On the contrary to R.E.M.'s legendary lyrics, this is not the end of the world for this LSU football team. Sure, a loss takes them out of the national spotlight and one spot outside of the top 10 for now, but there is still everything at stake for this team. Did LSU lose a chance to win the SEC West? No. Did LSU lose a chance to win the SEC? Negative. Did LSU lose a chance to play for a national championship? Most likely not. If LSU responds positively to this game, it will only make the Tigers tougher down the stretch, and that bodes well. More past the jump.
Zach Mettenberger, for all the storylines surrounding him, played one of the best games an LSU quarterback has ever played. He played every bit as big as his one-time teammate Aaron Murray. He, along with the double-headed pass-catching dragon of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry did everything they could to keep LSU in it. Mettenberger's 372 yards looked as good as that number was gaudy. It was an excellent game through the air.
While the ground game needed a half to get going, Jeremy Hill worked and worked for his 80 yards. Those tough yards in the second half stemmed the UGA momentum, which while they held for almost the entire game, just long enough for LSU to get back and tie the game repeatedly before his run late in the fourth put LSU ahead (at which point every LSU fan said "NO NO THEY SCORED TOO QUICKLY!").
It was not all roses and lollipops, as obviously the Tigers lost so there had to be problems somewhere.
It was the defense.
I have no idea where to start.
Really, though, it all starts up front. Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson were sometimes BOTH doubleteamed, as the LSU defensive ends got so little pressure on the quarterback that UGA was content with chipping or using a running back to hold the ends back. Not only that, if Todd Gurley had been healthy all game, we might not even be talking about this being a 3-point game. He was averaging almost 10 yards a carry and just gashing the LSU line and running through the linebackers.
Speaking of the linebackers, they were also ineffective. While everyone's favorite whipping boy D.J. Welter was at his usual tricks–almost always in the right place and reading the offense well, while not playing aggressively and giving up yardage–his assistants in crime were no better. Lamin Barrow was basically worthless. Kwon Alexander, while a great player, still doesn't know where to be all the time. The linebackers were a liability and the Bulldogs were able to run on LSU all they wanted, especially in the first half.
The secondary, especially once Loston went down with injury, was abused by Aaron Murray. LSU essentially has no safeties right now. They were consistently out of position and not able to provide any help over the top. The corners, particularly Jalen Mills and Tre'Davious White, did a commendable job holding their own on the outside, but they were still picked on by Murray. Again, not helping the matter was the lack of help on deep throws.
But to get back to my initial point. This team still has everything ahead of it. The offense is fantastic and they may have to carry more of the load going forward, as Chief finds ways to fix this defense. The defense is not good right now, but that's not to say that will be the case in a month. October, while not easy for LSU, contains winnable games across the board. Ole Miss has a good offense, but as Alabama blanked them, it's not as good as Georgia's. Florida possesses the best defense in the conference by a wide margin, but they have mannequins in Gator uniforms for an offense. LSU can win all of those games with only slight defensive improvement.
That gives Chavis one month to find a lineup that will grow and hopefully improve. This defense's problems come from the youth and the youth that needs to mature. Not everyone starts out as Patrick Peterson or Mo Claiborne. Indeed while there is not a young PP7 or Mo on this squad, there's no reason why the young guys cannot mature into solid college defenders, which they certainly have the ability to be.
Next week will tell. Mississippi State is not having the season they thought they'd have, and they won't roll over. LSU will have to come play. But if they do, they should win the game. If the Tigers come back with a fire, all bets are off and this year will still be a lot of fun to watch. Given the way we've seen Mettenberger lead this offense, I have every reason to believe that will be the case.
This LSU team will be fun to watch.