LSU Needs Major Adjustments On Field And Sideline

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Miles and Tigers Can Not Depend on Comebacks Every Time

By John Ventola

Mississippi State ended a 14-year losing streak to LSU Saturday night by jumping out to a large third quarter lead and surviving a frantic final minute comeback by the Tigers. MSU quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Josh Robinson proved you can come home again as the two former Louisiana prepsters paced the offensive attack. The Bulldogs scored on two of their first three offensive drives, using a goal-line stand that featured questionable and unimaginative play calling by the LSU staff to go 98 yards in five plays for their second touchdown. Except for a late two touchdown rally by the Tigers, it was pretty much downhill from there for LSU as Tiger Stadium emptied out by early in the fourth quarter.

While everyone in maroon and white was in a celebratory mood, the Tiger fan base sat through another frustrating first half of football by LSU, similar to their 17-7 halftime

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Slow Start Contributes To Defeat

deficit performance against Wisconsin in the season opener, and their less than impressive 10-0 lead over ULM last weekend. Coming out the gate quickly does not appear to be in this team’s DNA unless it is playing a team such as Sam Houston State. If that is the case, then the Tiger faithful will need to hold on tightly as this squad works its way through SEC foes. Off their performance against State, the Tigers could be underdogs a few times during the conference schedule.

Two things became painfully clear Saturday night. Playing patsies does not do much for the development of a young football team, and Les Miles can not always depend on a second half comeback. Yes, it worked against Wisconsin when Badger coach Gary Andersen mysteriously started passing against the Tigers with a 24-7 third quarter lead and his punter shanked two punts (plus top runner Melvin Gordon was sidelined with an injury). And yes, the Tigers scored three times against the punchless Warhawks to easily win that game, but spotting an SEC opponent a 24 point lead eleven seconds into the fourth quarter is rarely survivable. To their credit, the Tigers tried valiantly.

The Tigers were able to score three touchdowns in the final quarter to make the final margin somewhat respectable but, sadly, only pockets of loyal fans and the band were left to hold their breath as Brandon Harris last play heave to win the game was knocked down at the goal line. Miles, not knowing the Tigers had three touchdowns in them, went for two points after the first two final quarter scores, and running plays by Anthony Jennings and Harris were unsuccessful. If LSU had kicked after those touchdowns, the Tigers would have only needed a long, but manageable, field goal to tie the game on their last drive. Miles’ crystal ball, which seems to work for him most of the time, must have been fuzzy as he apparently failed to envision a semi-Bulldog meltdown with a snap over Prescott’s head and less than aggressive play calling by MSU coach Dan Mullen down the stretch.

LSU’s young defense, which has suffered key losses by underclassmen declaring for the NFL draft over the past two seasons, showed their youth as Prescott and Robinson found big holes to run through and easily won the one on one battles with defenders. Prescott threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns while also running for a 56 yard

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Prescott Best MSU QB In Years

score. Robinson, who looked like a pin-ball character as he repeatedly bounced off tacklers, carried the ball 16 times for 197 yards. It was not a good night for defensive coach John Chavis as he never seemed able to dial up the right defense to stop the Bulldogs. Only Mullen’s conservative late game approach (looked like he ran a vanilla up the middle play deep in Tiger territory with MSU leading 34-16 at the five minute mark, bypassing another chip shot field goal that would have given his squad a three touchdown lead), seemed to stop Prescott. Rest assured, Dan Mullen will not call off the Bulldogs again. If Malachi Dupre could have come down with the ball on the last play for his third touchdown in the last 1:55 of the game, Mullen would have been barred from Starkville for life.

LSU’s predictable offense was ineffective in the first half, showing only a 30-yard field goal with a minute left, and four terrible play calls and failed execution from MSU’s two-yard line on its only drive. Jennings looked confused and non-decisive while throwing to covered receivers. Running backs Kenny Hillard, Leonard Fournette, and Darrell Williams were non-productive as MSU’s front four pushed the LSU offensive line around and took advantage of Cam Cameron’s play calling predictability. Off guard right, off guard left. Pass to a covered receiver. Punt. One. Two. Three. Kick. It is one thing when a team bores you and wins. It is quite another when they bore you and lose.

As frustrating as the night was for Tiger fans, there were some bright spots. Harris came into the game late and showed composure and accuracy when he passed for two touchdowns to fellow freshman receiver Dupre in the final two minutes. Punter Jamie Keehn showed a good leg, and the entire team showed tenacity and kept up their level of effort the entire game. Adjustments will have to be made on both offense and defense if the Tigers are to have another ten-victory season. The Tiger braintrust will have to quickly formulate some gridiron proactive to cover up the on field blemishes Mississippi State uncovered.

As of now, Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama, Texas A & M would all rate as favorites over LSU, and Florida, Kentucky and Arkansas could pose problems, particularly when one considers that the Gators game will be in Gainesville, the Razorbacks contest will be played in Fayetteville, and the Wildcats are vastly improved. Miles, Chavis, and Cameron have their work cut out for them. This year is not a case of throwing talented, experienced players into a fray. It will require coaching, imagination, and flexibility, and that has not proven to be strong suits of Coach Les Miles.

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