Tigers lackluster in win over UL-Monroe

Published 12:33 am Sunday, November 21, 2021

BATON ROUGE — LSU was never going lose to UL-Monroe Saturday night.

But the Tigers sure took their sweet time about beating the Warhawks.

And never at all very convincingly.

Instead LSU muddled through a lackluster game in a dead Tiger Stadum and finally hung on for a 27-14 victory.

“It was sloppy,” LSU lame duck head coach Ed Orgeron said. “I’ll admit that. But we needed a win tonight. We’re going to enjoy it.

“Did we play great? No. Did we make some mistakes? Yeah.  But we won the game and I’m happy for them.”

The stat sheet suggests that LSU quarterback Max Johnson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another but a lot of his 319 yards in the air never reached the scoreboard.

Meanwhile LSU struggled to run with only one gain of over nine yards.

Cade York kicked two field goals, including a 50-yarder to cap the night, but also had a rare miss from just 44 yards.

It was that kind of lukewarm night.

“It was ugly,” Johnson said. “But we came out with a win. That’s all that matters.”

The Tigers jumped out to a 17-0 lead before the stall set it and it got semi-interesting when the Warhawks pulled to within 24-14 in the fourth quarter.

“It seemed like we could never throw the knockout punch,” Orgeron said. “Give them (ULM) credit. They kept playing.”

With the win LSU (5-6) will have to do it again next week at home against Texas A&M to become bowl eligible.

“We’ll play better next week. I know that,” Orgeron said. “Our guys are going to be ready. I don’t think it’s about playing for a bowl game. I think it’s playing to beat Texas A&M.”

It will likely take something different than Saturday. Suffice it to say the Tigers never sniffed the 29-point spread by which they were favored.

LSU, which managed only 92 yards rushing, got only one touchdown out of four trips into the red zone, had two touchdowns wiped off after further video replay, never to be heard from again, and botched a pair of curious fourth-down gambles.

It might have got even more interesting if the Tigers’ defense had not  stiffened for a pair of goal-line stands, both at their own 2-yard line.

“I thought the defense had a heckuva a game,” Orgeron said.

Johnson, who played only two series in last week’s loss to Arkansas, went the distance Saturday. Garrett Nussmeier, who took over in that game, would not have been available even if he hadn’t decided this week to redshirt as he was sick with the flu.

Johnson completed 22 of 33 passes, even though he didn’t get a lot of help from his receivers other than Malik Nabors,  who had four receptions for 143 yards, including a 67-yard scoring reception— LSU longest play from scrimmage of the year — and a 48-yard screen pass that set up LSU’s first touchdown.

LSU was well on its way to a comfortable, if blasé, halftime lead when the Tigers’ nothing-to-lose tactics blew up in their face in slapstick fashion.

Leading 17-0 at their own 39 late in the second quarter, the Tigers pulled a similar fake-punt to the one they popularized against Alabama — with somewhat lesser success.

It didn’t look right from the start, yet still might have worked if receiver Jontre Kirklin hadn’t slipped down, giving ULM’s Josh Newton an easy-pickings interception and 22-yard return to the LSU 28.

“Their cornerback played off (Kirlin),” Orgeron explained. “All we had to do was throw it four yards and catch it and would have been wide open and Jontre slipped.”

The Warhawks’ scored two plays later on Boogie Knight’s 28-yard reception amidst a flurry of missed LSU tackles to cut LSU’s lead to 17-7 just before halftime.

“I wish we could’ve called it back,” Orgeron said of the fake. “It was open but Jontre slipped and we gave them seven points.”

The sparse crowd wasn’t amused, although most went home during halftime anyway.

They didn’t miss much.

The Tigers used up half of the third quarter with a long, second-half opening drive but again came up empty when yet another curious fourth-down gamble was blown up from the start at the Warhawks’ 14.

LSU made amends on its next possession with  Johnson’s 42-yard scoring pass to Brian Thomas.