Texas' offense had its way with Tigers, but Dave Aranda has the time and players to fix LSU’s defense
Dave Aranda has a lot of stuff to fix.
Fortunately for LSU’s defensive coordinator, he has time to do the job.
And he has the right tools to get the job done.
Not to mention the track record.
It’s certainly unusual for the Tigers to have the types of concerns they have on defense after the 45-38 victory at Texas last Saturday.
But that’s the reality for LSU, which rose to No. 4 in the latest AP Poll, matching its highest mark since 2012.
The Longhorns had 30 first downs Saturday night. They passed for 409 yards and gained 530 total yards. That enabled them to possess the ball for nearly 34 minutes and run 85 plays. LSU didn’t have a takeaway.
“We didn’t make many plays on defense,” coach Ed Orgeron said. “We’ve got to get better on defense.”
The Tigers did make 2 crucial 4th-down stops near their own goal line in the first half.
“We don’t stop them on the goal line we’re dead,” Orgeron said. “That’s the difference in the ballgame.”
LSU’s defense was penalized 5 times for 55 yards as pass defenders had a series of holding and interference calls. LSU also missed a bunch of tackles.
“Some of our best players missed some tackles,” Orgeron said. “So we have to get better. We have to be hungry, we have to be humble, look at the things we did wrong and get better at them.”
Though the Tigers did sack Sam Ehlinger 4 times for 25 yards in losses, virtually all of the pressure came on the few occasions that Aranda sent 5 or more pass rushers. Most of the night he relied on the front 4 to generate the pass rush and they mostly allowed Ehlinger to operate freely.
“Schematically they had us,” Orgeron said. “We weren’t getting enough rush, we were getting beat 1-on-1, guys were wide open. We’ve got to go back and look at what we did and evaluate what can we do better. Overall I don’t think we were very good on defense. We know that. We didn’t tackle well in space. We couldn’t stop them.”
The Tigers also were plagued by defensive players suffering leg cramps throughout the second half. Orgeron said a few players who hobbled off suffered ankle or knee injuries, though none appear to be long-term issues.
But the majority of the issues had to do with cramping. The temperature in the early going was in the high 90s, but the humidity was less than 30 percent, which is significantly lower than what the Tigers practice in when they’re outdoors.
“I think we felt like it was not that hot,” Orgeron said. “And we came in at halftime, usually we have a bunch of guys, but none of them needed (treatment). But in the second half they started cramping up. That was a war out there.”
But there are reasons to think the defensive problems Saturday were more an aberration than anything else.
First LSU was playing the No. 9 team in the country, one with a lot of talent throughout the offense.
Next the Tigers play host to FCS member Northwestern State, followed by the SEC opener at Vanderbilt, an open date and a home game against Utah State, which has some talent on offense, but not like Texas does.
So that leaves 5 weeks between the Texas game and the start of the heart of the SEC schedule with a home game against Florida on Oct. 12 to get it right.
Nonetheless, for a team that entered Saturday’s game ranked No. 6 – and moved up to No. 4 on Sunday – and generally has been able to lean on its defense for top-notch play week in and week out, the poor play against the Longhorns was eye-opening.
“We’re going to see what we did wrong, if it’s the call, if it’s the technique, if it’s the person,” Orgeron said. “We’ve got to get it fixed. We can’t give up 38 points and get where we want to go.”