LSU football: Tigers' QB change doesn't fix other problems
LSU changed quarterbacks Saturday night.
It was interesting, but it didn’t matter.
The quarterback wasn’t the problem before Saturday night, and the quarterback wasn’t the problem on Saturday night.
Max Johnson wasn’t the problem when the Tigers went 4-5 and 2-4 in the SEC before Arkansas visited Tiger Stadium.
He wasn’t the problem when the offense didn’t produce any points on the 1st 2 series against the Razorbacks.
Nor was freshman Garrett Nussmeier the problem when Johnson exited the game for good after those first 2 possessions and LSU went on to lose 16-13 in overtime.
Johnson is left-handed and Nussmeier is right-handed, but those were the only obvious differences Saturday night.
Neither was good enough to elevate the mediocre team around them to victory against a pretty good Arkansas team.
Tigers lame-duck head coach Ed Orgeron determined in the days leading up to the game that Johnson would start and play 2 series before he gave Nussmeier, a 4-star recruit, his 1st significant playing time of his freshman season.
Johnson has shown smarts, toughness and determination, but he isn’t skilled enough to transform a mediocre team into something better than mediocre.
So why not give Nussmeier an opportunity to show if he could do better?
The approach was reasonable, but it was never going to be transformational.
Like Johnson, Nussmeier is a son of an NFL quarterback. Johnson’s dad Brad had a long NFL career and helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win a Super Bowl. Nussmeier’s dad Doug had a less distinguished professional career than Brad Johnson, but he had an outstanding college career at Idaho, winning the Walter Payton Award as the best player in the FCS.
As a freshman last season, Johnson gave LSU a lift when he replaced TJ Finley as the starting quarterback for the last 2 games and helped produce encouraging victories against Florida and Ole Miss.
Orgeron was hoping the younger Nussmeier would replicate what the younger Johnson had done.
The Tigers went 3 and out on the game’s 1st possession. Johnson drove them into Arkansas territory, but they stalled and punted on his 2nd possession.
In came Nussmeier on cue.
The Tigers drove to Cade York’s field goal that tied the score at 3 on the freshman’s 1st possession, even though both of Nussmeier’s passes on the possession went incomplete.
On Nussmeier’s 2nd possession, he threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jack Bech to give LSU a 10-3 halftime lead. It was an outstanding, acrobatic catch by Bech just inside the back line, but also an impressive throw by the new quarterback.
Nussmeier’s remaining 4 possessions of the half ended with 3 punts and 1 lost fumble.
He and the offense produced a total of 3 points in the 3rd and 4th quarters, and the Tigers went into overtime.
LSU had the 1st possession of overtime, and it ended when Nussmeier threw an interception in the end zone.
Moments later, the Razorbacks were kicking a field goal, and the Tigers were losing with Nussmeier as the quarterback of record, just as they had lost more often than they had won this season with Johnson as the quarterback of record.
Ty Davis-Price managed a 100-yard rushing game behind LSU’s battered offensive line, but he never found the end zone.
The Tigers’ defense played very well, just as it had a week earlier in another narrow loss to Alabama.
LSU did a lot of good stuff and had a good opportunity to win. But as a team, it wasn’t good enough.
The Tigers lost to Arkansas essentially the same way they lost to Alabama, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Auburn and UCLA — not because the quarterback was the problem, but because the quarterback wasn’t capable of overcoming the team’s other problems.