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Tigers spoil Sark's debut, 31-23
But Sark's bark comes with a bite
Malamute, 6 September 2009

Passing for 172 yards and 3 touchdowns, Jordan Jefferson led LSU to a 31-23 victory over Washington at Husky Stadium, spoiling Steve Sarkisian's debut as a head coach.

Husky Stadium was rocking, the venerable house was jamming, and you had the feeling that our long period of suffering is coming to an end. But first some reality.

Jefferson's pass efficiency rating of 186.4 was the story of the game, this coming off a pass efficiency defense for Washington that ranked 115 out of 119 FBS teams last season. Jefferson burned Washington's secondary for touchdown passes to Terrance Toliver that went for 45 and 39 yards, exploiting a pass-efficiency defense that had the solidarity rating of Swiss cheese last season.

Huskies' QB Jake Locker, with a PE rating of 125.7, met the bogey (i.e., a PE of 120) we had set for him as a result of his performance in the Oklahoma game last season. But Locker's pick 6 in the first quarter played a significant role in the game. 

With Washington enjoying a 7-3 lead, Jacob Cutrera turned a Locker pass, one he should never have thrown, into a 29-yard interception return, to give the Bayou Bengals a 10-7 lead going into the second quarter. After Locker's miscue, LSU had the game mostly in hand, although the Dawgs managed to tie the score at 10 a piece in the second quarter.

This came after the Tigers recovered a fumble by Chris Polk on their own four-yard line. The Huskies held the Tigers to a three-and-out and got the ball back on LSU's 24 after Johri Fogerson returned Derek Helton's 36-yard punt 18 yards. Erik Folk booted a 34-yard field goal, as the Huskies' drive stalled on the 16.

With Washington's running attack hitting a brick wall in the third quarter, the pace of the game took on that worn-out look we fans have grown accustomed to seeing after aggressively played first halves over the past few years. However, Locker's running ability brought the Huskies to life again, his legs converting a couple of third downs into first downs on a drive in the fourth quarter that led to a field goal, which narrowed the Bengals' lead to 24-16, and, once more, that fateful pick six came to the fore.

It came alive once more -- this time in haunting fashion -- when the Huskies narrowed the final score to 31-24 as a result of a 81-yard touchdown drive to end the game.

What could have been, you know, an 8-point differential? Yet, the Huskies' pass-efficiency defense, the bottom line of this game, will likely haunt them for the rest of the season if not improved upon.

As I watched the game, I had the feeling that in a hypothetical cat and mouse game, from fifty yards out, say, in which the two teams tried to  match scores tit for tat, coach Les Miles would have the upper hand by exploiting Washington's suspect secondary with his gifted receivers, namely Brandon LaFell and Toliver. Whereas, Miles' lockdown corners would have Washington's receivers held mostly in check, giving up the short stuff to prevent any long gains.

The point is that in such a hypothetical game, LSU would be able to score quickly and often, while UW would have to work for its scores, being subject to execution errors, penalties and turnovers. 

At times, the strong-armed Locker looked like a young John Elway as he executed out of the pro-set and spread formations. Locker ran for four first downs in the second half, converting a third and two, a third and four, a fourth and one, and a third and six, to keep drives alive.

Trying to negate the Tigers' vaunted return game, Washington's high, short kickoffs, four of them, averaged just 41 yards, netting an average of 35.2 yards, which means LSU was starting from its 35-yard line on average. 

The Huskies outgained the ninth-ranked Tigers 478 to 321 yards and led in time of possession, 36:52 to 23:08, prompting ESPN's analyst, Bob Davie, to blame the Tigers' tiring defense on the long trip to Seattle and the time-zone change, which is par for the course with the eastern mafia. He could have said the Tigers' defense had been on the field too long for much of the game, thanks to Sarkisian's innovative game plan.

Davie also remarked that LSU having started school in August compared with Washington's start in late September gave the Huskies an advantage in practice time to prepare for the game. He also took a veiled shot at the integrity of the Pac-10 referees early in the game. This ongoing eastern canard is propagated at every opportunity by the media thanks to an officiating screw up at Oregon several years ago. The Huskies drew 83 yards in penalties to the Tigers' 35. Pac-10 referees have seemingly been intimidated by this eastern canard and may be scrutinizing west coast teams more closely than their out-of-conference opponents in an effort to deflect criticism. Expect people like Davie to continue to play the Pac-10 officiating card against west-coast teams. 

Washington has lost 15-straight games, its last win coming in November 2007 when the Huskies beat California, 37-23.

If the Huskies continue to improve at their current pace, their long period of suffering will rapidly come to a merciful end, for Sark's bark comes with a bite.

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
LSU 10 7 7 7 31
UW 7 6 0 10 23

Time Team How Player (s) Score
1st qtr        
10:35 UW TD Jake Locker 17 yard pass to James Johnson; Erik Folk kick. UW, 7-0
6:03 LSU FG Josh Jasper 24-yard field goal. UW, 7-3
5:49 LSU TD Jacob Cutrera 29-yard interception return. Jasper kick. LSU, 10-7
2nd Qtr
13:50 UW FG Folk 34-yard field goal Tie, 10-10
1:15 LSU TD Jordan Jefferson 45-yard pass to Terrance Toliver. Jasper kick. LSU 17-10
0:0 UW FG Folk 37-yard field goal. LSU 17-13
3rd Qtr
5:50 LSU TD Jefferson 39-yard pass to Toliver; Jasper kick. LSU 24-13
4th Qtr
5:24 UW FG Folk 32-yard field goal LSU 24-16
1:54 LSU TD Jefferson 6-yard pass to Brandon LeFell; Jasper kick. LSU 31-16
0:00 UW TD Locker 9-yard pass to Kavario Middleton; Folk kick. LSU 31-23


Statistic LSU UW
Total First Downs 17 25
  Rushing 8 11
  Passing 7 12
  Penalty 2 2
Total Net Yards 321 478
Net Yards Passing 172 321
Net Yards Rushing 149 157
Completions-att-int 11-19-0 25-45-1
Punts, yards, average 4-128 3-127
Sacks by (number, yards) 1-10 1-8
Kickoff Returns: number, yds, tds 4-23-0 6-96-0
Punt returns: number, yds, tds 1-9-0 1-18-0
Kickoff Yards 6-392 4-164
Touchbacks (kickoffs) 0 0
Interception returns: no., yds, tds 1-29-1 0-0-0
Penalties, no., Yards 3-35 11-83
Fumbles: number/lost 1-1 2-1
Time of Possession  23:08 36:52

Passing cmp att yds tds int
Jordan Jefferson (186.4) 11 19 172 3 0
Jake Locker (125.7) 25 45 321 2 1
Tigers' Rushing No. Yds TDs Long  
Charles Scott 12 52 0 21  
Keiland Williams 7 51 0 16  
Jordan Jefferson 8 42 0 18  
Richard Murphy 1 3 0 3  
Trindon Holliday 1 1 0 1  
Washington Rushing No. yds tds long
Chris Polk 21 90 0 33  
Jake Locker 12 51 0 24  
Johri Fogerson 3 11 0 5  
Willie Griffin 1 8 0 8  
Jordan Polk 1 -3 0 0  
LSU Pass Receiving No. yds tds long
Terrance Toliver       4 117 2 45
Brandon LaFell 4 34 1 12  
Richard Dickson 1 9 0 8  
Keiland Williams 1 8 0 8  
Mitch Joseph 1 4 0 4  
Washington Pass Rec. No. yds tds long
James Johnson 6 63 1 17  
Kavario Middleton 5 45 1 14  
Devin Aguilar 4 76 0 46  
Johri Fogerson 2 58 0 51  
Chris Polk 2 34 0 17  
D'Andre Goodwin 2 19 0 10  
Jermaine Kearse 2 12 0 8  
Jordan Polk 1 12 0 12  
Paul Homer 1 2 0 2  
Punting punts yds long Avg
Derek Helton 4 128 38 32.0
Will Mahan 3 127 42.3 53  
Attendance: 69,161          

Richard Linde, aka Malamute can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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