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October 26, 2010

The Tigers after 8

LSU lost to an undefeated Auburn team in Jordan Hare stadium by 7 points and some Tiger fans are glad to proclaim that the sky has fallen.  LSU dropped from 6th in the polls to 12th.  24-17 is not a blow out.  It is no secret:  I think the LSU Tigers should have won.  To those of you (most of you) who are not as optimistic about the  LSU Tigers as I am:  When you lose to the 4th ranked team in the country at their stadium by one touchdown that is scored in the last 5 minutes of the 4th quarter, is that the kind of unexpected thing that warrants dropping from 6th to 12th in all major polls?  Is it time to start calling for the head of your head coach? Is it time to give away the rest of your LSU season tickets to some guy who writes a blog?  If you have 4-6 tickets together, I think I can manage to find someone that will gladly taken them off of your hands.  Enough of that nonsense.  Almost all Tiger fans are passionate about our team but we just have different ways of expressing ourselves.

How and Why did LSU lose to Auburn?
Auburn earned the win.  They were the better team Saturday.  Given a second chance, LSU could beat them and next year LSU will beat them.

Quarterback Play:
Cam Newton did not manage to throw a single touchdown or even pass for 90 yards but he didn't need to: he ran for 2 touchdowns and 217 yards.  I think Jordan Jefferson may have been watching and taking notes.  While Jefferson only rushed for 1 touchdown and 74 yards, he looked much sharper at running the read option.  It is ashame that whoever was calling plays for LSU didn't stick with what was working.  Jefferson's first drive interception came at a time when LSU was driving the ball well and would have likely scored first after LSU defense handed Auburn a three-and-out on their opening series.  Jarrett Lee did well until he was injured.  On TV it looked like Lee's wrist was swelling before the half.  He probably should have sat out the second half.  I suspect he will be healed by the first week of November when Alabama comes to town.

Wide Receiver Play:
It is still pretty clear that LSU has more talented wide receivers than Auburn.  While Jefferson was totally responsible for the interception that was intended for Randle, there were several other drops by LSU receivers that may have made a big difference in the game.  One by Toliver that would have either been a touchdown or at least put LSU in a prime position to score a touchdown.  One thing that I can say about Auburn's receivers is that they are really good blockers.  I think Auburn's scheme is to block everybody to give Newton one-on-one running situations.  Newton is not going down with an arm tackle from a lineman or linebacker and he is likely to run over defensive backs. LSU may want to consider putting in three solid blocking tight ends as wideouts and having them target linebackers and bigger defensive backs to allow Jefferson more running room on a play action pass.  LSU has several good receiving - good blocking tight ends so Jefferson could dump off a short pass every now and then to keep defenses guessing.  LSU's wide receivers blocked well earlier in the season but their blocking has become pretty weak as the season has progressed.

Running Back Play:
Nobody has said this and I do not have insider information but I think Stevan Ridley may have sprang his ankle in the McNeese State game and may have been still a bit nicked up for the Auburn game.  It is a hunch. It seemed at some point in the McNeese State game Ridley suddenly had a bunch more tape on his ankles. Auburn's Mike Dyer had 100 yards rushing and McCalebb 84 yards, 70 of those yards were on one play that resulted in the game winning touchdown.  LSU's Spencer Ware did throw an exciting 39-yard touchdown pass.  That pass was doubly exciting for me because I suggested something similar it in preseason article that I wrote.

Offensive Line Play:
LSU's line played the worse that they have played all year.  LSU's offensive line has been a bright spot but we really could have used Will Blackwell.  You may recall Blackwell broke his ankle on the first play of the first game this year.  Last year Blackwell had an outstanding block that sprang Russell Shepard for a huge gain and touchdown.  In an article after the North Carolina game I strongly suggested getting Chris Faulk into the starting offensive lineup.  I really like T-Bob Hebert but he clearly was over matched by the Auburn defensive line.  If guard is not a good match for Faulk, move Alex Hurst inside from tackle to guard.  Auburn's line was the difference in the game.  You do not gain 440 yards on the ground, if you do not have outstanding offensive line play.

Those who have followed LSU this year were not surprised by an offense that underperformed.  Cameron Newton punctuated the need for LSU to have effective quarterback play as well as winning play calling.  I would not have started Jordan Jefferson at quarterback in the Auburn game.  I think that by this point, Jefferson should probably be the relief quarterback but the way he was running in the ball against Auburn, I would have called that read option play a few more times and quick passed a couple of time from that same play.

Defensive Back Play:
Auburn had an interception and LSU was ineffective at throwing the ball most of the night but it would be a stretch to credit Auburn's defensive backs for that.  LSU made them look better than they played.  LSU's defensive backs had some spectacular knock downs of well thrown passes that would have started a game with a much more lopsided score.

Defensive Line Play:
Auburn's defensive line played so well that I thought a couple of the crushing tackles might have been called personal fouls, especially the one where Nick Fairley picked up Jefferson, body-slammed him and then raked his hand across Jefferson's face enroute to ripping his helmet off from the inside of the face mask. But, I may have seen that differently had it been Drake Nevis or Michael Brockers doing the same to Cameron Newton.
LSU got in Auburn's backfield a couple of times but either missed tackles or seemed tentative to commit to tackling for fear of missing Newton and looking foolish.  Newton still made our defense look foolish so next time, I would suggest flying to the quarterback and not worrying about missing.

Special Teams Play:
This is what kept LSU in the game.  LSU and Auburn both made a field goal and Auburn missed a second field goal attempt.  Field goal kicking kept the game close but what really made the difference was LSU's punting game.  Auburn had 440 yards rushing but only 3 touchdowns because LSU's punt team pinned Auburn inside the 10 yard line all day long.  LSU's punt and kick return teams did not spring for a touchdown but they did give LSU great field position all night long.

LSU needs a quarterback and an Offensive Coordinator.  Those of you that are calling for Les Miles to be replaced consider one thing: new coaches often replace entire coaching staffs with their own people.  I am not willing to risk losing John Chavis or honestly any of the other coaches besides Crowton.  To me this is much like when LSU's defense was stinking up the field under codefensive coordinators prior to Chavis' hire.  To be honest, if LSU could find a solid quarterback, I would be willing to keep Crowton another year.  Zach Mettenberger may be LSU's "Cameron Newton" answer to quarterback next year or Stephen Rivers, who seems very similar to his older brother Phillip Rivers, may be LSU's answer to future quarterback needs.  It is just painful to see an offense loaded with talent struggle like LSU has this year.  Even in the Auburn game LSU was kept within striking distance.

This game was truly over and done after LSU called a time out to plan a play on 4th and 6 and then came out of the time out totally confused.  That sort of thing cannot keep happening.  By the way, for me that loss was only slight more painful for me than several of LSU's wins this year.

LSU is 7-1 and we need to remember that LSU did not go undefeated on either of their national championships in the 2000s.  LSU lost to Georgia in 2003 and to Kentucky and Arkansas in 2007.  I would not be shocked to see Auburn go undefeated on the way to a national championship which would be some redemption for the undefeated season that went unrewarded under Tuberville.  I would also not be shocked to see Auburn lose at least two games to some combination of Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama still left on their schedule.  I would not be at all surprised to see Georgia and Alabama beat Auburn.

LSU matches up better against Arkansas and Alabama than they did against Auburn and realize LSU played their worst game of the year on offensive and defensive line against Auburn.  LSU should have little problem with ULM and Ole Miss, although Houston Nutt does a great job preparing teams for LSU.

This is a solid match up and both teams are off this week to heal, plan, and prepare.  Alabama may be the best team in the country.  An early loss to South Carolina should not keep Alabama from the National Championship if that is their destiny but I think an LSU win over Alabama will provide LSU with some of the respect and confidence that LSU's talented players and coaches need to and can earn.  That aside, why does LSU have a chance?  LSU's defense has proven really effective at getting to pro-style/drop back  passers like Alabama's Greg McElroy.  LSU's defensive line has also consistently shutdown great running backs.  Auburn's offense, featuring a 6-5, 250lb running back/quarterback that can pass, is nothing like Alabama.  Alabama's offense is very much the same as last year's Alabama's offense.  LSU's defense is much better this year.  LSU special teams are probably the best in the country this year and Alabama will miss Javier Arenas when the two teams meet.  I bet Stevan Ridley will be much fresher and Mike Ford and Spencer Ware have gained some game experience that ought to pay dividends the rest of the season.  Jefferson seems to be finding a style that allows for quick passes with a quicker and more decisive decision to tuck the ball, find a hole and run if a receiver is not clearly open.  Jarrett Lee's wrist should be totally healed and we may get to see the finish of what Lee was beginning to do to Auburn when an Auburn defensive lineman drove him into the ground and injured his wrist on his first series.
I think Patrick Peterson is overdue for a punt or kickoff return for a touchdown. I think the whole team should do the Heisman pose with him if he returns one for a touchdown. It seems odd that after the touchdown against West Virginia, the Heisman pose and Les Miles' Reprimand, that Peterson has not score since. If it takes some showboating and a lack of humility for Peterson to score, I say let him play whole-heartedly. Heck; I will do the Heisman pose in front of my TV if Peterson take back up his early season habit of scoring.      

LSU needs to do whatever it takes to get the offense going.  It is amazing that LSU is 7-1 with the inconsistency that LSU has had on offense.  It is time for LSU's offense to start playing more loose and have some fun.  Call some crazy plays like the Spencer Ware half-back pass against Auburn.  Try throwing long on the first play of the opening drive.  The offense has too much talent to not put more points on the board.  It would be fun to see LSU finally start dominating both sides of the line of scrimmage for 60 minutes.  LSU still has something to prove and something left to play for.  LSU needs to leave it all on the field these last 4 games.  11-1, 10-2 may certainly put LSU in the mix for the National Championship.  LSU is not out of the picture.  With three #1 ranked teams going down in three weeks, there is room at the top.

Almost forgot - - Diamond Dave says that the problem with LSU's offense is that Les Miles is a "Big 10" run the ball between the tackles sort of guy and Gary Crowton is a West Coast, pass happy, spread offense sort of guy.  Dave would like for me to pass on the message that LSU should pick one style and stick to it.  I think Dave could be onto something here.


Anonymous said...

A-men brother...I am getting the feeling, that the rest of the SEC, and the country, is trying to forget about this year Les Miles LSU football team..There is no secrets left, about this LSU football team..And the rest of the country,is having a "want" to go look at the other college football team..If LSU does not fix, the line, on both sides of the football, soon..The promising LSU 2010 football season, will go up into smoke..Again.
Nice column,thanks.

Anonymous said...


Whatever fries your corn dogs, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I bet ($$ money),that LSU 2010 football record, will be 8-4 after 12 games..And 8-5 after the Bowl.
Nothing has changed!

Anonymous said...

Oregon QB, is not much bigger, then Russell Sheppard..Yet, he is the talk of the country...The LSU football team, needs a good QB.."Russell Sheppard" is playing WR...I do not have any more faith, in Les Miles,or the LSU coaching staff,any longer.
What can anyone say, after seeing the head coach, play good football players out of position,or not at all.

Anonymous said...

Fans,the LSU line is not good enough,to beat a good football team like Alabama.
Your LSU head coach is not a good recruiter after all.
Alabama,Auburn,Florida,has pushed the LSU football program, back into the SEC pack.
That what we were afraid of, when Nick Saban went to the Pro-football.
LSU hired Les Miles.
Well, here we go again,the November losing streak...How long, is this 8-4 record stuff,going to go on?

Anonymous said...

Why lose the Bama game, before we play?

Anonymous said...

I do not believe, that the football players on this LSU team, are all that worse, then the other good SEC football team..I think the difference, is coaching..Les Miles, need to go coach somewhere else.
He IS not going to be ALABAMA,ect.
Right back where we started.

Anonymous said...

How do you like the new bright boy LSU AD?
Lets play a very hard first game, in 2011..Make $3 million...Fill up tiger stadium with empty seats,and no TV cameras...Lose $40 million...Jerk!!!
You can leave, with Miles!!!!

Anonymous said...

Our LSU tigers, are a good football team.
They win football game,7-1.Les Miles LSU fight tiger football team, can beat Alabama.
I would be very happy,if Les Miles coaches LSU, forever.

Anonymous said...

"Hay Tigers,hay tigers,we just beat the hell out of you"
Rammer Jammer Alabama...In Tiger Stadium.

Anonymous said...

24-17 is "beating the hell out of you"?! Gump

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