Tell the Truth Monday: The passing game is LSU's saving grace
The purpose of Tell the Truth Monday is to make a complete, balanced and objective evaluation of the previous game.
Don’t overlook the bad stuff in a win – and don’t overlook the good stuff in a loss.
The bad outweighed the good for LSU in its 45-41 loss to Missouri on Saturday. That’s the truth. You can tell that by the score.
Even though it wasn’t all bad, the bad was so bad that it demands top billing.
So we’ll start with the defense.
The bad was really, really bad.
LSU gave up 406 passing yards and 4 touchdowns and forced just 6 incompletions. It gave up another 122 yards rushing.
It was confused, befuddled, frustrated and mostly poor. “Embarrassing,” was Ed Orgeron’s succinct description. There were lots of blown assignments and missed tackles. There wasn’t lots of pressure on the quarterback.
LSU got blocked and blocked and blocked.
But the defense did recover 2 fumbles and the punt coverage unit recovered 1. It wasn’t just good fortune that produced the defensive takeaways, it was a concerted and successful effort to dislodge the ball from ball carriers.
Good for the Tigers.
Turnovers are really important, but when defenders are as far away from ball carriers as LSU’s were, there aren’t going to be enough opportunities for turnovers to negate the big plays allowed.
As bad as the defense was and even though the offense put up 41 points, the offense wasn’t blameless.
The running game was terrible.
All the numbers were bad. LSU rushed for 49 yards, so it wasn’t balanced. It had just 20 attempts, so it didn’t give itself much of a chance to be balanced. And it averaged 2.5 yards per rush, which is just plain bad.
The Tigers had 1 yard of rushing at halftime. They started the 2nd half well as Chris Curry rushed for 24 yards on the first play of the 3rd quarter, but the rushing offense did virtually nothing else.
Given the way the defense was giving up yards and points, a consistent running game that moved the chains and kept the defense on the sideline could have been really useful.
Orgeron understandably will focus on working with defensive coordinator Bo Pelini to fix all the problems on defense this week. Presumably, he and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger will also be looking at ways to make the running game more successful to help the other side of the ball.
There’s nothing wrong with the passing game. Myles Brennan, who already was the only LSU player to pass for 300 yards in his first 2 career starts, passed for 430 yards and 4 touchdowns. He ranks 2nd in the SEC with 11 TD passes.
Terrace Marshall Jr. caught 3 of those touchdowns and had 235 yards on 11 catches. He shares the SEC lead with 7 TD catches. Freshman tight end Ark Gilbert finished with 6 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown despite being limited after injuring a shoulder in the 2nd quarter.
Kicker Cade York remained perfect on the season and punter Zach Von Rosenberg was again nearly perfect with his punting.
So the truth is the Tigers (1-2) were a lot like they have been in each of the 3 games – they can pass the football, catch it and kick it.
Otherwise, they’re very bad.
LSU has played 3 games. It has played poorly in 2 and taken advantage of a significantly outmanned opponent (Vanderbilt) in the other.
It has yet to play a game against as talented and dangerous opponent as the one it will face when it visits Florida next Saturday.
It’s up to Orgeron to have the team better prepared to play at the outset and to get it play progressively better over the course of 3-plus hours.
It’s up to Pelini and the rest of the defensive staff to get the defense to play at a respectable level. The Tigers have allowed the most yards through 3 games in school history. They rank 71st out of 76 teams in total defense (494.7 yards allowed per game).
It’s up to Ensminger and the offensive staff to maintain the level of success in the passing game while using it to generate a respectable running game.
The season began with the assumption that LSU’s biggest dropoff would occur in the passing game in the absence of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson and Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Thaddeus Moss, etc.
But right now the passing game is the saving grace for a bad football team.
That’s the truth.