“It Is What It Is” – Auburn Game Thoughts

LSU went up against a better team on Saturday and lost. The Tigers’ offensive shortcomings finally cost them a football game. Yes, LSU’s defense got thumped and they did not play well. But they did manage to hold Auburn to 24 points. LSU’s offense again failed to score points, move the football, make plays, or even look organized. And as frustrating as it was, can anyone really say they were that surprised?

What you have seen from this LSU football team is what you’re going to get. Nothing is going to change. The team, by and large, plays very good special teams, very good defense and it plays very bad offense. You’re also going to get disorganization and confusion from the offense.. It should not be that way, but it is…and it will continue to be that way. Just get used to wasted timeouts and pre-snap penalties.

The struggles on offense are mostly due to poor quarterback play. We can argue whether the quarterbacks are really that bad or whether the coaches have failed to develop them and/or put them in good situations. My point is that it doesn’t really matter. It is what it is, and it’s not going to change this season. The quarterbacks have hit their ceiling under this staff, and they’re just not going to get any better.

The good news is that I think both will change next year. I expect a new quarterback (Zack Mettenberger) and a new offensive coordinator. It’s debatable whether a new coordinator will change the offense all that much, but that’s a whole other topic for another day.

LSU went to the Plains with a strategy to try to shorten the game and keep the ball away from Auburn’s offense. So despite the much publicized leaky Auburn pass defense, LSU chose to stick to their strength and run the football. The last thing LSU wanted to do was get into some kind of shootout with Auburn and Cameron Newton. And the strategy kind of worked. My only beef is that LSU decided that Jordan Jefferson is now their best runner when in reality, it’s still Stevan Ridley. I would have liked to see Ridley get going a little more even though Jefferson did run the ball well.

Defensively, LSU wanted to play their standard defense despite facing a very talented and unique player. They decided to not attack with blitzes and risk giving up a big play. It didn’t work. Auburn still made big plays and LSU did not make any. After it was apparent that their plan was not working, it would have been nice to see LSU bring some pressure to try and force a negative play. But LSU did not change. This LSU defense has been aggressive all year, and I think LSU’s plan actually went away from what has made this unit special. It took away their fire and aggressiveness, and the results were disastrous as they surrendered over 400 rushing yards.

But even with Cameron Newton running wild, LSU was tied with Auburn early in the fourth quarter and then after Auburn took the lead, LSU later had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to tie it.  But the offense could not get it done when it mattered this time.

On one hand, I think that you could take any coaching staff in the country, give them LSU’s roster, put them against LSU’s schedule and a 7-1 record is the best that you’d get. I really believe that. Take Chip Kelly, Bob Stoops, Nick Saban, or whoever you want and I don’t think any of them would do any better than 7-1 with this team at this point. And in the “silver lining” department, at least LSU is not losing to vastly undermanned teams at home such as UCLA and Iowa State.  What’s going on in Austin is VERY tough to explain.

On the other hand, Miles is the one responsible for the current roster and for the lack of any qualified quarterbacks on it. Additionally, I have grown beyond tired of watching a team that is so poorly organized and does not fully utilize its talent.

With the game on the line and facing a 4th down to keep hope alive, LSU used a timeout to apparently make sure they get the right play called. What happens after the timeout? LSU does not have enough players on the field. Players don’t know where to go. The play was a mess, and everyone involved with LSU’s offense should be embarrassed.

Last week against McNeese, Les Miles pulled the redshirts off freshmen J.C. Copeland and Justin Maclin. Both guys played very late in the fourth quarter against McNeese. The rationale was that they would be needed for some upcoming big games. Copeland especially looked impressive during his brief playing time at fullback. Neither played a single snap against Auburn. Sorry, but that’s not acceptable to me. When the decision was made to burn a year of these kids’ eligibility, it needs to be for more than garbage time against McNeese.

The negativity around LSU’s program is intense and has been for the entire season, despite the fact that the Tigers have been ranked in the Top 10 for most of it. It’s not that LSU fans are terribly unhappy with being 7-1. But they are tired of the confusion on the sidelines and repeated mistakes. They want to know that the coaches are giving the players every opportunity to win and right now, it’s really tough to say that’s the case.

Now look, this season is FAR from over and nobody should be throwing in the towel. LSU’s outstanding defense (the one we saw for the first seven games) gives LSU a chance to beat anyone, including Alabama. LSU still has a chance to win ten or more games in the regular season and possibly end up in a BCS bowl game. As long as those things are still possible, I’ll plea for fans to keep supporting these players.