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Initial Impressions: LSU 27, UCLA 38

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Gut punch

LSU v UCLA
Well, Boutte is still good
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Aren’t you glad you waited all offseason for this?

There’s no way to pretend that LSU played a good game. Max Johnson looked absolutely lost in the pocket at times, if there even was a pocket thanks to a line that couldn’t block anyone. The run game was non-existent. The defense gave you flashbacks of 2020, giving up a series of chunk plays.

But even with all of that, LSU went into the fourth quarter with a chance to win this game. They had played poorly, but they also didn’t get blown off the field. Besides, there were positives. The defensive line got consistent pressure. The kicking game was its usual reliable self. And Kayshon Boutte is still, you know, Kayshon Boutte.

And then that 3rd and 12 happened. LSU folded like a cheap tent. It wasn’t the losing, it was losing by getting crushed in the final quarter of the game.

The biggest difference in this game is that UCLA took advantage of its chances, and LSU didn’t. Eli Ricks made a huge interception for LSU… and LSU turned into three points. Max Johnson threw a killer interception right to UCLA… and they turned it into a touchdown.

Both teams got down to the red zone three times when the game was still in contest, and they got points on every trip. But LSU kicked field goals twice, while UCLA scored a touchdown each time it crossed the 20 (except that fourth trip with 2:30 left and they were nursing clock). The worst being the touchdown to open up the fourth quarter, coming right after UCLA converted a 3rd and 14.

You have to make the most of your chances, and LSU did not do that.

The talk after the game will almost certainly focus on Max Johnson, who did not have a good game, but neither was he as awful as you will be lead to believe. He finished the game 26/46 for 330 yards (though 148 of them and all 3 TD went to Boutte), but that interception really stands out.

He started out the game making good decisions, but unable to execute due to pressure, like just missing a wide open Trey Palmer on what should have been a 75 yard crossing route. But as the pressure intensified, he went from poor execution to poor decisions, and the game sort of spiraled out of control on him to close out the first half, a real wasted opportunity. And then the second half happened.

However, while the quarterback gets all of the blame, he was getting absolutely nothing from the run game. Tyrion Davis-Price finished with 30 yards on 13 carries, and the team had just 48 total rushing yards, 16 of them from Johnson. Johnson also spent a good portion of the game getting sledgehammered by a UCLA defense which simply pinned its ears back and blitzed like mad. His poor performance wasn’t in a vacuum.

Also, the defense, which alternated between outstanding and incompetent in the first half, gave up the ghost in the second. UCLA scored on its first four drives of the second half, three of them touchdowns. LSU could not keep pace. If the defense can get a stop, it’s a different game. But they didn’t.

To give you an idea of how the game got away from the defense, LSU had 3 sacks and 7 TFL at the half. Fully one quarter of their tackles in the first half were behind the line of scrimmage. In the second? Two TFL. The attack dried up.

The fact of the matter is that this wasn’t a fluke. UCLA was the better team and they took it right at LSU. The Tigers had no answers in week one, and the question is now whether they will have any answers going forward. It’s possible to read too much into a week one loss, but… this was a bad loss.

LSU got flat beat in all phases of the game. 2021 is looking a lot like 2020.