LSU tried very hard to lose a game that had all but salted away. LSU took an early 14-0 lead and then put the offense up on blocks for the rest of the game. Even when State threatened early in the second half, LSU woke up, let Fournette score another TD, and went up comfortable 21-6 with 6:56 left in the 3rd quarter.*
*BTW: that Fournette guy? Pretty f'n good. He scored three touchdowns, and almost single-handedly carried the team to victory late. State had almost everyone in the stadium in the box, and they still couldn't stop him.
And from that point on, nothing good happened. Brandon Harris would complete two more pass on the next drive, for all of four yards, and then would only throw the ball two more times, both incompletions. The run, run, run again offense failed to move the chains, and opened the door for the comeback.
Honestly, things were still going okay for the Tigers until State went on an epic 14-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that ate 10:45 of clock. LSU responded with an ill-advised reverse and two rushes up the middle, killing time for the punt.
A tired defense made the stop, and then LSU flipped the field on the legs of Fournette and Williams, only to have a huge first down run wiped out by a questionable holding penalty. After a 25 yard punt, State drove down the field in 7 plays and just over a minute. Only a failed two-point conversion kept the game from being tied.
LSU's next drive took some important time off the clock, but the drive stalled near midfield, and Miles decided to punt rather than going for 4th and 2. With 1:41 of game clock, State managed to get into range for a long field goal, which went wide. Tigers get away with one.
Now, the coaching staff clearly didn't trust Harris in this game. Part of this is the whole starting the season on the road thing, but Harris looked good early on without the shackles, but as soon as LSU built a lead, Cam seemed terrified of Harris making a mistake, so they took him essentially out of the game. On the one hand, the strategy DID work. LSU didn't turn over the ball, flipped the field twice in the fourth quarter, and escaped with the win. On the other hand, are you f'n kidding me?
LSU turned a comfortable win into a nailbiter through some awful play calling. LSU cannot go through this season with Harris put up on the shelf. You have to let him make throws.
I'm fine with a conservative game plan, especially up two touchdowns on the road, but there's conservative and then there's refusing to throw the ball at all. Also, we need to get Harris some confidence, and that means the occasional throw. It doesn't need to be the Air Raid or anything, but a few throws would have kept the defense honest.
All of that said, the strategy likely works if the officiating was not so one-sided. I hate complaining about the refs, but that was a dismal job by the zebras. State's left tackle spent the entire game holding Arden Key, which I totally get, and never gets flagged, yet LSU gets flagged for some ticky-tacky calls. Worse yet, it always seemed to come after a big play. A questionable holding call wiped out a Williams 20-yard run, which maybe salts the game away earlier.
Heck, even their mechanics were terrible. The refs botched a replay, costing LSU a huge run on the next play. Travin Dural especially is going to curse this crew, as he had two touchdowns taken off the board (one call was unquestionably legit, just a dumb hold by Diarse that didn't even have bearing on the play).
At the end, this is a lot like the game last year, in reverse. LSU dominated throughout, and almost gave away the game in the end, eventually feeling lucky just to get out with a win. Just like state last year. I'd rather be on this side of things than where we sat last year.
It wasn't pretty, and it shouldn't have been this close, but a win is a win. In what promises to be a tight division, we are in no position to turn up our noses to any win.