In the back of my mind I've always known that Mississippi State would find a way to beat LSU one day. Streaks end for everybody one day, and it's not like State's been that bad in recent years. Surely one day the bounces would go their way enough and they'd find a way to come out on top.
Not like this.
There was no way to see this coming. I don't care what anybody says. LSU looked completely disengaged at just about every level as Mississippi State showed up and bludgeoned the Tigers from pillar to post. Gameplans on both sides of the ball were terrible, and players just seemed to stand there and watch the Bulldogs bludgeon them in the face time after time with almost no response. I left before the late rally that made this score appear somewhat close, and I'm not even sure that rally was relevant.
Ups and downs are normal for a team this young. But not a cratering at this level. This is a seismic loss for the 2014 Tigers. I'm not really sure where they go next, because the tough part of the schedule isn't even here yet.
I don't even really know where to begin as far as rewatching this shitshow, so I guess I'll offer a few of my takeaways:
- The good? Jamie Keehn punted like a mad man after a very short kick on his first one. If there's one advantage State didn't have in this game, it was field position. Keehn consistently kept them pinned deep in their own territory.
- On defense, LSU simply got manhandled from the A-gaps on out. There were alignment breakdowns -- Dak Prescott's long touchdown run was about the third play where LSU had gotten so spread out the middle of the field was just SCREAMING for a QB run and the first time State had made the right call. State made very single play. Every 50/50 pass down the field was caught. Every short throw or run picked up that extra yard. Nothing mattered, even as personnel changed. More than anything else, I have no idea what LSU's answer is here. As Booger McFarland said on the SEC Network's wrap-up show. When you get overwhelmed at the point of attack, that's not something that gets fixed quickly.
- On offense, I think Brandon Harris certainly earned more playing time and cracked the quarterback competition back wide open, but I would be very, very wary to anoint him anything yet. He did what he did late in a blowout when State was all but checking out and celebrating their win.
- Plus, to be honest if that's going to be LSU's offensive gameplan, the quarterback doesn't matter. It's like Cam Cameron watched the last two weeks and somehow felt like the worst parts of those games were exactly what LSU needs to focus on. LSU spent the first two-and-a-half quarters lining up in 21/22 personnel and thudding away for short gains. The result? Third-down situations with distances of 5, 17, 13, 7 and 8. Anthony Jennings converted one.
One of the most important ways you can manage a young quarterback is to keep him in favorable passing situations. Stay ahead of the chains and avoid third-and-long. LSU failed in this regard miserably. Honestly, it was like Cameron thought he was still calling plays for the 2013 offense. Not worrying about short runs because the passing game was incredibly constant, even in third-and-long. That's not this team. LSU needs to give its quarterback manageable throws on first down (and State was playing far enough off in after the first quarter that a quick hitter or bubble screen would have been very available). Nevermind that the closest LSU ever came to taking advantage of its quarterbacks' mobility was a couple of jet sweep zone-read plays, two of which were run with backs like Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee that are completely out of place on them.
- Now, that's not to offer any absolution for Jennings' performance. He was horrible. He never really found any rhythm in the passing game, throwing passes too early or too late, locking on to reads and flat out throwing some bad passes. He didn't get a lot of help with a couple of drops to boot. In general, for all the plays Mississippi State's receivers made with the ball in the air, LSU made none.
- Honestly, what I saw on offense made so little sense I'm not even sure what the next move is.
- If I could sum up the night in two plays, here's a pretty good way to do it.
I'm not even pissed off that Dillon Day is a dirty piece of shit. Those players exist, especially among SEC offensive linemen. I'm not that pissed that the referees missed the calls -- I'm used to incompetence among my SEC officials (and watch Day not miss a down of football over this too). It's more indicative of anything that LSU just took it. Nobody responded. Nobody got mad. Nobody stood up for their teammates and tried to get Day back. I've never been a "go get kicked out the game to make a point" type of guy, but if there was ever a day for that to happen, it was Saturday.
If you want to know why LSU got it beat up and down the field so badly, that's as good a place to start as any. And I'm afraid I don't know how to make that better.