Les Miles generally doesn't make things easy. Late-game heroics are more his thing. So maybe we shouldn't be surprised that LSU begin its game against Wisconsin by falling behind 24-7, then rallying for 21 unanswered points to win the opener and avert an early disaster.
As you might expect for a game that the Tigers won by the skin of their teeth, there were plenty of issues. Anthony Jennings was 9-of-21 passing, though for 238 yards and two touchdowns. (It's not often that a quarterback can completely less than half his passes and end up with a 169.49 passing efficiency rating, but that's what Jennings did.) Brandon Harris saw limited action and never attempted a pass.
Outside of a few big plays -- most of them involving Travin Dural, who finished with 151 yards and a touchdown on three receptions -- the passing game was nonexistent. It often consisted of Jennings throwing lovely spirals to empty stretches of field, or hitting receivers who promptly dropped the ball. Uber-recruit Leonard Fournette was not, at least in his first outing, the game-changing recruit that some thought he would be; he finished the night with 18 yards on eight carries, his longest rush going for five yards.
And the defense got battered early by Wisconsin. The Badgers ran over, around and through the Tigers, piling up 268 yards rushing on 39 carries. Melvin Gordon finished the night with 140 yards on 16 attempts. But Wisconsin also struggled through the air; former South Carolina player Tanner McEvoy was 8-of-24 for 50 yards and two interceptions. Knowing that, the Wisconsin staff bizarrely decided to run Gordon just twice in the second half, because -- well, for some reason.
Gary Andersen said Melvin Gordon was fine. Doesn't know why he didn't carry the ball more than two times.— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) August 31, 2014
LSU, meanwhile, seemed to adjust in the right direction. Not counting sacks or kneeing the ball at the end of the game to kill the clock, the Tigers ran the ball 28 times in the second half and attempted just six passes. With the defense stopping the Badgers from building on their lead, LSU was able to continue to chip away until, with about 10 minutes left in the game, Kenny Hilliard broke through with a 28-yard run for the touchdown.
On a weekend when many of the conference's top teams seemed to struggle with what should have been overmatched opponents, LSU didn't seem to lose much ground in the perception game. If anything, the come-from-behind nature of the win could be encouraging for Tiger fans, showing that LSU has the ability to score points in bunches if they need to and if the other teams' coaches are inept enough to let them.
That last part, though, is the catch. Nick Saban and Kevin Sumlin and the other coaches in the SEC West have their moments, but rarely are they going to make the kind of incomprehensible decisions that the Badgers' staff made Saturday. Les Miles might not mind making it hard on himself early in the game, but he can't always rely on the opponents to make it easier on him later.