LSU was rudely treated in its trip to Starkville last Saturday – a 37-7 beatdown at the hands of Mississippi State.
It was a thorough whipping. The Tigers put up points on just one of their ten possessions. LSU allowed 465 yards as the Bulldogs put up points on seven consecutive series.
The 30-point setback was just the fifth for the Tigers since coach Nick Saban resurrected the program in 2000. In 11-plus seasons as LSU coach, Les Miles had his team beaten by at least 30 points only two times – Florida in 2008 and Auburn in 2014.
Orgeron read a lengthy list of mistakes made by the team during his weekly media luncheon Monday afternoon. Orgeron summed up what happened at Davis Wade Stadium quite succinctly.
“Mississippi State played as good as they can play and we played as bad as we can play,” Orgeron said. “The team periods on Tuesday and Wednesday last week were not as sharp as they need to be. We didn’t prepare them as well as we should. I think this is going to be a turning point. It better be.”
In each of the last four seasons, the Tigers were upset at least once by a Southeastern Conference team. That upset came in LSU’s league opener in 2017. So, the Tigers must turn things around immediately if they are going to avoid another mediocre conference record.
However, Orgeron made a more telling statement later in his remarks Monday. Orgeron acknowledged that LSU does not have the linemen necessary to win titles in the SEC. September is not even over and Orgeron was talking about the quick fixes needed in his program.
“We need more linemen,” Orgeron said. “We have to get bigger, stronger and faster. We’re going to go to the junior college ranks. We need two offensive linemen and two defensive linemen. I wish we had (nose tackle) Tyler Shelvin eligible and 40 pounds lighter. I don’t know which will be easier to do.”
Last November following the 10-0 loss to Alabama, Orgeron said that the Tigers needed to recruit those type of linemen who can compete with the future NFL players on the Tide front. This lopsided loss at Mississippi State indicated that the situation is not getting better.
LSU is using two first-time starters on the offensive line – Garrett Brumfield at left guard and Ed Ingram at right guard. Ingram and his backup Saahdiq Charles are true freshmen. Right tackle Toby Weathersby is in his first season as a full-time starter.
Orgeron was not as upset with the performance of his offensive line after watching the tape. Both Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams averaged more than five yards per carry, but there was only one gain of more than ten yards. The Bulldogs did total two sacks and six quarterback-hurries.
“The guys did better than I thought,” Orgeron said. “There were too many tackles-for-loss and they were pressuring Danny (Etling). There had not been as much pressure the past two weeks. We were getting beat on some one-on-one situations.”
The defensive line is a different story. LSU is quickly running out of bodies.
End Rashard Lawrence has missed two games because of an ankle injury. End Frank Herron has not played due to a suspension. Nose tackle Ed Alexander suffered a hamstring injury against the Bulldogs. End Neil Farrell was ejected in the third quarter for targeting.
“We must do a better job of recruiting defensive linemen,” Orgeron said. “We will not have Ed Alexander this week. We’ll see if Rashard Lawrence can practice this week.
“We are hoping Rashard can play so we can move Greg Gilmore back to nose tackle. Glen Logan can back up Greg at nose tackle. Glen was on the field for 56 plays there last week and he was pretty good playing there without much notice.”
Both Christian LaCouture and Gilmore had career-highs in tackles against Mississippi State with 11 and seven, respectively. Orgeron was critical with the Tigers’ defense on outside runs. Linebackers and defensive backs failed to carry out their assignments in keeping Bulldogs runners inside.
“We were pretty good on defense between the tackles,” Orgeron said. “There were a lot of runs outside the tackles where our guys got cut. Some of it was technique.
“Not carrying out our option responsibilities resulted in some big holes. It was not as much Mississippi State being physical as our technique and alignment. Our run fits could have been better.”
The mental mistakes carried over to the secondary where busts led to Nick Fitzgerald touchdown passes of 45 yards and 20 yards.
“We did not have eye discipline on play-action passes,” Orgeron said. “Defensive backs have to fill on runs and play man-to-man (pass defense). A lot of times our defensive backs were looking in the backfield. You look at your man until he blocks. The most important thing is to play man-to-man.”
Inside linebacker Donnie Alexander was ejected for targeting in the third quarter. He will miss the first half of Saturday’s game against Syracuse. Either Tyler Taylor or Jacob Phillips, both true freshmen, will replace Alexander. Taylor took over for Alexander on Saturday and made five tackles.
“We need consistency and focus from both of them,” Orgeron said. “The defense is more complicated. One time you may have the quarterback and one time you may have the dive. The game is too fast for some of (freshmen).”
Orgeron said that Guice didn’t play much in the second half because of a minor injury. Guice did not practice Monday. Orgeron did say that there was never any thought of putting Myles Brennan into the game at quarterback. However, that plan may change.
“Danny didn’t play that bad,” Orgeron said. “We will give Myles more reps in practice this week. We’ll see if he can play this week. I would like to play him some.”