really a challenge to our team to play dominant football in all three phases,” Miles said. “And that ultimately is how we will be judged.”
LSU’s defense was once again the most dominant of the three phases, much to the chagrin of Huskies quarterback Keith Price. Earlier in the week, Price had promised that the Huskies would bring their ‘A’ game to Baton Rouge, and that his self-described struggles against San Diego St. would improve.
Instead he was running for his life all night. He completed only 17 of 36 for 157 yards, was sacked four times and intercepted once.
“I felt the pressure and tried to get out a couple times, and you see I threw a pick trying to do too much,” Price said. “We didn’t throw the ball well and we didn’t run the ball well.”
This might rival Miles’ comment in the understatement category. LSU amassed 437 total yards of offense and dominated time of possession, 33:39 to 26:21. On the other side of the ball, only four of the Huskies’ 12 drives ended in LSU territory.
It speaks to the dominance of this Tiger football team that it can “escape” a slew of dropped passes and penalties and emerge with a 38-point victory.
“Our quarterback played very well, he was very kind of on the money,” Miles said of Zach Mettenberger, who threw for 195 yards on 12 of 18 passing with a touchdown to Kadron Boone. “If we eliminate those drops, we’re well over 200 yards passing which is kind of a landmark for us.”
“We are so far away from really accomplishing anything in this season,” he added.
It is true and a bit of necessary coach speak, but rest assured, the way the Tigers play football, avoiding the video game-type gimmicks so many lesser teams have gone to to muster victories, there is no one on the schedule before Nov. 3 when they host top-ranked Alabama that should come close to toppling them.
Said Andy Staples of SI.com: “LSU has armored itself against an upset by playing a style short on gimmicks and long on the systematic swallowing of opponents’ souls.”
Get ready, Idaho. You’ve got a week until this group of Tigers’ bellies get hungry for another kill.