That may have been one of the worst efforts I've ever seen out of an LSU football team in the Les Miles era. I'm not really sure of any other way to put it. At the very least, the worst since the 2008 Troy game, which at least featured a furious rally by some of that team's younger players that were still trying.
This was just a listless game from whistle to whistle. And when the physical effort was there, the mental effort wasn't. In terms of the goals for this week (yes, LSU won, but this was a cupcake game), Saturday was a total failure, and a regression from last week's game at Auburn. The more I rewatched the Auburn game, the more I came away thinking that, for the most part, all of the issues were not only fixable, but easily fixable. Now, I'm not so sure.
- On offense, we'll start with the offensive line, which had its worst effort -- and again, effort is exactly what the problem was -- of the season. The Tiger front just looked utterly uninterested, inside-out. Players whiffed at defenders, disengaged early at times, and botched assignments at others. Whereas the tackles were the main issue last week, it was the interior this time. La'el Collins and Josh Williford were both awful. Collins looked lazy on his pulls, barely making an effort and practically going through the motions. Williford was consistently attacked in pass pro and looked lost in regard to his assignments -- unsure of just who he was supposed to block. Alex Hurst and Vadal Alexander filled in well enough at the tackle spots, but that might have been them looking better by comparison.
- In the second half, the protection issues had far more to do with Zach Mettenberger himself, who wasted a fully-formed pocket on one play and simply waited out one of the slowest corner blitzes I've ever watched. I'm glad he's got a sense of humor with the Ron Burgundy getup, but if he thinks he's got this game wired well enough to give a joking effort, he's sorely mistaken. Somebody on this offense needs to step up and be a leader. If it's not the quarterback now, then who? At times, he looked utterly perplexed at where to go with the ball, as if the game started and all his reads fell out of his brain.
- The big-play passes were excellent. But if you can't manage the game play-to-play, those won't matter. Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the few offensive players that can hold his head high right now, and I hope that tonight was a sign that he's put his drop issues behind him.
- Or it might just be that he somehow hoodoo'd them over to Kadron Boone, who responded to his first start by dropping three or four passes. Some were tougher catches, but in the case of his first one on the game's first drive, that was where the ball had to be. It was a post route between the corner and safety, and if Mettenberger throws it high and out in front he leads Boone right into the safety. He went low and away, and yes, it was a low catch but Boone still got his hands on it.
- On another positive note I love the shotgun counter play to Russell Shepard. But I'd love it more than once, especially when the rest of the running game is struggling.
- Worst effort out of the Tiger running back corps since Frank Wilson took over in 2010. Every single one fumbled the ball at least once, and yes, credit Towson for some perfect hits with the helmet square on the ball, but that's simply unacceptable.
- J.C. Copeland's injury appeared serious, which is just one more fudge dragon in this turd sandwich. Though even he had a poor effort on the night, merely throwing his shoulder into defenders instead of his usual Khali-Ma heart-rip. Hopefully his late-night tweet is correct and he'll be okay.
- The defense wasn't immune from the "no fucks to give" disease. Sure, they had their moments, but it was spotty at best. A dynamic series followed by sloppy, awful tackling and gap integrity that contributed to a number of Towson big plays.
- Give Towson Head Coach Rob Ambrose some credit. His players came in focused and never lost it, even as it became obvious how this game was going to end. Wouldn't shock me at all if we hear his name again in the future, at least in regards to major college football.
- It would be kind to say that LSU doesn't look like a top-five team right now. It would be accurate to say that they look like a team in deep trouble, and that's with seven conference games left to play and a very big road trip to an improving Florida team next week. Some of the issues are injury related (the Copeland injury could really hurt this running game), but the more disturbing issue is that, frankly, the Tigers look like a bored team going through the motions. That's new territory for Les Miles after all of five games, and he's got his work cut out for him right now. We've seen LSU teams with their backs to the wall before, the question right now, is how can this team respond. Coaches can only push the rock up the hill so far. This is the point at which the players on this team have to decide how important winning is to them. Nobody's ever gonna remember a game like this if the Tigers get back to doing what they do. But they have to make us forget.