LSU and Brandon Harris defeat New Mexico State 63-7


We may be looking at the early days of the best recruiting class LSU has ever had. Brandon Harris, Leonard Fournette, and Malachi Dupre headlined the 2014 class and served as LSU’s leading passer, rusher, and receiver against New Mexico State. The LSU Tiger offense racked up 563 yards on an overmatched NMSU team, scoring 42 points by halftime.

Before any of those fabulous freshmen really took over, though, LSU had to suffer through the worst offensive start imaginable. Let’s recount LSU’s first four drives:

More from LSU Football

3 plays – Fumble
3 plays – Punt
1 play – Interception
3 plays – Interception

The futility was interrupted by a short field touchdown before Kenny Hilliard coughed it up again for another fumble. The preceding three turnovers, though, were all attributed to QB Anthony Jennings.

Jennings, the starter, played about an awful a game as one could imagine. He finished with a negative QB rating, completing just 2 of 5 passes for 11 yards with two interceptions.

As the boos and calls rained down for Brandon Harris, Jennings never could get anything going. Early in the second quarter, LSU switched to Brandon Harris and never looked back.

Sep 27, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Brandon Harris (6) scores past New Mexico State Aggies defensive back Cyrus Chenault (28) on a touchdown run during the second half of a game at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated New Mexico State 63-7. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Harris proceeded to score touchdowns on all seven drives he led through the game. Harris himself accounted for five touchdowns, three passing and two rushing. The performances by each quarterback could not have been more different.

Earlier in the week, it seemed to me if Jennings started tonight, there would be no way Harris would start his first college game at Auburn next week. Given tonight’s performance, though, I don’t think Les Miles has any other choice.

Not only did Harris play spotless football, he elevated the play of the entire offense. The line seemed to block better, Fournette found another gear, and the receivers latched on to lasers from Harris’ right shoulder for big gains. It’s clear the connection that Malachi Dupre and Harris have, as Dupre brought down another beautiful touchdown grab in the end zone placed where only he could get it.

Fournette finished the day with his first 100 yard rushing game, gaining 122 yards on 18 carries. Dupre finished as LSU’s leading receiver with 54 yards on three grabs. Fellow freshman Trey Quinn also added three grabs for 46 yards.


LSU really never gave the Aggies a chance. The secondary looked fantastic and the defensive line performed enough. They tended to get pushed off their blocks and made few plays themselves, but the linebackers played better on the whole.

Kendall Beckwith alternated each series with D.J. Welter through the game and even began to take more series’ as the game came to a close. Much as how Harris clearly outplayed Jennings, Beckwith did so with Welter.

On the Aggies lone big play of the evening, Welter got caught on the fake handoff to the running back and left the middle of the field wide open for the NMSU QB to rumble 79 yards to the end zone.

Repeatedly, Welter was out of position or biting on fakes not effecting the play in any meaningful way. He’s truly being outplayed by Beckwith now and LSU should move to him full time. Especially this coming weekend against Auburn, as LSU will be bringing a rather light interior defensive line to Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers will need Beckwith’s added bulk to defend AU’s Cameron Artis-Payne.

For a while now the narrative has been that Welter is in because he can run the defense. It appears the defense is running itself just fine with Beckwith in and his elevated play makes no case for Welter to continue to be in the starting lineup.

The LSU play calling this week was less focused on their I-form 21/22 personnel group (meaning two running backs and one or two tight ends) and used shotgun/pistol looks more.

My tracking was by no means scientific, but after seven of the first eight plays were played with 21 personnel in the first half, LSU used a shotgun look for 24 of the next 36 plays.

On Harris’ first drive, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron mixed a fair amount of I-form with shotgun looks, while the offense found it’s high gears. The rest of the half LSU was almost exclusively in a shotgun look, spreading out the field and running from it.

Sep 27, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Travin Dural (83) catches a pass as New Mexico State Aggies defensive back Winston Rose (4) defends during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

For the second half, it appeared the Cameron was looking to get Harris comfortable in the entire offense. The first ten plays of the second half were all from the 21 personnel group, as LSU drove it directly down the throat of the Aggie defense.

LSU then worked out of a spread look, with the vast majority of the players coming out of the shotgun or pistol look. It looks like LSU is going to start using spread looks with more frequency, getting more athletes on the field. As a major complaint coming out of the Mississippi State loss, this is good progress.

It looks like LSU–again–doesn’t have a QB controversy. Brandon Harris gives LSU advantages in all phases over Anthony Jennings. He should be the starter. His first major test comes next week.