Say it with me: I do not believe in moral victories, so I therefore do not believe in moral losses. This was an ugly game that had no business being close, but LSU kept committing penalties and failing to put forth full effort.
LSU thought they could just show up and win. Thanks to the existence of Leonard Fournette, that's a pretty safe assumption, but you don't want to see a team test the limits of that theory like LSU did today. And give credit to a Syracuse team that played their guts out for a full 60. This was a close-ish game because the Orange willed it to be so.
I want to just talk about how great Leonard Fournette is. That should have been the story today. He rushed for over 200 yards for the second consecutive game, and Syracuse pretty much dedicated their entire defense to stopping him. Nothing worked. Well, except LSU's own mistakes.
Even more telling than the 200+ yards of rushing was the over 100 yards of rushing by Fournette taken off of the board thanks to LSU penalties. We can complain about Tom Ritter and how ticky tack some of the calls were, but still. You cannot beat yourself.
It wasn't just the offense. Any time the offense scored some points to create some distance in the second half, the LSU defense gave Syracuse some life. The worst example was the drive to start the fourth quarter, in which LSU committed a 15-yard penalty on consecutive plays to help Syracuse drive down the field, and wipe out an interception.
The team's pitiful effort was most exemplified in the phase of the game Les Miles teams usually excel: special teams. OK, Syracuse's punter is great, but you also can't like Riley Dixon to leap over a defender on a fake field goal. The mere fact he was out there as the kicker should have been a red flag anyway.
LSU consistently put itself into miserable field position by ill-advised returns and penalties. Then, Syracuse would take superior field position thanks to a bad punt, bad coverage, or both. The great irony is that LSU seemed to blow open the game with a punt return for a touchdown by Tre White.
Of course, LSU let Syracuse up off the mat. Twice. This is something that has plagued this team for years, and it cannot happen. LSU needs to put forth a full 60-minute effort, and that hasn't happened yet this season. This game flipped the script by putting forth the worst effort in the second quarter rather than the fourth, but the fourth quarter wasn't all that great either. That has been the team's biggest issue, and they need to solve it before the schedule gets much, much tougher.
OK, enough negatives. Even though there is more (we didn't even touch on how badly the offensive line played). That Fournette guy is pretty damn awesome. He's a treat to watch. He's not just insanely skilled, he's smart and creative. The early 50-yard run was not drawn up, he ran back to help out his quarterback and made something of nothing. He has tremendous vision and he can just sense where the hole is going to be.
Also, let's give some credit to the passing game. Once Syracuse got within a touchdown early in the fourth, LSU's passing game came alive, and LSU drove down the field on the back of some huge throws by Harris. Dural brought in a deep ball on third and long, and Dupre caught a nice touchdown pass on the following play. Fournette is the man, but the passing game was a viable threat, even if it was marred by way too many drops.
It wasn't pretty, but it was a win. Luckily, moral losses show up in the standings as "wins."