LSU football: Brian Kelly hopes 2 weeks make a big difference for Tigers
Two weeks isn’t a very long time.
But sometimes in college football, it can make a big difference.
LSU coach Brian Kelly hopes this is one of those times.
The Tigers’ game against No. 7 Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium comes exactly 2 weeks after their only previous game against a ranked team this season.
It was Oct. 8 when then-No. 6 Tennessee went into Tiger Stadium and whipped LSU, 40-13. The Tigers lost a fumble on the opening kickoff, immediately fell behind 7-0, dropped into a 20-0 hole and never recovered.
LSU wasn’t ready for the challenge of playing a ranked team, especially an undefeated top-10 team.
Kelly said his team “learned from the Tennessee loss.”
It better have, because the Rebels, like the Volunteers, aren’t just ranked, they’re an undefeated top-10 team.
“I don’t want to say 2 weeks later that it’s a different team, but it’s a team that has confidence,” Kelly said of the Tigers. “It’s a team that knows if they don’t play clean, if they don’t have an attention to detail, they’ll have the same results that they had against Tennessee.”
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The encouraging thing for Kelly is that his team mostly played clean and had the attention to detail that he referenced in its game between the games against the 2 ranked teams.
The Tigers brushed aside 3 1-touchdown deficits in the 1st half, scored 28 consecutive points, then held off a Gators comeback last Saturday.
Kelly said the Tigers had their “best offensive performance” of the season in the victory against Florida.
They had a 100-yard rusher in former walk-on Josh Williams, Kayshon Boutte broke out with his 1st 100-yard receiving game of the season and Jayden Daniels had 3 touchdown passes and 3 touchdown runs.
LSU outgained Florida 528-395. It might need similar productivity if it’s going to keep up with the Rebels, who rushed for 448 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 48-34 home victory against Auburn last week.
“Now we’ve got to be consistent at it,” Kelly said of the offense. “You can’t do it 1 week and then turn it off the next week and expect to win.”
Ole Miss leads the SEC in rushing offense (271.4 yards per game) and is 3rd in total offense (502.9).
“Each week this team is learning so much and growing,” Kelly said. “We saw that during (Florida) week, and it carried over in the way they played on the road. Winning on the road in the fashion that they did builds more confidence in a young football team.”
The Tigers showed a lot of growth against Florida, not the least of which was bouncing back from the early deficits. They fell behind 13-0 against Mississippi State and 17-0 against Auburn before facing the 20-0 deficit against the Vols.
But they never allowed any of the deficits against the Gators to exceed 7 points. They bounced right back when Florida blitzed them with a 47-yard return on the opening kickoff and a 51-yard touchdown pass on the 2nd offensive play.
Each time the Gators took the lead, the Tigers answered with a tying touchdown on the ensuing possession.
Kelly hopes his team never has to play from behind on Saturday. But if it does, it will be important to have similarly quick responses.
Falling behind multiple scores against the Rebels would be especially dangerous because of the scoring pace that Ole Miss is capable of setting.
The growth LSU showed after the Tennessee game was significant, but it needs to show even more this week if it’s going to win and tie the Rebels atop the SEC West.
Kelly cited tackling as a key area in need of improvement. Sloppy tackling contributed to Florida’s comeback, which was triggered by Anthony Richardson’s 81-yard scramble for a touchdown on the 1st play of the 4th quarter.
He added that the knowledge the Tigers have acquired in examining their loss to Tennessee provides a foundation for continued growth.
“If they take that knowledge into their preparation this week and into the game and perform,” Kelly said, “then we should have a really fine football team.”