Scooter Hobbs column: Tigers can’t wish away 2020

Published 12:17 pm Monday, September 6, 2021

PASADENA, Calif. — So I guess LSU thought it would just click it heels, last year would be gone, and it would be 2019 all over again.

Instead the Tigers traveled all the way to one of football’s great venues, the Rose Bowl, and it was 2020 all over again, only with full houses and marching bands in attendance.

And Saturday night’s 38-27 eye-sore loss to UCLA was a head-scratching performance you’d prefer to limit to close friends and masked family.

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If this was back to the old normal, the Tigers might want to reconsider the resumption of Tiger Stadium tailgating.

Was it live or was it Memorex?

Hard to tell, actually.

But what are the odds that you’d basically revamp your staff of assistants and, with a spring (no excuse this time) and summer to work things out, have the very same buga-boos jump out from every historic corner of the venerable old Rose Bowl?

You’d think this new brain trust with six new assistants, including three new and younger coordinators, would at least come up with some new problems to solve.

Maybe something original for the message boards?

But no. This — new and younger staff or not — was the same old same old.

Stop me if you’ve seen this movie before.

Lack of communication in the back end, with UCLA receivers running free through blown assignments. Linebackers forever a step behind their assignment. Talented linemen unable to seal the edge.

Still “Lost in Space” a year later, and for this trip you could throw in maybe a worse tackling performance than 2020 ever saw.

The Bruins had seven plays of 20 yards or more, seemingly dialed up whenever needed.

On the other side of the ball it was the usual problems with protection from the line and a running game that might as well have used Little Old Ladies from Pasadena for all the maneuvering room available.

It was all there.

Never mind getting rid of last year’s scapegoat, Bo Pelini as defensive coordinator. This had a previous generation of fans having Lou Tepper flashback from the previous century.

Head coach Ed Orgeron, who raved about the younger staff all August, took the blame of course.

“It’s my responsibility,” he said. “I told that to the team.”

He’s right, of course.

The players aren’t blameless — UCLA looked more excited to play and there doesn’t appear to be much more noticeable player-fueled leadership than a year ago.

But this is his hand-picked staff, younger and more player-connected, with fresh ideas. And if ever a loss was on the hands of a coaching staff, this was it. The one thing that really jumped out about the game was, well, let Orgeron explain it.

“Obviously, we’re going to look at it schematically,” he said. “Where we’ve got to get better.

Few LSU coaching staffs


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have ever been so glaringly schooled and taken to the woodshed by an opposing staff like the Tigers new coaches were by their Bruin counterparts. And the Tigers at least had a game film of UCLA to study, as the Bruins had played Hawaii last week.

UCLA didn’t have a clue what the Tigers might be up to, other than the rumors that Orgeron wanted to turn back the staff to the 2019 national championship.

No worries there.

Apparently you don’t just snap your fingers and bring back that magic.

All UCLA coaches had to do was study any film of the disaster that was 2020.

While LSU’s defense always seemed to chasing somebody in blue, the Bruins always seemed to be waiting on LSU.

UCLA gave up some plays but for the most part — and it appeared to be a conscious effort — kept the Tigers in front of them (and tackled well).

On many of the big Bruins’ plays, on the other hand, you could have been in the Rose Bowl’s top row and seen at the snap that — uh, oh — this wasn’t going to turn out well for the Tigers.

Actually, LSU had to feel pretty good about playing so badly and only trailing 14-10.

Make some adjustments, try some new ball plays, plenty of ball game left. Well, UCLA was on the case at least. For one game, at least, LSU younger, more connected coordinators looked to be in over their head.

After a halftime to study, the Bruins seemed to be toying with the Tigers, always with a quick, seemingly too-easy answer to the Tigers efforts to get back in the game.

So when it ended, UCLA proclaimed itself back on the national stage with a valued SEC scalp less than two years removed from the Tigers national championship.

They even brought out the confetti cannons to litter the Rose Bowl with blue streamers

They might want to check with Mississippi State, circa 2020, and tap the brakes on that one.

After doing basically the same thing to LSU to open last year, the next week the Bulldogs lost to Arkansas.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at