LSU was not pushed to its limits against Syracuse, but the Orange stuck around for quite some time and prevented the Tigers from running away with this game.
LSU did not run away with the game. Leonard Fournette did. Fournette put the LSU offense on his figurative back while putting the Syracuse defense on his literal back. With 244 rushing yards and two touchdowns, another beastly performance further legitimized his Heisman candidacy. He has 631 rushing yards this season. And it's not even October.
Syracuse applied a decent amount of pressure on Brandon Harris, who finished 8-of-16 for 157 yards and a TD. Harris struggled to get into a groove, but he delivered on a handful of deep balls including on a long pass to Travin Dural in the fourth quarter. This one play was, in many ways, the ballgame. In an obvious passing situation on third down, Harris heaved one up to the home run threat Dural. A tidy 51 yards later, the Tigers were on the 'Cuse 11-yard-line. Malachi Dupre found the end zone on the next play to give the visitors a two-touchdown lead.
This breathing room turned out to be more than a mere luxury. In fact, the cushion was a necessity. Despite throwing a late pick that resulted in an LSU field goal, Syracuse quarterback Zack Mahoney had a pretty sporty fourth quarter. Mahoney tossed a pair of TDs in the final frame and finished the game on a high note despite throwing 22 incompletions on the afternoon.
Concern for the Tigers moving forward? Yes and no.
They were on the road against a respectable (and much-improved) ACC opponent. Harris had a decent game, while the defense was stout against the run and stymied some option plays mixed in there. Kevin Steele's defensive unit was so good against the run that Mahoney finished as Syracuse's leading rusher with just 40 yards.
LSU's offense as a whole was perfectly average, while Fournette was legendary.
However, there were flags. Oh, wow, there were flags. Yellow flags. On the field. Lots of them. LSU racked up 120 penalty yards in the game. Seeing 14 penalties, on paper, is unsettling. Watching 14 penalties (that either killed the momentum of drives or kept drives alive for the 'Cuse offense) is an entirely different story and an entirely different level of agony for the faithful. The illegal formation penalty that wiped out a long Fournette TD run was particularly discouraging.
This kind of discipline on both sides of the ball will need to improve for LSU, as will its ability to convert on third down. The Tigers' offense was just three-of-ten on the money down. Additionally, LSU allowed 'Cuse to convert on 75 percent of its fourth-down plays, which included a successful fake field goal late in the first half.
LSU never trailed in this game, and the most important thing for Les Miles' team was obviously the W. However, the No. 8 team in the country still has some work to do before it can be considered elite.