It took all of five games for this season to hit rock bottom.
And yes, losing to Troy is rock bottom for LSU.
It won’t be the last game LSU will lose this season. Far from it, as things seem right now. But losing to an SEC team is infinitely better than losing to a Sun Belt team on homecoming and having them add a post-game dunk on twitter.
Hey @LSU, thanks for having us down for homecoming! We really enjoyed it!— Troy University (@TROYUnews) October 1, 2017
In the interest of full disclosure, I had a wedding Saturday night in Hammond, so I wasn’t at this thing. I heard 10-0 at half shortly before we left (babysitters are expensive, yo), and we were home right around the start of the fourth quarter.
Over the years I’ve used “barring disaster” as a caveat for a lot of things. And that always meant just a complete short-circuit of the team. Wheels off, players checked out, and everything just going to crap. I don’t know that I’ve ever really believed that it was possible. That no longer appears to be the case.
This team needs to make a significant turnaround if they want to win another game this season. And I’m not sure that’s going to happen.
A lot of ink has been spilled over Ed Orgeron’s buyout over the last 24 hours or so — yes, it’s $12 million dollars. For one, yes, you agree to a higher buyout in return for a lower salary but...yeah, it’s year one. If you want to fire a coach in year one of a five-year contract, chances are it’s always going to cost you the rest of the contract. Pretty much any other school would be in a similar situation with any other coach.
Going 0-for in conference play is more than a growing pain. Would it change things from LSU’s standpoint? I honestly don’t know. I do know that if Ed Orgeron went down that quickly, so would Joe Alleva, at a minimum. The bloodletting involved would go well beyond one coach and one administrator, and that it would get very, very ugly. LSU has leveraged a lot of money on a successful football program — they cannot afford not having one anymore. This goes beyond an AD, a school president and even a board of supervisors, and it runs over multiple legislative and gubernatorial cycles. For whatever you may think of Alleva, he’s had useful autonomy ever since the end of the 2015 season. If that goes away, that vacuum would be filled by an ugly power struggle. That will be fought by ugly people who have little regard for anything beyond their own interests and abilities to profit from LSU one way or another.
Will it? A week ago I would have said absolutely not. Now? I’m not sure. But I suggest we all hope that it doesn’t happen.
So I guess I have to talk about the game itself now?
- You want to know how you really lose to Troy? Turn the ball over five times (counting a turnover on downs). LSU averaged 7.0 yards per play, outgained the Trojans and had more first downs. None of that matters when you cough the ball up. It equalizes everything.
- So right out of the gate, a fumble: I’ve seen a lot of the criticism of having Nick Brossette out there, but I can understand whatever the thought process was of whomever made the call — you know what you have with Darrel Williams, but Brossette has to play some kind of role, so maybe a good start gets him in a groove early. After all, it's not like you have to leave him out there.
- That said, he may not see many other carries for a while. Just an unconscionable mistake after what should have been a very nice gain. And one that immediately put the offense in a huge hole.
- This may be colored by hindsight, but the reaction and body language of the team looked remarkably similar to the Mississippi State game after D.J. Chark’s touchdown was called back.
- Right away on the ensuing drive, you can see a really lackluster effort from LSU’s defense. Lot of guys are just going through the motions.
- Early on, I don’t like the choice to go away from the motions and shifts. I don’t know if the coaches believed they were losing some physicality from that, but I think that overall, they were having a desired effect. That said, LSU was having some success just lining up and trying to push Troy around out of the 12 personnel/Ace look with two tight ends and no F-back. It was when they spread the field that Troy was able to win some matchups.
- Yes, that still sounds depressing.
- Going for it on fourth-and-three probably sent something of a desperation message — again, easy to say with hindsight. Punting, putting Troy in a hole probably increases your chances to rev the defense up a little. And Danny Etling just stared a hole in Drake Davis on that slant. Not the last time a Tiger QB would do that.
- I go back on what I said about this game on Friday, about a team like Troy and knowing that when it comes down to it, they’re going to make the plays that they can make, and you have to actively beat them. And the number of times an LSU player just didn’t win a one-on-one battle in this game is just jarring. Particularly at the line of scrimmage on defense.
- On the other side of the ball, I see an offense that probably could have had a better shot at winning this thing, or at least doing more damage in the first half, if it had just gone very boring and just worn Troy out with No. 28. At least in the first half.
- About a half a second, and Etling probably hits Stephen Sullivan for a touchdown in the second quarter, on the hit that knocked him out of the game. Kid played with a lot of guts in this one — but LSU isn’t going to win many games when he has to be the one that digs them out of the hole.
- Also not going to be able to win any that come down to field goals, it seems.
- There’s a step beyond effort or intensity that’s more mental. And you can have that first one and not the second. It’s one thing to hustle around and move fast, but if you’re not going to wrap up and make a good tackle, or stack a blocker and try to hold so that your teammates can spill to the ball carrier, it just doesn’t matter. And that was a big problem for this defense Saturday, both with veterans and younger players.
- There is one guy on this defense that the rest can look to, and that’s Devin White, who played at full speed all night.
- Few other things I liked included more use of the tight ends and F-backs. This offense may need to focus a lot more on just trying to push teams around with some bootlegs and other quick throws, until the receivers become something more reliable. Tory Carter and Jamal Pettigrew each flashed at least some decent hands.
- SEC officials continue to butcher basic game management when time is involved. I’d like to say that it doesn’t matter in a situation like this, but the truth is, this was a three-point game and Troy’s gimme field goal did matter. The league should issue an apology and the crew should be disciplined.
- I don’t have a lot more to say about the second half. Myles Brennan isn’t ready to lead this team in a comeback situation. Etling can at least give you a little more there, at least right now. I think 16 needs to be the QB for now, at least as long as there’s something to play for.
- The onside kick was a mistake — there was still plenty of time to get a stop and get the ball back, possibly with better field position. Ultimately, I think desperation got the better of this coaching staff at times, which was also reflected in the play-calling. Never seemed to seep down to the players though.
On a closing note: LSU will hit the road this week against a Florida team with a lot of the same questions — although it may appear that the Gators are figuring themselves out after beating Vandy. Going on the road is usually a good thing for LSU after a loss, because quite frankly, Baton Rouge becomes a toxic waste dump after the Tigers lose. In some ways, this week vaguely parallels LSU’s trip to Gainesville following the Tennessee game in 2010. Yes, the Tigers WON that Tennessee game, but nobody cared, and it badly felt like the program was nearing a tipping point after the late-game clock gaffe nearly lost it, and the knives were most certainly out for that head coach as well.
That team was backed into a corner and fought their way out of it. We’ll see if this team has that in them.