Last week against Mississippi State, LSU seemed to get off to a perfect start before a phantom penalty call took a touchdown off the board on the first series of the game and set the tone for the bad juju that would continue the rest of the way. This week, LSU got off to a perfect start, it wasn’t taken off the board, and it resulted in 7. It didn’t carry over for the rest of the way though, as we got one of the oddest and ugliest games I’ve ever seen. But let’s start from the jump.
Greedy Williams jumped a screen for an interception and took it to the 1-yard line of the Orange, setting up a Derrius Guice touchdown run that made it 7-0 just nine seconds in.
It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing straight away though, as LSU gave up a 17-play drive to Syracuse that resulted in a field goal, and then the same offensive problems from last week reared their ugly head. LSU had two yards of offense on their next two drives, as the miserable pass protection from last week reared it’s ugly head and there was little attempt made to run the ball. Through the first couple series, it not only wasn’t distinguishable from the offenses that got Les Miles fired, it looked worse. The offensive line was getting whipped repeatedly, and it wasn’t just any one player specifically
The defense was doing it’s best to hold up and maintain the lead, but even they were prone to some of the same mistakes from last week, which included having multiple players miss an easy chance for a fumble recovery and having a blown coverage that should have resulted in a Syracuse touchdown, but was dropped. Danny Etling’s regression from last season continued, as he was missing receivers left and right even when he had time to throw, which was still little due to the whipping the offensive line continued to take.
The offense finally broke through at the end of the half, as they put together a six play, 71 yard drive, almost all coming through the air, and punctuated it with a 43 yard touchdown strike from Etling to Stephen Sullivan. It was as clean a throw and route the Tigers have run all season and it put some life into a previously quiet Tiger Stadium. The 14-3 lead held up at the half.
The sudden explosiveness from the offense didn’t let up out of the break, as Etling dropped an 85-yard dime to Drake Davis who housed it to make it a 21-3 game. Both Davis and Sullivan both showed their incredible upside and talent, and they both need to play. Russell Gage is a hard worker and a nice hand, and Derek Dillon has some upside himself. But Davis and Sullivan are the two most talented receivers this team has, Davis may be the best receiving talent in the conference, and they need to see the field.
It again wasn’t easy sailing after an immediate LSU strike to start the half though, as the defense put on a football follie for the ages, giving up a touchdown on a Syracuse trick play, with the secondary having multiple coverage busts and letting a wide receiver throw a 30 yard touchdown.
We saw our first Myles Brennan sighting, and it came at a peculiar time, in the third quarter in an 11 point game. The move worked though, albeit it was almost entirely on the back of Darrell Williams. He had a 43 yard reception off of a screen, and then a 20 yard touchdown run to put stretch the lead back to 18. Williams was the feature back virtually all night and was probably the Tigers best offensive player.
Syracuse’s punter probably had the single greatest game I have ever seen from a punter. He pinned LSU inside their own 10 virtually every time he punted. And then one of them resulted in a safety as Williams couldn’t get out of his own end zone from the 1 yard line. I have nothing left to say about the LSU offensive line. My mother taught me better.
My mother did not teach me better to lose my mind at the LSU defense giving up chunk plays repeatedly to the Syracuse offense after that safety, which made it a 9 point game going to the fourth quarter. Yes, LSU was in a nine-point game with a terrible Syracuse team going to the fourth quarter. This is bad.
The fourth quarter was one of the most bizarre things I can ever really recall. There are moments when watching sports, not just football, where you can tell the team in front of you doesn’t seem to know what they’re doing. LSU qualified for that in this fourth quarter. I don’t know if the coaches knew either. Matt Canada was calling this game for Myles Brennan like it was mop up duty, but it wasn’t. It was a nine-point game. Then Brennan threw an interception in Syracuse territory (there was some discussion on Twitter that it was the wide receiver and not Brennan’s fault.) The LSU defense then proceeded to look undisciplined and disinterested. Syracuse’s quarterback Eric Dungey then threw an improvised jump pass that was caught by a tight end with one hand. Dungey in the fourth quarter was essentially playing backyard football and the LSU defense didn’t care enough to do anything about it. They struck on a 22-yard pass to cut the lead to three. LSU quit on that drive and there was no nicer way to put it.
Danny Etling then reappeared, because the night couldn’t get weirder. He ended up leading a touchdown drive to put the game away, all done on the ground.
I’m not really sure what I watched. I don’t think LSU had a plan, I don’t think LSU was particularly motivated or interested, and I also don’t think LSU is a good team. I think they may be kind of bad. And through all of the hand-wringing and frustration over the last few years, I don’t think I could ever really say that.