Max protection, LSU offense starts with taking care of QB

Published 3:39 pm Saturday, September 18, 2021

If not now, when? That seems to be the pressing question for LSU tonight in what would otherwise be a garden-variety non-conference game against Central Michigan out of the Mid-American Conference. After opening the season with an alarming performance in a 38-27 loss to UCLA, the Tigers didn’t calm many nerves in a 34-7 bounce-back win over McNeese State while gaining fewer yards against the outmanned Cowboys than they did in the first week.

Time is running out. The Southeastern Conference schedule begins next week.

Is it a last chance to show what this team is and can be, or is what you’ve seen what the season is going to be?

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LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said he’s counting on the former against a Central Michigan team that the Tigers will be playing for the first time.

LSU is favored by 191/2 points, but style points might matter in this one, if for no other reason than to give the Tigers an idea how good they can be when things go right.

Orgeron and the players have said all the right things this week.

“We’ve had a tremendous week of practice,” Orgeron said. “I thought our guys were really focused on the task at hand and getting better on some of the things that we identified on Monday that we didn’t do well.

“Our coaches did a great job of motivating our team this week. We had a very spirited practice all week. We’re getting a lot of our guys back (from injury). We’re ready to go.”

An SEC-worthy hype video is in the can.

Now they have to show it on the field against a Central Michigan team that took Missouri to the wire before losing 34-14 and last week hammered Robert Morris 45-0.

The Chippewas feature a University of Washington transfer at quarterback in towering Jacob Simon (6-4, 240), who’s thrown for 405 yards in two games. The returning MAC Freshman of the Year, Lew Nicholls, ran for 135 yards against Missouri.

“Spread offense, very physical team,” Orgeron said of the Chippewas, who are coached by a familiar name to LSU in former Florida head coach Jim McElwain.

But for LSU, this game seems more about the Tigers, finding out where they are and perhaps declaring who they are, particularly on the offensive side.

“There’s a lot of things on offense that need to get fixed right now,” Orgeron said. “Coach ‘em better. I do believe that we have the athletes on offense that can go.”

The buzzword for the week has been “tempo,” Orgeron’s vow to get his offense moving in the right direction — quickly.

It won’t be the hurry-up offense on every series, Orgeron said, but he wants to see more of it and fewer of the long waits while plays are changed from the sideline.

“You’ve got to make it happen,” Orgeron said. “We looked at some things we’ve done in the past, how we’ve done it.”

“It all starts with our protection first. That’s mainly where our breakdowns have been,” Orgeron said. “I do believe the offensive line has to jell. We have to help them out. The offense is not performing like we want to perform right now. That’s obvious.”