Originally appeared in CrescentCitySports.com
BATON ROUGE – In the 242 days since LSU last took the field and earned a Fiesta Bowl win over Central Florida on New Year’s Day, the anticipation and speculation surrounding what the Tigers could be this season only continued to grow and grow.
Ed Orgeron’s 2019 edition of the Tigers came out of the cage snarling as they put the Georgia Southern Eagles on the endangered species list with a dominating 55-3 victory in front of 97,420 fans on opening night at Tiger Stadium.
LSU scored touchdowns on each of their first five drives and the LSU defense limited the Eagles’ triple option offense to 98 total yards, while forcing last season’s leader in turnover margin (+22) into two giveaways.
The Tigers out-gained Georgia Southern 472-98 on the evening.
Joe Burrow played exceptionally well, completing 23 of 27 passes for 278 yards and tied the LSU single-game passing touchdown record with five. He completed passes to nine different receivers before giving way to Myles Brennan halfway into the third quarter.
Terrace Marshall Jr. made the most of his opportunities, catching three touchdowns; making him the twelfth receiver in school history to do so. Justin Jefferson led the receiving corps with five grabs for 87 yards and a score. Clyde Edwards-Helaire led the ground attack with 45 yards on nine attempts. LSU came close to reaching its goal of “50-50” balance with 39 passing attempts and 33 rushes.
It was the largest margin of victory in a home opener for the Bengal Tigers since 56-0 drubbing of Sam Houston State back in 2014.
LSU opened the game as advertised, with Burrow in the shotgun leading the new uptempo spread offense.
The senior quarterback missed his first throw, but connected on his next four. After a seven yard carry by Edwards-Helaire, he hit Justin Jefferson for a four yard completion for a first down.
That was followed by a 17-yarder to Thaddeus Moss that put the Tigers into Georgia Southern territory. The Eagles left Jefferson wide open on the next play and Burrow hit him underneath. Jefferson weaved his way through the Ga. Southern defense before being tackled 44 yards later at the Eagles’ three yard line. After a holding penalty against the Tigers, Burrow hit Ja’Marr Chase across the middle for a 13 yard touchdown pass.
Two minutes and twenty-four seconds into the season, LSU had its first score after a beautiful 75-yard drive.
After a 32-yard punt return by Derek Stingley Jr., LSU’s second scoring drive was just as efficient as the first. The Tigers flexed with its rushing attack, as Edwards-Helaire touched the ball on all six plays and accounted for 34 yards on the way to a one yard touchdown run to make it 14-0.
After another three-and-out by the defense, the Tigers worked the clock a bit on their third possession of the game, needing 10 plays and nearly four minutes to go 52 yards. Burrow connected with Jefferson on a fade to the right corner of the end zone for the third touchdown of the quarter. Cade York’s extra point extended the lead to 21-0.
Rashard Lawrence forced the first turnover of the season when he sacked Shai Werts, causing him to fumble. Patrick Queen was there to scoop it up and put the Tigers in great scoring position at the Ga. Southern 26 yard line.
Baton Rouge native Tyrion Davis-Price saw his first action for LSU on the drive, accounting for 18 total yards on four touches. But it would be Burrow with his third touchdown toss of the game, this time an eight yarder to Terrace Marshall Jr., that would cap the drive and make it a 28-point game.
Another fumble by Ga. Southern gave LSU the ball at the Eagles’ 25, and once again they capitalized by scoring on a four-play drive that culminated with Burrow and Marshall Jr. hooking up for their second touchdown from three yards out.
Five drives. Five touchdowns. Eleven minutes and fourty-six seconds of time run off the clock.
Meanwhile the LSU defense continued to have its way with the Eagles offense. Georgia Southern ran 25 offensive plays in the first half for a total of 59 yards gained. Werts accounted for a net of -7.
Georgia Southern managed to put together one scoring drive on the night, needing 10 plays to go 45 yards to set up a 47-yard field goal by Tyler Bass.
After punting for the first time on their next possession, LSU got back on track just before the end of the second quarter.
Starting at their own 20 yard line, Burrow ran the two-minute offense to perfection. He went 5-for-5 on the drive, finishing it off with his third scoring toss to Marshall Jr., this time from 11 yards out.
The Tigers walked into the locker room up 42-3. The statement had already been made, LSU just had to eat 30 minutes of clock.
On the first drive of the second half, and Burrow’s final drive of the game, LSU scored once again, with Cade York booting the first field goal of his career from 38 yards out.
Burrow led the Tigers to points on six of his seven drives. With Burrow under center, the offense had only nine plays where they either lost of failed to gain a yard, with four of those being incomplete passes.
The rest of the second half proved to be mere formality. Georgia Southern had been broken and beaten in every way possible.
Brennan did benefit from much-needed work in relief, leading the Tigers to two scores on his four second-half drives. Orgeron was also able to get a number of reserves into the game for some live game experience before the Tigers visit Austin to face the University of Texas next Saturday.
Things couldn’t have gone better for LSU in week one. Whether this was a signal of a new beginning for an offense that has been the proverbial thorn in the Tigers’ paw for nearly a decade, or a great game against an over-matched foe remains to be seen.
We’ll learn more soon enough. But tonight, the Tigers answered every question in the affirmative. If LSU is this dynamic on a weekly basis, it’s going to be an exciting fall indeed.