BATON ROUGE, La. — First-year LSU quarterback Joe Burrow repeated the term “breakout game” on Monday as he referred to the most recent showing of the Tigers’ passing offense.
The implication is that going forward, there’s a new, higher standard of production for Burrow and Co. — a premise that will be tested Saturday in Gainesville, Florida.
Florida’s defense is not Mississippi’s defense.
And a hostile Swamp will be considerably more disruptive to No. 5 LSU — particularly in terms of offensive communication — than Tiger Stadium was last weekend against the Rebels.
“The strength of their team is their defense.” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said of the 22nd-ranked Gators. “This is going to be the best defense we’ve faced so far this year.”
With 573 yards of offense against Ole Miss , highlighted by the best passing performance yet from Burrow, LSU’s offense finally looks dialed in. The question is whether such a performance against the reeling Rebels’ defense carries over against different teams in different venues.
Ole Miss gave up 62 points to Alabama before losing 45-16 at LSU. The Rebels rank 126th nationally in total defense, allowing 516 yards per game. By contrast, the Gators have allowed the ninth fewest points in the country at 14 per game, are tied with Kansas for most takeaways in the country with 14 and have allowed touchdowns on only 25 percent of opposing offense’s trips inside their 20-yard line.
Nonetheless, Burrow asserted that the play-making he and LSU receivers put on display against Ole Miss bodes well for the rest of the season.
“I knew that we had this game in us because we’re so talented and I’d seen it all summer and all camp, but we hadn’t really done it in a game,” Burrow said. “That’s because we were kind of feeling each other out chemistry-wise, up front, receivers, me, (offensive coordinator Steve) Ensminger. And when you have a game like that, it really boosts your confidence going forward.”
Burrow began the season with a more conservative approach and still has not thrown an interception while helping the Tigers race to a 5-0 start. For the season, LSU still ranks 78th nationally in total offense (396.6 yards per game), in part because of relatively modest passing production in the first four games.
But against Ole Miss, Burrow completed 72 percent of his passes (18 of 25) for 292 yards and three TDs, hitting nine different receivers in the process.
“The passing game that you saw against Ole Miss is the one I expected all year. I totally believe in coach Ensimger’s ability to get people open and call plays,” Orgeron said. “I believe we have a great set of receivers. We finally got our receivers in the right spot.”
Justin Jefferson had the best day among the receivers, with 99 yards and two touchdowns, including a 65-yard touchdown on a crossing route with much of the yardage coming after the catch. Freshman Ja’Marr Chase made a difficult, twisting catch along the sideline for a 21-yard touchdown, fellow freshman Terrace Marshall had a 52-yard catch and junior Stephen Sullivan caught five passes for 50 yards. Even seldom-used sophomore Racey McMath got in the act, making the first two catches of his career for 42 yards.
“Those guys are coming alive, so we have more guys we can give the ball to,” Orgeron said.
LSU rushed for 281 yards against the Rebels with eight different players, including Burrow, carrying the ball. But LSU already had run well from the start of the season, led by Nick Brossette’s 409 yards and five TDs.
Like Burrow, Brossette expected to eventually see LSU exhibit more balance, based on the potential he’d seen at practice.
“It’s just a matter of getting it down and communicating with each other and getting comfortable with it,” Brossette said. “We’re improving each and every week.”