Rapid Reaction: No. 6 LSU loses focus, but not game
LSU lost focus again.
The No. 6-ranked Tigers are off to an impressive 4-0 start and the incomplete 38-21 victory against Louisiana Tech on Saturday night didn’t diminish what they have accomplished.
But as has been a habit in the early part of this season, LSU seems to play its worst just when it starts to assert its dominance over an opponent.
It happened in the season opener when the Tigers were the talk of Labor Day weekend as they rolled to a 33-3 lead against preseason No. 8 Miami before coasting to a 33-17 victory.
A week later in their home opener they methodically built a 24-0 halftime lead before losing their edge and finishing with an uninspired 31-0 triumph over Southeastern Louisiana.
Now it’s hard to find fault with the gutsy come-from-behind effort that produced a 22-21 victory at then-No. 7 Auburn in SEC opener a week ago, but if you’re looking for a trend you’ll notice that they bolted to a 10-0 lead before getting outscored 21-0 and then regrouping.
Then they were back in Tiger Stadium on Saturday night and it was more of the same.
LSU started off well in all three phases as it opened a 24-0 lead midway through the second quarter, and once again things started getting more diffuclt than the fast start suggested they should have.
There didn’t appear to be any hangover from the walk-off win at Auburn.
There didn’t seem to be any evidence of looking ahead to next week’s rivalry game against Ole Miss.
And there didn’t appear to be any signs that the Tigers were disrespecting a Louisiana Tech team that was a 3-touchdown underdog.
If LSU had spent too much time dwelling on their success at Auburn, or anticipating their first SEC game at home or not properly respecting the 2-0 Bulldogs from up the road it would have shown in a sluggish start.
And there was no indication that they weren’t focused on the task at hand. Sure they punted on two of their first possessions, but in between they took it to the Bulldogs up front and marched to Nick Brossette’s 1-yard touchdown run.
After an exchange of punts the defense went into takeaway mode. Kristian Fulton forced a fumble, Devin White recovered and White nearly returned the ball for a touchdown, stepping out of bounds at the 3. That led to another 1-yard touchdown from Brossette.
Then came a field goal by Cole Tray and an interception by Ed Paris tha led to a touchdown by Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
All of a sudden it was 24-0 in the middle of the second quarter and just as predictably as tailgating precedes games in Tiger Stadium, a slippage in play followed LSU getting a big lead.
Tech drove to a touchdown that was a reminder that the margin was still modest enough and the time remaining sufficient for the outcome to be placed in doubt, if not in actual jeopardy, just as had happened against Miami.
Joe Burrow was sacked and fumbled as the Tigers committed their first turnover of the season in game number four, just as they had last season.
Tech had a chance to get within 14 points at the half, but a 49-yard field goal struck the left upright and fell harmlessly to the turf in the end zone as time expired.
All in all a 24-7 halftime margin wasn’t bad at all, even though it was less than what seemed the Tigers appeared headed toward grabbing.
Coach Ed Orgeron had started substituting liberally even as LSU was building the lead and a few key players left the game because of health issues.
The most serious injury seemed to be the one to left guard Garrett Brumfield’s left knee. Safety Grant Delpit left with an undisclosed injury and returned to the sideline but not the game. Defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence hobbled off, though it appeared perhaps he merely contracted cramps on a hot and humid night.
More will be known about the injuries later and games like this one are scheduled do teams like LSU can go deeper into the depth chart and save some wear and tear on starters and give valuable experience to backups and still get away with a win.
But when the Bulldogs drove to a touchdown on the first possession of the third quarter and connected on a touchdown pass on the first possession of the fourth, things changed.
This went from being a typical out-of-conference tune-up to a reminder of last season’s disaster against Troy.
That, too, was supposed to be an opportunity to take it easy on some starters, give some back-ups some time in the lineup and grab a fairly easy win before heading back into conference play.
But Troy didn’t get the memo and ruined LSU’s homecoming and nearly its season last year with a 24-21 victory last season.
As these Tigers were clinging to a lead by that same score Saturday night, it was easy to think a similar outcome might be on its way.
Though LSU put it away — Edwards-Helaire added his second TD to account for the final margin — the performance provided further evidence that the only challenge the Tigers have failed to handle this season is being able to maintain their focus when things are going their best.