BATON ROUGE, La. — Amateur football forensic sleuths could not help but fixate over one unusual statistic from LSU’s 40-24 win over Ole Miss.
Sure, LSU gained 593 yards, 200 of which came in the passing game. But not a single one of LSU’s nine completions was to a wide receiver, which raised some alarm bells about the Tigers’ ability to throw the deep ball when it matters most — i.e., next week’s game at Alabama.
If you’re in that crowd, you can stop panicking. Everything LSU did against Ole Miss was very much calculated — as things typically are when you gain nearly 600 yards.
“If you’re running the ball for that many yards, do you really just want to throw it? For what?” wondered quarterback Danny Etling. “You’re running for 400 yards. Do you still really just want to throw it? We still got 200 yards passing and two touchdowns.”
Just a week before, the Tigers had nearly the same number of yards passing — 206 — but 150 of them went to receiver DJ Chark.
“Whatever a team is giving you, you have to take and be patient with it,” Etling said. “You don’t listen to too many complainers after 600 yards. You take it with a grain of salt and realize not everybody is going to be happy all the time.
“We’ve proven we can throw the ball when we need to. We see how teams play us and adjust from there.”
LSU receiving corps is on board
The only concern with a game plan that does not include much throwing to receivers is whether they will be receptive to the idea. Though sophomore Dee Anderson expressed frustration with that fact in a since-deleted Tweet, for the most part the Tigers wideouts are completely on board.
“At Ole Miss, we were getting big runs. Why let off and give them a break by throwing the ball?” Chark said. “Go to what’s working.”
It helps that Chark and fellow senior Russell Gage find blocking every bit as fun as touching the ball.
“One thing I like about this receiving room is we really embrace blocking. In the game, we try to see who can have the biggest block,” Chark said. “Even in games like Auburn where we did throw the ball, we were still looking at who was the better blocker.
“Me and Russell always compete about blocking. He gets mad sometimes because it’s hard for him to get the block when I’m coming off the jet sweep. We always compete about things like that.”
That’s the buy-in for Matt Canada’s offense. Receivers are often running the ball and running backs are often catching it. At times there’s not much action, but everyone seems to know their time will come when the opposing defense overplays one or the other.
“It’s about helping the team win,” Chark said. “If I can run my guy off and help the back get a bigger run, I’m going to do it. Because if I’m running the jet sweep, he’ll be the first guy out there blocking for me. It’s just a great team atmosphere. Nobody on the team is selfish. That’s what I like about this team.”