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Why LSU Tigers Fans Should Be Worried After LSU Survived UNC

Time:2018-02-13 21:04Turbochargers information Click:

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LSU fans might want wide receiver Russell Shepard to get more touches, like this 50-yard TD run against UNC. But where is he going to get them?

LSU fans might want wide receiver Russell Shepard to get more touches, like this 50-yard TD run against UNC. But where is he going to get them?Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If the job security of LSU coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton were shaky before Saturday's 30-24 victory over a depleted North Carolina squad, they must be sinking in quicksand right now.

Without the two long touchdowns from Russell Shepard (50-yard run) and Rueben Randle (51-yard catch) in the first half, the Tigers offensive looked worse than it did last year when it ranked 108th nationally.

You can argue that Miles forced the team to ease up after taking a 30-10 halftime lead, but that doesn't explain the complete ineptitude on offense.

Junior QB Jordan Jefferson looked indecisive and didn't work through his progressions for most of the game. When his first option wasn't open, he returned to his tendency of looking to run rather than check down and throw. One of the few times he did, he made his best throw of the game, a six-yard zip pass to Shepard for LSU's first touchdown.

LSU only had sustained drive (eight plays, 30 yards, two first downs and 3:54 off that clock) against a Tar Heels team missing seven defensive starters. Take away that drive and Shepard and Randle's one-play touchdown drives, the rest of the Tigers offense generated 48 plays for 152 yards (3.16 yards per play) and nine first downs.

LSU's last seven possessions resulted in four punts, an interception and two lost fumbles (the last of which with 1:29 left nearly cost them the game).

While the offensive line only allowed one sack (a 21-yard intentional grounding call on Jefferson), they didn't open many holes for Tigers running backs to exploit. Remove Shepard's TD run and LSU only gained 112 yards on 35 carries, or 3.2 ypr against a team missing three of four starting defensive linemen. By comparison, last year LSU average 129.6 rushing yards per game on 3.8 ypr.

The answer to LSU's offensive woes might seem obvious: get Shepard more touches, around 12 to 15 a game. But where are the Tigers going to get him more touches if Jefferson isn't maturing as a QB, or the line can't open holes. Maybe Shepard can join Patrick Peterson on kick returns.

The Tigers also learned two valuable lessons from Saturday's near collapse.

First, defensive coordinator John Chavis can't go to a vanilla defense at any time the rest of the season. UNC gained 292 of its 436 yards in the second half against LSU's soft D. The Tigers have to stay attack mode at all times.

Second, their special teams is indeed special. That unit won the game for LSU.

Peterson's school record (second best in SEC history) 257 return yards, including a 87-yard punt return TD, gave LSU the field possession advantage throughout the game. LSU's average starting field position was at its own 46-yard line, while UNC began drives on their own 23.

Before the season began, I argued that Miles shouldn't be on the hot seat (see here). If LSU continues to play like this, I will have to change my mind.

We're only one game into the 2010 season, but Miles and Crowton can't count on the occasional big play and record-setting special teams performance to survive when the SEC portion of their schedule begins.

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