Rapid Reaction: LSU's easy win in Tiger Stadium finale caps good home season
LSU played its final home game of the 2018 season Saturday night.
It wasn’t a marquee matchup with the No. 7 Tigers blasting outmanned Rice, 42-10.
But all in all it was a good season in Tiger Stadium and the finale should have sent the faithful on their way hopeful of good things happening when they reconvene for the 2019 opener against Georgia Southern next Aug. 31.
The 9-2 Tigers had their most lopsided game of the season against the 1-11 Owls. Previous non-conference home games against Southeastern Louisiana and Louisiana Tech weren’t quite as easy as they could have been because the Tigers seemed to take their foot off the gas pedal after getting early leads.
But on Saturday night, Rice probably couldn’t have made things interesting even if LSU took its foot off the gas pedal, slammed on the brakes, pulled over to the curb, turned off the engine and left the vehicle.
Clyde-Edwards Helaire and Nick Brossette both found the end zone (as did Lanard Fournette late) as they formed the one-two rushing punch that never quite worked in tandem for any extended period of time. Both had their moments, for sure, but the Tigers never really had both of them humming together with any consistency.
Next season, Brossette will be gone and Edwards-Helaire will be battling a couple of true freshmen – John Emery and Tyrion Davis, if they follow through on their verbal commitments – and a couple of redshirt freshmen – Chris Curry and Tae Provens – for playing time.
Joe Burrow and the receivers gave a glimpse of what might come from the passing game and what was expected of it but never really materialized this season.
Burrow connected with Stephen Sullivan on a 38-yard touchdown pass, tight end Foster Moreau on a 13-yard touchdown and Jonathan Giles even made a play, snagging a 15-yarder in addition to having a 15-yard punt return. It was all part of a career-high 307-yard night for Burrow.
But the receivers also had a series of drops, reminding everyone of what has plagued them throughout the season and leaving lingering questions about this group for the future.
Coach Ed Orgeron tipped his cap to his seniors as Brosssette got the ball near the goal line and scored twice – giving him 13 touchdowns after he had none in his three previous seasons – and Moreau’s number was called in the red zone and he scored his first touchdown of the season.
Kicker Cole Tracy, the most popular one-year Tiger in recent memory, got a loud ovation when he was acknowledged before his sixth and final home game and went on to make all his PATs.
Of course there were other Tigers who were playing their final home game – primarily underclassmen who are well-regarded NFL prospects who will be eligible to turn pro if they choose. It remains to be seen who stays and who goes.
So this game was about saying goodbye – to Tigers who won’t play again in Tiger Stadium and to the 2018 team, which moves on to College Station to face Texas A&M in the regular-season finale next Saturday.
This team will have one more game after that, perhaps in December, more likely in January with the minuscule possibility that it could be playing in the CFP.
On a cool Saturday night in mid-November, LSU had a stress-free workout against the type of team that usually shows up in September.
But the lack of drama in the game allowed more time for reflection on the past three months in Tiger Stadium.
Aside from the going-through-the-motions wins against SLU and Tech, there was the midseason streak of four games against SEC opponents – a satisfying beatdown of Ole Miss, a whipping of No. 2 Georgia that was the most memorable home game in years, a payback of Mississippi State for last season and then yet another disappointment against Alabama.
An evaluation of the Tigers’ home schedule provides a reminder that this program still has a lot of climbing to do in order to get over that Crimson-colored hurdle. But it also provides a reminder that pretty much all of the others have been cleared.