If there was something Saturday equally as surprising as the final score on The Plains, it might have been LSU’s ability to protect quarterback Joe Burrow against a talented Auburn defensive front.
Allowing two sacks and five quarterback hurries might not seem like a good day at the office, but context is everything. Burrow was knocked around like a pinball a week earlier against FCS Southeastern Louisiana. Meanwhile, in the season opening win over Washington, Auburn harassed the Huskies offensive line with five sacks and nine tackles for loss.
A big part of the Tigers success was its man in the middle.
“(Lloyd) Cushenberry had a great game inside,” said Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network on my radio show Monday.
Cubelic, a former Auburn center from 1996-2001, broke down his LSU-Auburn film study and came away impressed with the LSU redshirt sophomore center.
“I thought that he was phenomenal at center,” Cubelic said. “He was evened up one-on-one in pass (protection) a few times. He held his own. He got good movement with both guards in double team situations. You didn’t see him get blown off the ball.”
The starting center spot was expected to be a tight position battle in fall camp. Veteran Garrett Brumfield was considered a candidate to slide to the middle with the arrival of JUCO guard Damien Lewis filling his spot at left guard. When starting right guard Ed Ingram was suspended indefinitely, it moved Lewis to the right side and kept Brumfield in his left guard spot, putting pressure on Cushenberry to perform.
Orgeron graded Cushenberry’s performance in the season opener against Miami an “A-plus.” Through three games, he and Burrow have not had one errant shotgun snap or fumbled quarterback-center exchange.
“I thought the LSU center was phenomenal in helping that offensive line hold up against what I consider to be the best defensive line in the SEC,” Cubelic said.
Two other lineman saw key snaps for the first time in their careers in an SEC game. Austin Deculus started at right tackle for the first time after starting for suspended left tackle Saahdiq Charles against Southeastern. Orgeron credited Deculus’ play for as one of the primary reasons LSU improved from the week prior.
Cubelic had a mixed review.
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