Guys, I sort of took a break last week. I only wrote a couple blog posts, and to be perfectly honest I hardly even paid attention to football at all, at least by my lofty standards. Sure, I spent most of Saturday after 1:00pm watching football, but that's not really paying attention to football. In order to pay attention to football, you have to read all the articles in the papers, study the box scores, do research, etc. You can't just watch football and hope to be informed on what's going on. It would be like trying to understand electoral politics just by watching election returns every four years.
My sorry excuse is that work and family life picked up right as LSU was going to a bye week. That may not have been a coincidence, but the result was that a lot less of my time has been my own lately, and because of the bye week there hasn't been as much urgency to make time for football.
The good news is that while I've been away from the blog, I have had some time to reflect on the state of the LSU football team. I'm not sure when the perfect time for a bye week is. It always seems to come at a time when you wind up thinking to yourself, "The team would be better off just playing football." This is one of those times. The bye week has given the malcontents (of whom I may not be of, but I am of close kin) time to stew, time to go on a slow burn, time to feed back on each other.
I said before the Florida game that the game did not matter. Les Miles had temporarily silenced the critics with his win over Georgia. I believed that at the time, but the sort of game we played against Florida was just about exactly the wrong sort of game to play to inspire confidence in the team among the fan base. With nothing to lose, the struggling LSU offense went onto the field and played just about as tight, and as mechanical, and as spiritless as a unit can play. Watching that game was like watching a boa constrictor slowly suffocate its prey. I think part of that is the playcalling.
Poseur has sort of put his trademark on the school of thought that says that we are being so conservative that we are missing out on too many of the rewards that come with a high-risk/high-reward strategy. I will put my trademark on the other side of that coin. While we're voluntarily passing up the rewards that come with risk, even with moderate risk, we are also stifling our offensive players' energy and enthusiasm. Because everything is so mechanical, so lifeless, the players seem to be feeding off of that negative energy and aren't operating at full efficiency. It just looks like the game is not very fun out there for those players, and that seems to be sapping some of the life out of the offense.
I watch other games, even games with struggling quarterbacks, and they do creative things. They do things that de-emphasize their weaknesses. They do things that inject energy into a game. If a quarterback is having trouble making reads, they give him timing throws like slants or fades. If a running game is having trouble getting a push, they run a few draws or reverses. They disguise passes as runs and runs as passes, to try to give their unit an advantage. We seem to do none of that. We even leave our most explosive individual player, Russell Shepard, on the bench for an entire game.
You can tell that I am displeased with the state of things right now, but at the same time it hasn't really hurt us. We're 5-1. We have a chance to meet every goal for the season. The problem is that watching this football team has not been very fun, and the record has been built up against the weaker part of our schedule. Georgia appears to be walking around in a fog. Mississippi State and Vandy are clearly the worst teams in the league. Washington has come back to earth after a hot start. ULL is a Sun Belt team. Things get tougher from here and if we're going to actually meet those goals, we have to improve as a team, especially on offense. We are going to have to figure out how to generate some explosive plays. A few explosive plays will not only generate yards in and of themselves, but they will energize the team and help out the plays that are designed to get 5 yards.
I am optimistic about this week. Auburn is clearly reeling. The Gus Malzahn offense that started the season looking like a juggernaut has come back to earth in the last two weeks. In their loss to Kentucky this week, Chris Todd had an ATVSQBPI of 2.5 yards per touch. The offense as a whole stunk except for Ben Tate, and scored only 7 points on the game. We have an opportunity here at home to get another win, lock up bowl eligibility, and move on to the next game having won 2 out of 3 of what we considered our toughest stretch of the season. Though now our toughest stretch may well be the November stretch of Alabama, La Tech, Ole Miss, and Arkansas.