By Andrew Alexander
Can you smell that? Another fresh cupcake opponent awaits LSU this week, as the Tigers welcome the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks to Baton Rouge, marking the third of four non-conference opponents LSU will face this season.
Last Saturday’s 56-0 demolition of Sam Houston State allowed the Tigers to showcase their offensive arsenal in front of a record crowd of over 100,000 fans in Tiger Stadium.
Fans could almost feel the weights lifted off the shoulders of several LSU freshmen, as wide receiver Malachi Dupre, quarterback Brandon Harris and running backs Darrel Williams and Leonard Fournette each scored their first collegiate touchdowns.
The Warhawks enter Tiger stadium undefeated, topping Sun Belt conference foe Idaho 38-31 last week. Before that, ULM made a bit of a stir in the college football world when they defeated Wake Forest 17-10 on the opening Thursday night of college football. However, that win may not be worth much in the coming weeks, as the Demon Deacons are destined to finish last in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Seriously, what kind of self respecting Power Five Conference school travels to play a Sun Belt opponent? One with low expectations for the season.
Games against Sam Houston State and ULM allow Tigers to experiment with different personnel in low-risk game situations. It’s the perfect atmosphere for freshmen or players needing to readjust, sort of like wading into the shallow end of the pool before heading to the diving board to cannonball into the SEC West portion of the schedule.
LSU OFFENSE vs. LOUISIANA-MONROE DEFENSE
Is there any doubt Anthony Jennings should be LSU’s starting quarterback? The sophomore’s 94-yard touchdown pass to Travin Dural on LSU’s first offensive play broke the record for the longest touchdown pass in LSU history, topping current LSU tight ends coach Steve Ensminger’s 82-yard bomb against Georgia in 1978. Elsewhere in the backfield, running backs Kenny Hilliard and Leonard Fournette have combined for 275 yards and three touchdowns thus far this season. Although senior Terrence Magee has mustered only 35 yards on 12 carries through two games, freshman Darrel Williams (yes, LSU recruited a second running back in the class of 2014) took advantage of his first action as a Tiger with 65 yards and a score against Sam Houston State. LSU will need to continue to utilize their entire offensive arsenal for a convincing win over the Warhawks. Louisiana-Monroe features three of the top five sack leaders from the Sun Belt conference, including senior linebacker Ray Stovall, who leads the team with two and half sacks and 12 tackles. Junior linebackers Hunter Kissinger and Cody Robinson each registered an interception against Idaho last week, and could become a nuisance for a Tiger offense still trying to perfect the short screen pass.
LSU DEFENSE vs. LOUISIANA-MONROE OFFENSE
Regardless of opponent, LSU’s defensive shutout was impressive last Saturday night. Through two games the Tiger defense has given up only seven second half points. Depth is a big advantage for the LSU defense and expect to see quite a few Tiger youngsters on the field for LSU after halftime. LSU is averaging two interceptions per game, and twenty-one different Tiger defenders have already made a tackle this season. Warhawk quarterback Pete Thomas completed more passes (47) than Anthony Jennings has attempted (34) for 573 and two touchdowns. Senior running back Centarius Donald gashed Idaho’s defense for 111 yards and three touchdowns last week. These playmakers that could make a difference for ULM this Saturday if given some space. Do not expect back-to-back shut outs for the Tiger defense, but LSU will have another dominate defensive performance with a nice blend of veteran and youthful talent.
Haley’s Comet made an appearance in Death Valley last Saturday night in the form of a missed Colby Delahoussaye extra point. The sophomore place kicker clanged the opening PAT of the goal post but righted the ship and connected on his remaining six attempts of the evening. ULM’s Justin Manton pulls double duty as the Warhawks kicker and punter. The senior specialist is 7-for-7 on PAT’s and 2-for-3 on field goals. Manton averages 43.5 yards per punt and leads the Sun Belt with 522 punting yards, including a 67-yarder against Wake Forest. ULM might be punting quite a bit against LSU, which could tire out Manton’s leg for potential field goal attempts.
Different opponent, same result. The Warhawks are more talented than Sam Houston State, and should provide more a challenge in the Tigers’ final tune up before opening Southeastern Conference play against Mississippi State next week. LSU’s offense exploded last week, and Miles certainly wants to keep that engine purring. Expect a similar offensive fireworks show and a dominant defensive performance from a young LSU team that seems to be growing up right before our very eyes.
LSU 48, ULM 7
LSU Tigers (2-0) vs. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (2-0)
Tiger Stadium (102,321); Baton Rouge, LA
Saturday, Sept. 13; 6 p.m.
TV: ESPNU; Radio: 98.1 FM