Monday, October 25, 2010

LSU Got Beat, Plain and Simple

Do you know what the really interesting thing is about sports? How simple it really is. I love sports and watching LSU and Saints football are two of my greatest passions, but it is interesting to think how simple my admiration is for my teams really is.

All I desire, all I want is for my team to score more points than the opposing team. Whether the media talks about my team or whether my team throws for more yards are all irrelevant. And the end of the day it all comes down to who has more points.

Shockingly at times that one basic principle seems to be covered up. We spend an entire week breaking down the minor things in a certain game. Sometimes its productive other times its counterproductive.

I say this now because after LSU's loss against Auburn the only thing burned in my mind is the final score of 24-17. I know LSU got outplayed and I know Auburn deserved more than LSU to win that game and I know LSU's offense was painful to say the least, but still all that is etched in my mind is the final score. The halfback pass for a touchdown was amazing, but it is now forgotten because LSU lost.

No matter how you cut it losing sucks.

If LSU loses a game I have been accustom to the game either being a blow out or it ending in a controversial manner. Seeing LSU just get beat is foreign to me. And on Saturday LSU got just that: beat.

LSU loses games in football. It happens, but rarely do I see a team physically beat LSU. Rarely do I see a team run the ball down LSU's throat. Auburn did that.

I understood going into the game that LSU had a good chance of losing to Auburn. This is not a knock on the football team, but rather a look at the fact that for three straight years LSU has beaten Auburn and that the game was in Auburn. In short, LSU was due for a slip up against a good Auburn team.

Looking back there are a couple things on the offensive and defensive side of the ball I wanted to focus on when discussing Auburn's 24-17 win.

Offense: LSU's offense remained stagnant again, but for the first time this year Jarrett Lee was unable to help LSU sneak out a win. In the second half LSU had five possessions start near midfield. One lead to LSU points (7). Three resulted in three and out and one resulted in a couple first downs followed by a punt. Sure the defense deserves a lot of criticism, but the unit did give the LSU offense chances. Jordan Jefferson's best trait is his rushing. Even with his passing struggles, Jefferson still poses as a threat because of his scrambling abilities. My issue with is if LSU is going to use Jefferson as a runner, stick to it. In the opening drive of the game Jefferson got down the field by running the ball, yet when LSU got closer they opted to start throwing. I think we can agree that was a bad move. Jefferson makes it harder every week to think he is going to turn the corner and be able to complete a measly ten yard completion. Far too often I find myself, like the Auburn game, optimistic that Jefferson can show some signs of improvement only to be blown away when yet No. 9 shows ZERO presence in the pocket on a passing down.

But with that said Jarrett Lee was not any better. Lee never got the LSU offense past midfield. Maybe Miles sees things in practice that lead him to believe Jefferson is the better start at quarterback? Jefferson was by the no means amazing, but he was able to get a rhythm going (when given the chance) to do what he does best: run the ball. The command Lee had of the LSU offense for most of the year was now where to be seen on Saturday. Lee's struggles gave LSU fans a gut-check reality that despite his successes this year, Lee still will have game where he is not playing well.

Even with Lee's recent struggle at Auburn I still feel Miles needs to address the quarterback situation. Lee had one bad game, Jefferson seems to have a bad game every week. LSU needs to consider running a two-quarterback system where the quarterbacks switch during plays, rather than series. I say this because with Lee at quarterback, defense's are able to sit back and play the pass. With Jefferson at quarterback, opponents can put eight guys in the box and anticipate a run. We thought Lee would always be able to work against a defense when they anticipated the pass. These past two weeks have shown us otherwise.

This predictability in LSU's offense does not seem to be worrisome to the coaching staff. Outside of a few new plays involving Spencer Ware, I rarely saw anything that made me think Les Miles and Gary Crowton are making changes to a disappointing unit. Each week, I see the same boring, stagnant offense. I do not think at the end of the year Gary Crowton will be fired, better yet I think he will leave on his own.

(Also, has Jordan Jefferson made a big throw on a big down this year? This is a serious question. There can not be more than five times this year where on a big third down Jefferson has converted.)

Defense: Losing to Auburn is not that big of a surprise. It stinks, but again this is a rivalry game and Cameron Newton is a pretty special quarterback. With that said, I think the thing that hurts more than anything in LSU's loss is how their defense was shredded against Auburn. Going into the game LSU's run defense gave up only 83 yards per game. Against Auburn the unit gave up 440 yards, including 217 yards to Cameron Newton.

LSU's bread and butter was not their offense, but their defense. The one thing LSU fans could stick their chest out about was the swarming Tiger defense. On Saturday that thought was crushed. I am thankful LSU has a bye before Alabama because after an embarrassing performance like that things can snowball. LSU needs a breather.

All season the defensive unit has been one word: AGGRESSIVE. Whether it was Drake Nevis up the middle or Tyrann Mathieu on a blitz, LSU's defense remained aggressive. But that aggressiveness was lost against Auburn. Obviously John Chavis's game plan was to sit back and let Auburn make their move before LSU made theirs. This hurt LSU because, like I said, it took away LSU's aggressive nature of playing defense. You know what LSU's defense in the Auburn game reminded me of? The 2009 LSU defense: passive and not aggressive.

So the game plan was passive? Okay, fine. And Drake Nevis was pretty much non existent? Okay fine, but that leaves no excuse to the lousy tackling LSU showed on Saturday. Two of Auburn's three touchdowns came off lousy tackling. That is just fundamentals.

Even with the defensive game plan LSU had and the lousy tackling they showed all game, LSU still did give the offense may opportunities to put points on the board. Auburn did miss six third downs meaning LSU's defense did get Cameron Newton off the field. With all that taken into consideration from the porous offensive production to the passive defensive game planning and bad tackling it is no surprise why LSU lost on Saturday.

I rarely admit these sort of things, but Auburn was better than LSU on Saturday. Even so, LSU was tied more than halfway through the fourth quarter.

One of the biggest signs to how good a team really is, is how they respond to a loss. LSU got physically beat by the Auburn War Chickens. The team has a week off before Alabama. Does the team come together and learn from their mistakes or do they sulk in their defeat?

Only time will tell.

Geaux Tigers!

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