BATON ROUGE, La. — Dave Aranda is the highest paid coordinator in college football, and Saturday afternoon the LSU defensive wizard earned his $2.5 million annual salary by throttling Georgia’s multifaceted offense.
Tigers coach Ed Orgeron said in the days leading up to LSU’s 36-16 win over the Bulldogs that it would be a chess match, and the coaching moves from both staffs were on display.
Georgia marched 60 yards on nine consecutive run plays on its second offensive series, displaying a dominant run game that seemed to bode well for the afternoon before an ill-fated fake field goal attempt changed the momentum.
The Bulldogs managed just 17 yards on their next seven carries, LSU forcing three consecutive three-and-out series in pulling away to a 16-0 halftime lead.
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“You know they started running the football on us in the first quarter, (and) Dave (Aranda) made some adjustments,” Orgeron said. “Dave did a great job. We mixed up the personnel groupings that we use. We gave them some stuff that they didn’t see. Obviously, everything was built on stopping the run and the deep pass, and we did it.
“We were playing one certain defense, and it wasn’t working. And we changed to play another one, and it worked.”
Georgia, with its two-headed monster at quarterback, it’s four-man tailback platoon and double-digit receiver rotation, could not strike the right combination.
The same versatility that has made the Bulldogs a tough matchup for an opponent worked against coach Kirby Smart — Georgia had no offensive identity to lean on when times got tough.
“We were in four-open sets and we were running the ball really well and we drove down there and … we kind of stayed with that the next drive,” Smart said, asked why the Bulldogs abandoned the run. “We actually went back to it (the run). They changed some things up and it wasn’t working as well.”
It put quarterback Jake Fromm in a difficult situation, with LSU running different looks than it had shown all year, making Georgia’s celebrated offensive line appear ineffective and overmatched at times.
“We were just taking advantage of what they were giving to us,” said Fromm, who was sacked three times and pressured on several others, “and then they started kind of taking that away later in the game, and we started slinging the ball around a little bit.”
Orgeron said the key adjustment involved changing up the defensive fronts, creating different angles, with Aranda expertly mixing in different personnel to create problems for the Bulldogs.
“We challenged our defensive line, especially (nose tackle) Ed Alexander,” Orgeron said. “That’s one of the best centers (Lamont Gaillard) we’ve seen. I thought he (Alexander) played one of his best games today.”
Smart said in the days leading up to the game he respected Aranda, his words foretelling.
“Dave Aranda is one of the premier defensive coordinators in the country, we look at what he does week to week, they do a tremendous job, always looking for new ideas, he’s a guy you look at,” Smart said. “So for us, we’ve got to keep our quarterback’s upright. We’ve got to keep them in the pocket. Can’t get our offensive line confused.”
It was clear by the end of the afternoon LSU was the better prepared team, its players out-executing what had been a very focused and dominant Georgia football team through the first half of the regular season.
“They played more physical than we did, they attacked us, they did a good job, they created turnovers, we didn’t do that, we didn’t protect the ball as good as we had,” Smart said, owning the defeat. “You can look at a lot of things, and I’m perfectly OK with that. We’re gonna look at a lot of things, and how we can get better.”
Georgia dropped to No. 8 in the AP Top 25 poll with the loss, and No. 6 in the Coaches’ Poll.
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