LSU has several problems.
The Tigers (3-2) have lost two of their past three games and the last one — a shocking 24-21 setback against Troy last Saturday in Tiger Stadium — has observers questioning whether the program is in capable hands with head coach Ed Orgeron.
The slippage hasn’t been caused by an isolated shortcoming that might be corrected by lineup changes, or scheme adjustment or even recruiting in the long term. There are several leaks that need to be plugged short term and long term.
As Orgeron frankly acknowledged after the loss to Troy, “(we) had critical mistakes by all units at different times that were pivotal.”
Fixing all of LSU’s ills will take time that will extend beyond this season, but the Tigers have to start somewhere if they’re going to start having success.
It was the Tigers’ failure to convert thirds into firsts and their inability to prevent the Trojans from doing so on a consistent basis that were their undoing last Saturday.
Troy converted 10-of-18 third downs and both of its fourth-down attempts. The Tigers converted none of their 13 third-down attempts, though they were 2-for-3 on fourth down.
Those numbers represent a bigger disparity than the final score and indicate other things such as first- and second-down execution, which made third downs more or less manageable and led to a nearly 10-minute time-of-possession difference in the Trojans’ favor.
LSU must be much better on third downs on both sides of the ball this week if it expects to go into The Swamp and defeat No. 21 Florida.
The Tigers problems on offense against the Trojans started on the first snap when Nick Brossette fumbled, setting up a Troy touchdown and setting the tone for a scoreless first half for LSU.
The offense was noticeably different as the linemen tended to stay put, not going through the shifting that is a signature of first-year coordinator Matt Canada’s scheme. The change came from Orgeron, who wanted to keep things as simple as possible for a unit that featured true freshmen on the right side.
An undisclosed injury sidelined starting right tackle Toby Weathersby and he was replaced by true freshman Saahdiq Charles, who lined up next to fellow true freshman Ed Ingram.
“I wanted the guys to be in place so we knew how to block them,” Orgeron explained. “(But) this is Matt’s offense. He runs it. He calls it. He scripts the plays.”
And he’s trying to fix it.
After the scoreless first half, Canada was determined to go back to the shifting and Orgeron acquiesced. The offense was much more productive in the second half, but the three touchdowns were too little too late.
LSU hopes Weathersby returns against the Gators, but the line was struggling before he was sidelined.
The defensive line has also had problems with injuries and execution. End Rashard Lawrence, one of the most important players on the defense, missed the game against Troy because of an ankle injury and might miss this week’s game. Tackle Ed Alexander is expected to miss a third consecutive game because of a hand injury.
“We’re not playing the way we want to on both sides of the line of scrimmage,” Orgeron said.
The Tigers will address the line issues through recruiting, particularly through the junior-college route, Orgeron said.
But that’ll take time.
In the meantime the lines have to find a way to succeed more, not only on third downs but also on first and second so the thirds are more manageable.
Otherwise the slide is going to continue.