Defensive blunder: How the LSU defense surrendered 31 second half points to Texas and how they intend to fix it

Fundamentals, lack of pass rush among reasons for Texas explosive night on offense

If you ask the LSU defense what happened in the second half against Texas this last weekend, you'll receive a myriad of answers. Bad tackling, wrapping up, exhaustion and lack of a pass rush were the obvious answers, but all those things come back to what junior JaCoby Stevens called a lack of fundamentals.

The nice thing about fundamentals is that they can be fixed and LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda now has a full game of tape to show his players exactly what they need to work on.

But first, let's get into how the Texas offense was able to rack up 580 yards of offense and 38 points, starting with one of the biggest glaring holes on Saturday, the pass rush. 

One of the gameplans heading into the Texas game was to keep Sam Ehlinger in the pocket and force him to beat the Tigers through the air. LSU implemented what is called a "cage rush," where the defense essentially sends three defensive linemen at the quarterback up the middle by driving the offensive linemen into the quarterback. 

Outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson was really the only player trying to attack the quarterback while the other defensive linemen were trying to block any lanes Ehlinger could use to run through.

The plan obviously didn't work, as the Texas quarterback ran for 88 yards on 14 carries, but the "cage rush" scheme also allowed Ehlinger more time in the pocket to find open receivers.

 

"One of the things we wanted to control was the quarterback beating us with his legs," Chaisson said. "We made sure we tried to keep him in the pocket but with that, we gave him more time to throw the ball and I feel like, honestly, we didn't do that too well. We gave him too much time to throw the ball and that hurt the defensive backs."

"With a quarterback like Sam, he's a heck of a runner," Stevens added. "When he gets out of the pocket he's just a really huge threat. We wanted him to beat us with his arm, not with his legs and we tried that with cage rushing. We probably should've mixed in some going after and getting him."

Orgeron admitted in his press conference on Monday that looking back he wished he would've sent more blitzes at Ehlinger to try and throw him off his game, and not be more conservative by simply try to contain him.

The next part of the defensive blunder, the fundamental side, was a combination of missed tackles and exhaustion, that stemmed from the 19-play third quarter drive Texas opened with that resulted in a touchdown.

On that drive, multiple LSU starters including Grant Delpit, Michael Divinity and Todd Harris went down with cramping issues. Senior Rashard Lawrence and junior Glen Logan went down with leg injuries that will likely hold them out for the foreseeable future.

Stevens, who recorded eight tackles and a sack in Saturday's win, said he really started to feel exhausted towards the end of the third quarter as the Tigers couldn't get off the field on third down.

LSU allowed the Longhorn offense to convert 8-of-15 on third down which is something Stevens said, was because of fundamentals like missing tackles.

"I was like 'ok it's starting to hit me'," Stevens said. "We just need to get in shape just in general. The offense is going really fast and I commend them on that but I think a lot of it is us just needing to get off the field".

Another component, like Stevens alluded too, is the fast pace of the new spread offense which has meant less time for the defensive players on the sidelines and more time on the field. Last season, in the 74-72 seven overtime loss to Texas A&M, the Tiger defense was on the field for 105 snaps. Against Texas in four quarters, the Tigers were on the field for 93 snaps.

Now that they're in season and noticing how fast paced the offense is moving, Stevens said Orgeron and the coaching staff are making sure the defense is practicing faster as well. 

"Everything is game speed," Stevens said. "Coach O tries to make practice harder than the games. We need to just go back to our roots and we'll be fine."

Fine tuning those fundamentals will be a big part of the next few weeks of games before the Tigers get into the meat of their SEC schedule. 

"They didn't out scheme us or anything," Chaisson said of Texas. "Everything was on us from wrapping up, tackling to pursuing the ball. That's all it was about. Guys thinking someone was down and they gain an extra 10 yards. That's what was getting us all game and then obviously conditioning is something we have to work with. We have to know how to focus when games get pasty like that. Obviously it's a copycat league so we know the next team is going to pull it out, up tempo and try to pull it against us." 

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