LSU had several shortcomings in its 27-19 loss to Florida last Saturday.
“We felt that we beat ourselves in a lot of areas,” coach Ed Orgeron said Monday at his weekly news conference.
Though the game wasn’t decided until the final seconds and the Gators were ranked No. 22 at the time, the performance was poor enough for the Tigers to drop from No. 5 to No. 13.
If LSU is going to bounce back and beat the No. 2 team in the country Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium it’s going to have to improve in a half-dozen areas.
Here are 6 things LSU has to do better against Georgia:
1. Take care of the football
This was one of the Tigers’ biggest strengths through three games — they didn’t do as well against Ole Miss, then it really hurt them against Florida.
LSU had no turnovers in its first three games before Joe Burrow lost a fumble while being sacked against Louisiana Tech. That didn’t matter much as the Tigers won 38-21. Two weeks ago against Ole Miss, Burrow and running back Nick Brossette both lost fumbles, but they merely reduced the Tigers’ margin in a 45-16 triumph.
Against Florida, though, Burrow lost a fumble as the Tigers were playing a first down from the Florida 28 and trying to add to a 7-0 first-quarter lead, and he threw two interceptions as he was trying to bring LSU back late in the fourth quarter. The first was returned for a touchdown that pushed a one-point deficit to eight points and the next came on a fourth-down play that wound up being the last for the Tigers’ offense.
The turnovers have become more frequent as their takeaways have become less frequent. LSU has one takeaway in each of the last two games after having multiple takeaways in each of the first four games.
2. Avoid penalties
LSU has had games in which it was penalized more often but managed to survive. But against the Gators they couldn’t overcome 8 infractions for 75 yards.
The Tigers had more penalties against Auburn and more penalty yards against Auburn and Southeastern Louisiana, but no back-breaking penalties.
Against Florida, an interference penalty against Lanard Fournette on a Gators punt returner negated a fumble recovery deep in Gators territory. A holding call on Saahdiq Charles negated a pass completion to the Florida 32 on a possession that wound up ending with a punt.
3. Protect Joe Burrow
Florida sacked Burrow 5 times and disrupted him on several others.
“Their speed got to us,” Orgeron said.
Two of Burrow’s lost fumbles have come while he was being sacked, which exacerbates the lost yardage of the sacks. The Tigers have to allow Burrow to operate comfortably in the passing game is going to work.
Left guard Garrett Brumfield will miss his third consecutive game this week.
Orgeron said the responsibility for the pressure issue belonged to both Burrow and the line.
“Sometimes (Burrow) was running for his life back there,” Orgeron said, “but he should have gotten rid of the ball a little faster.”
Georgia’s pass rush hasn’t been a factor. Through six games, the Dawgs are last in the SEC with just 6 sacks.
4. Match Georgia with passes down the field
Jake Fromm has improved his downfield accuracy, making Georgia’s passing game all the more dangerous.
LSU needs to match that production Saturday.
In addition to the aforementioned need to give Burrow more time, this will also require the Tigers’ inconsistent receivers to do a better job of holding on to the football when they have opportunities to make plays down the field. Dropped passes were an issue against the Gators and they were previously as well.
5. Convert on third down
LSU turned just 4-of-17 third downs into first downs. Some of the other issues, such as penalties and sacks, came into play there as well. False starts, holding penalties, sacks and pressure that produced incompletions have all helped knock the Tigers off schedule and made it difficult for them to convert third downs because of the distance required.
6. Get to the quarterback
LSU did not sack Feleipe Franks, which helped him make several big plays in the passing game. Overall the pass rush, both in terms of sacks and disruptive pressure, had got to be a problem for Georgia’s Jake Fromm if the Tigers are going to contain the Bulldogs passing game well enough to have a chance to win this game.
That won’t be easy.
“This is the best offensive line we have seen so far,” Orgeron said. “We’ve got our hands full.”