Poseur talks about it a lot, and it's true. No moral victories, therefore, no moral losses. This was an SEC game, and getting out of Auburn with the W is ultimately all that matters. As bad as this game was, losing it would've still been far worse.
That said, holy sh_t. That was probably the worst regular season game LSU has played in at least two years.
- Where do we start? LSU held Auburn to 183 yards of offense and 2 of 12 on third down. The power of penalties and turnovers. Once Auburn got momentum on their way, they really tried to get the snowball rolling. Our Tigers deserve some credit in slowing that down, but in the end what it really came down to was Auburn just couldn't push hard enough.
- Corey Lemonier is one heck of a defensive end, and that was one of the best efforts I've ever seen from him, but his success versus Josh Dworaczyk was supremely troubling because there's still more to come. Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor remain on the schedule, along with Damontre Moore of Texas A&M and the pass-rushers Florida and Alabama bring to the table. It would be really hard to picture Dworaczyk holding up against those names right now. There's going to have to be some adjustments, both in scheme in personnel. LSU was able to help him in some instances with backs and tight ends, but were forced into too many third-and-longs where they had to spread the field and isolate him more.
- That said, it would be unfair to only pick on Dworaczyk, because his linemates didn't help him out very much. Josh Williford and Alex Hurst were dreadful at times, as was P.J. Lonergan. Auburn does have some talented defensive linemen, and a number of them were playing with their hair on fire, but there's no excuse for players this talented simply getting out-executed and out-muscled at the point of attack.
- To Dworaczyk and the team's credit, Lemonier was fairly quiet in the second half. Finished with 3 tackles and two sacks, and two of the tackles and both sacks all came in the first half.
- Secondary to the line problems, the wide receiving corps each took turns at sucking. Dropped passes, misplayed balls -- it felt like this position more than any other checked out of the game mentally once the momentum swung Auburn's way.
- There will no doubt be some gripes with playcalling, but you can't really say LSU didn't make efforts to open this game up and push the ball down the field. The players just didn't make plays -- see Odell Beckham Jr.'s brutal drop and Russell Shepard's misplay on a potential touchdown throw in the fourth quarter.
- Beckham in particular needs a major reset this week. In addition to the drops, he consistently continues to take foolish, FOOLISH chances on punt returns. Granted, LSU has faced two very good punters in the last two weeks, but there's no excuse to take risks. This team, even on a night like tonight, is never that desperate for a play. Call it pressing or call it a very odd case of the yips, Beckham either needs to start showing better judgment or LSU will have to find a new punt returner.
- If there is a wide receiver that showed up tonight, it's Kadron Boone. His big third-down catch in the second half was an athletic adjustment to a smart throw from Mettenberger, away from the coverage to the back shoulder.
- Speaking of talented players that had a very off week, Eric Reid will not have a very fun film session on Sunday. Bad angles and worse tackles -- and on a consistent basis. Between the fumble that set up Auburn's only touchdown and the awful tackles that sprung Onterio McCalebb, LSU's mistakes were the only thing keeping Auburn in this.
- Very mixed bag from Mettenberger. It's easy to forget that it was his first road start, and some of the struggles could easily be attributed to that. The two fumbles and the short scrambles that failed to pick up first-downs each screamed "rookie mistake." And yeah, he's not a rookie, but he's also making his fourth start on the year. And to his credit, Mettenberger never folded under the pressure, and kept firing. He was largely pretty smart with his throws, even when not on target. Most importantly, he never took any stupid risks trying to make something happen, in an environment where it could've gotten very easy to try and press to make a play. The key right now is, how he grows from this.
- More on playcalling. Early on, it appeared as though LSU would be able to do as they pleased on offense, but when things started getting shaky, you could kind of see the coaches a bit unsure. On the one hand, the running game was never so epically bad as to be abandoned, but it was spotty enough that you could see them trying to lean on the passing game more. And to their credit, they tried a lot of short, high-percentage throws to keep Mettenberger in rhythm, only to watch the wideouts struggle. A thought for the future could be the use of Spencer Ware in the pass game. He continues to run like a man possessed, and while he may be somewhat limited as a back, he's still athletic as hell and a gifted receiver. Using him as a chain-mover might be an asset in the future.
- Positives: you cannot say enough about the play of LSU's defensive line -- Sam Montgomery in particular. They consistently stifled any momentum for Auburn and kept Kiehl Frazier uncomfortable the entire night. Anthony Johnson was also a monster in short yardage, helping to set up the safety that ultimately proved the difference in the game.
- Speaking of that safety, Kevin Minter met Auburn's fullback in the hole and drove him backwards, forcing Tre Mason to hesitate, and in came Sonic Sam to make the safety.
- In the ongoing Brad-Wing-as-Mick-Dundee analogy, this week was a bit of the scene in which Linda Kozlowski attempts to fill her canteen in a creek. A huge (and if you remember the movie, incredibly fake-looking) croc pops up and tries to pull her in, only for Crocodile Dundee to swoop in and take it out with a knife to the skull. Wing has an amazing talent for bailing the LSU offense out of bad spots, even with a late shank that gave Auburn better-than-expected field position.
- The takeaways from this game are still to be seen. Last year a tough, hard-fought win over Mississippi State ultimately exposed a weakness in the 2011 LSU squad that we never really saw exploited until January. This was the first time the 2012 team really faced any adversity, and while you can't exactly feel great about how they responded, you can feel good that they never panicked, knuckled-down and found a way to win. This week, Towson represents one last tune-up before the scheduling rollercoaster takes off in October, and while there are some issues on this team that can't be ignored, they aren't so systemic that they cannot be corrected yet. As much as LSU fans are circling that first November game, there's still a long way to go and how this team responds in the coming weeks will ultimately be what determines the value of November 3. Was this simply a bad game, or a harbinger of more struggles to come? Time to find out.
- On a final note, if I never see Thomas Ritter's bloated eyeballs again, it'll be too soon.