We’ll have time to delve into more perspective pieces as the week drags on and the emotional fall out continues, but let’s dive into the nitty gritty of the box score itself. Let’s see the story it tells
30, 48, 47. Let’s give credit first. Those are some NFL level kicks. Gaglianone didn’t just go 3-3 on field goals, he knocked in two kicks from close to 50 yards. Of all the things that made a difference in the game, this was perhaps the biggest: Wisconsin’s special teams came through with 3 to 6 points that most teams simply don’t pick up. It’s rare that a kicker is actually the MVP, but Gaglianone has a good case that he made a bigger impact on this game than any other play.
32.4. While we’re on the topic of special teams, LSU’s punt game was terrible. Josh Growden averaged 32.4 yards per punt. He can at least point to the fact LSU allowed 0 return yards, but that just mitigated the damage by some awful punting. LSU kept losing the war of field position, except in the third quarter, because of the team’s inability to get the punting game going.
4. LSU’s turnovers. Usually a hallmark of Les Miles’ teams is taking care of the football, but LSU turned the ball over four times in the game (only three officially). Brandon Harris threw two interceptions, Derrius Guice fumbled the ball, and the team failed on a huge fourth down conversion in the 2nd quarter. Only the first Harris interception was harmless, as the first two turnovers led directly to Wisconsin field goals and the third ended the game. Wisconsin similarly had difficulties hanging on to the football, and their three turnovers kept LSU in the game. Wisconsin threw one pick in the end zone, costing the team a possible 7 points, and two more turnovers resulted in LSU’s two touchdowns.
7. Troy Fumagalli had 7 catches for 100 yards. LSU’s defense never figured out the tight end, as he caught every single pass he was targeted for. 7 is also the number of times Malachi Dupre was targeted and did not make the catch. He had 3 catches on 10 targets, an abysmal rate. Yes, not all of the passes were perfect and a few were downright uncatchable, but still… 3 of 10 is god awful. Dupre had every chance to help out his quarterback, and all he did was make things worse. Dupre and Pocic were neck and neck for LSU’s worst offensive player.
122-7. Wisconsin’s yardage edge from all drives that began in the 1st quarter. LSU furthermore had just 1:53 time of possession in the 1st. That’s a downright ass kicking right there, and by some miracle, LSU came out of this stretch still tied 0-0. Wisconsin called 26 offensive plays on those first three drives while LSU would not call its 26th offensive play until its second drive of the 3rd quarter.
But here’s the rub, from that point on, LSU outgained Wisconsin 250-217. The Tigers weathered the storm of its terrible 1st quarter and played Wisconsin even, if not better for the rest of the game, yet still fell on the scoreboard.
17-90. LSU’s total offensive plays and yards gained after taking a 14-13 lead. That’s 5.29 yards per play, a pretty good rate. LSU had drives of 7, 4, and then 6 plays, all going for at least 24 yards. The offense was moving the ball to protect that lead. The problem was that Wisconsin went for 79 yards on 18 plays, most of which came on the 8-play, 48-yard drive which resulted in the game winning field goal. The difference in those similar yardage totals: LSU’s drives started on the 2, the 12, and then the 25. If Wisconsin didn’t win this game on the foot of its kicker, it did so on the foot of its punter.
19-31-2, 205. OK, the defense got two picks to salvage the game, but they also allowed a rookie quarterback in his first action to average 10.8 yards per completion and 61.3% completion rate. Wisconsin gained 339 yards, all without the benefit of big plays. The Badgers had one play over 20 yards, a 27-yard completion. Other than that, this was a slow bleeding of LSU’s defense. They did not force a single three and out all game, they allowed scores on Wisconsin’s drives to close out each half, and on twelve contested drives, they allowed at least 20 yards on seven of them, and 40 yards three times. LSU’s defense continually gave up long, sustained drives and it started right out of the gate, before we can make the tired excuse. And then they let up long drives late, when LSU’s offense had rallied and started to put together long drives to bleed clock as well.
2. Arden Key’s sack total. Glad to see someone showed up.
12-21-2, 131. That is an ugly line. I’ll spot Harris one of those picks, as the one at the end of the first half didn’t matter at all. Harris has received a disproportionate amount of the blame for the loss, and some if it is earned. He started the game 0-3 with one rush for 0 yards. He’d bounce back on the third drive with his first completion of the game, only to then get sacked for nine yards on 3rd and 7 to take LSU out of field goal range. His dismal 3.04 ATVSQBPI tells the story. Heck, even if we spot him the first quarter and wipe it from the ledger, he still only had a 3.45 rating. And then, of course, he threw a terrible game-ending interception to kill the final drive. His offensive line played like garbage, Dupre dropped everything in sight, but Harris does not get a pass… that was a plain, lousy game. He doesn’t deserve the sole blame like it seems he’s received, but let’s not pretend he hasn’t earned his fair share.