LSU has done a lot of things right during Ed Orgeron’s first full season in command, but turning stops into defensive points isn’t one of them. The Tigers finished the 2017 season without a single defensive touchdown, one of just three SEC defensive units – Vanderbilt and Ole Miss were the others – not to find the end zone during the season.
That’s a rarity for LSU. The Tigers haven’t gone a full season without a defensive touchdown since 2013. Before that, the team hadn’t failed to score on defense since 2001, back in year two of the Nick Saban era in Baton Rouge.
What makes this additionally strange is that the Tigers are playing good defensively by most statistical measures. LSU ranks 17th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring defense, 13th in total defense, 23rd in rushing defense and 20th in passing defense. Few schools have top-25 rankings in all of those categories.
They even have the conference leader in interceptions in redshirt freshman Greedy Williams, who came out of nowhere to pick off an SEC-best five passes.
As a unit, though, LSU is forcing many turnovers, 16 in 12 games which ranks in a tie for 83rd in the FBS. Among SEC teams, only Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt have fewer.
When the Tigers do force turnovers, they don’t typically go far with them. Only three takeaways (a Williams interception, a John Battle interception and a Donnie Alexander fumble recovery) have gone farther than three yards.
This year’s takeaway troubles, though, don’t necessarily mean that LSU fans should worry about a long-term trend.
For one thing, LSU’s opponents are still fumbling – they’re just recovering most of them (eight of 13). Over time, the Tigers have a good shot to wind up on the right side of those plays, and they may be able to turn some of them into instant points.
More encouraging for next year is that several of the Tigers’ most productive defensive players – like Williams, linebacker Devin White and defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence – are on course to return to Baton Rouge next season, forming the cornerstones of a defense that should be even better and perhaps more opportunistic than in 2017.
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