It is dangerous to read anything into a bowl game. They are meaningless exhibitions, played after a long layoff and a week’s worth of vacation activities, sometimes matching up teams with wildly divergent motivational levels.
Still, it is always fun to beat the holy heck out of a Bobby Petrino team. Because screw that guy.
This was a quality, if uneven, effort which highlighted the frustration with this season as a whole. Malachi Dupre set a season high for catches and a career high for yards in just the first half. Arden Key set the LSU single season sack record, and recorded a safety to boot. Derrius Guice looked like the best player on the field, outshining the Heisman winner.
This is a loaded football team, short its best player on both sides of the football, and it never really struggled in putting away a team that flirted with the national title conversation all the season. And it seemed it saved this effort for a bowl game instead of the regular season.
It was impossible to watch this game and not think, “How in the holy hell did this team lose four games in a down year for the SEC?” Every success in this game begged that question.
The defense, especially, had a terrific game which, let’s face it, has become par for the course under Aranda. Most encouraging, it wasn’t just the stars like Tre White or Jamal Adams making big plays, but younger players who will be expected to take on bigger roles next year. Talent is going to leave, but the young kids look ready to step up. This was a total team effort on defense.
Lamar Jackson wasn’t exactly a non-factor, but he went into the half having completed just 2 of 10 passes. Adding in sack yards, he accounted for just 38 yards of total offense in the first half, as LSU built a lead. Heck, he even got tackled in the end zone for a safety, giving LSU two of its points.
He rebounded a bit in the second half, but only finished with a 10/27 for 153 yards line. But more importantly, he gained just 30 yards on 26 carries. Even when he got the offense moving, the Cardinals stalled inside the 10, as the Tigers kept coming up with goal line stands.
The LSU offense was at first carried by Danny Etling before he suddenly turned back into a pumpkin sometime in the second quarter, capped off with a truly horrific pick at the end of the half, setting up a Louisville field goal. He did finish the game 16/29 for 217 yards, but that’s a bit of a disappointment after his first twenty minutes, when it looked like he was en route to a 300-yard game.
Once the passing game floundered, Derrius Guice took over, as usual. He busted 70-yard touchdown run in the third quarter which put the game on ice (Guice?), and he easily cleared the century mark again. Fournette is a great, great player, but LSU’s offense is in capable hands for next season.
All in all, it was a nice capper to a disappointing year. This team coulda been a contender. And while they aren’t quite a bum, as the quote goes, they could have been more than just the Citrus Bowl champs. This will just have to be the first building block for next season.