BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU’s ground game is finding its usual dominant form if more than 300 yards rushing against Kent State is any indication.
Combine that with a rejuvenated and unusually consistent passing attack, and it looks like the Tigers have attained the dynamism on offense that they’ve coveted for several years.
“Simply the threat of certain things is making us a better offense,” said running back Jeremy Hill, who had 117 yards and two touchdowns on only 11 carries against Kent State on Saturday night.
Opposing defenses were “attacking the run a lot last year and now we are making them have to worry about whether or not a pass is coming,” Hill added. “It puts them on their heels.”
The Tigers are averaging 488 yards of offense, with about 219 per game on the ground and 269 per game through the air. They are also scoring an average of 46 points. Consequently, LSU has won all of its first three games by double digits and has moved up in the latest AP Top 25 Poll to No. 6.
The real test, though, will be when LSU opens SEC play. That starts next Saturday with a visit from Auburn, which defeated Mississippi State on Saturday night to improve to 3-0. Coming off a 3-9 campaign in 2012, Auburn hasn’t persuaded enough voters of its improvement to enter the rankings yet, but it received some votes this week.
“We’re looking forward to facing a quality SEC opponent in our stadium next week,” LSU coach Les Miles said.
When the Tigers played at Auburn last season, they narrowly escaped with a 12-10 win, in part because quarterback Zach Mettenberger fumbled twice and could not consistently complete passes, finishing with 169 yards and no touchdowns. If could have been worse had Mettenberger not completed a clutch 33-yard pass to running back Spencer Ware on a late third down play to help seal the game.
Mettenberger and Co. appear drastically improved this season. For example, Mettenberger threw 12 TD passes all of last season, but it has taken him only three games to throw for nine TDs this season.
“We are in a good spot right now,” Mettenberger said. “We have done so many good things and have still yet to play our best football.”
Receiver Jarvis Landry has five touchdown catches through three games after having five all of last season. Odell Beckham Jr. has four TD receptions and has had no fewer than 76 yards receiving in any game, going over 100 in two of three.
“For us, it is all about a confidence thing,” Beckham said. “Offensively, we are just distributing the ball to all of our playmakers. There is a lot of confidence between all the offensive players and we are clicking on all cylinders. Each and every day we are only going to get better and better.”
The Tigers are also getting big plays in the running game. Hill rushed for a 58-yard score on Saturday. In LSU’s opener against TCU, Terrence Magee had a 52-yard TD. In two of their first three games, LSU had two running backs eclipse 100 yards. Magee and Alfred Blue each did so against TCU, when Hill did not even play because he was being benched for an offseason arrest.
Magee and Hill each went over 100 yards against Kent State, and each scored touchdowns.
Hill noted that LSU’s offense, under new coordinator Cam Cameron, now has more flexibility to adjust the play from a run to a pass, or vice versa, at the line of scrimmage, depending on the defensive look they get.
“We are getting better and better at it each game,” Hill said. “We are doing a great job of mixing it up and keeping opposing defenses on their heels. Being balanced is going to be a successful game plan for us this year.”
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