After opening loss, we still don't know what to expect from Myles Brennan or the LSU offense
The LSU offense was the most productive one in college football last season.
It was one of the most productive in the history of college football.
But in the season-opener Saturday, it was the 2nd-most productive offense in mostly-empty Tiger Stadium.
The inability of Myles Brennan and the LSU offense to keep up with KJ Costello and the Mississippi State offense in a 44-34 loss was a stark reminder that they won’t be able to catch up to what their predecessors did during the 2019 national championship season.
The only consistent thing about the offense’s performance was that across the board, it was uncomfortable from the outset.
Brennan and the passing game were awkward in the early going and that contributed to a nearly non-existent running game in the first half.
The offensive line was uncomfortable all game as Brennan was harassed routinely and the running game averaged 2.1 yards per rush. The Tigers finished with just 80 yards — the 2nd consecutive year MSU held them to double digits.
And offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and first-year passing game coordinator Scott Linehan were uncomfortable in their play calling until the 3rd quarter when they finally seemed to get a feel for how to use the running game – such as it was – to help Brennan find a comfort zone.
In the end Brennan’s numbers weren’t bad – 27-of-46 for 345 yards with 3 touchdowns (2 to Terrace Marshall Jr. and 1 to freshman tight end Arik Gilbert on a blind alley-oop) with 2 interceptions.
We all know the key players from last year’s group that are not part of this year’s group. But it’s no longer about last year or who’s no longer at LSU.
That page has been turned and Saturday was about establishing a baseline for this year’s group.
It was bad in the beginning, encouraging in spots and concerning overall. This offense, this whole team really, was always going to be a work in progress because of a record number of personnel changes in the wake of a national championship.
That hasn’t changed. This is going to be a week-to-week challenge to consistently improve and move toward maximizing what this group can be by sometime later in the season.
That’s true of all teams, but this one will be watched more closely because of what happened last season and more significantly because of all that has happened since that championship game 257 days ago.
In the 1st quarter, neither team gave a hint of what the final score or statistics would look like. The 2nd quarter suggested both teams were acclimating themselves to a season opener that came 3 weeks later than it was supposed to.
Then in the second half all hell broke loose.
LSU’s offense had just 1 touchdown drive in the first half as the Tigers trailed 17-14 at intermission.
It was clear right away how much different the beginning of this season will be than last season was for the offense.
There was no rhythm in the 1st quarter in the blocking, the running, the passing or the play calling.
Either the receivers weren’t getting open or Brennan wasn’t locating the ones who were open, but it appeared to be the former more than the latter.
Ensminger leaned on the passing game early and the lack of success made it difficult to get the running game going.
But the lone 1st-half touchdown drive was the best the passing game would look. The Tigers started being a little more ambitious and it paid off.
Brennan threw a 7-yard completion to Jaray Jenkins before finding Gilbert for 16 yards and Jenkins for 47 yards to the 10.
LSU reached the 2 before Brennan faced a smothering pass run and lofted the 50-50 ball that Gilbert claimed. All but 4 of the 84 yards on the drive came through the air.
On their opening possession of the 2nd half, the Tigers had their best run-pass balance. They ran 5 times for 27 yards and Brennan completed 5-of-6 for 46 yards as they drove to a 1st-and-goal at the 2.
Things were starting to click.
But Tyrion Davis-Price was stopped for no gain on consecutive plays and Brennan was sacked and LSU settled for a tying field goal.
It was a microcosm of the offensive performance. Whenever good stuff started to happen, it wasn’t sustained for very long.
Brennan threw 37- and 33-yard touchdown passes to Marshall to keep LSU in it, but it was nearly enough to keep up with Costello, who looked pretty Joe Burrow-ish except for a few turnovers while setting an SEC single-game record with 623 yards.
It was a rocky start for everyone on the LSU offense – the coaches the runners, the passer, the pass-catchers and the blockers.
In fact we don’t know anymore about how good Myles Brennan, or the passing game or the offense as a whole are going to be than we knew going in. They have 2 weeks to figure it out before traveling to Florida on Oct. 17.