Scooter Hobbs column: Not how it was drawn up

Published 11:00 am Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Gee, Florida State sure is a lot better football team than it was a year ago.

LSU … not so much.

At least the Tigers had better hope the Seminoles are suddenly the odds-on favorite to win the national title instead of, say, two-time defending champion Georgia.

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LSU looked like … what, exactly?

A friend nudged me after one of the five consecutive Florida State touchdown drives in the second half and said, “I didn’t see this coming.”

Neither did head coach Brian Kelly, who seemed as shocked as any furious LSU fan after Sunday’s embarrassing 45-24 loss.

“We’re certainly not the team I thought we were,” Kelly said after the Seminoles ran off 31 consecutive points in the second half to blow past the Tigers.

Certainly it’s not the Florida State team that provoked Kelly to predict (trash-talk alert) on his radio show last week that “We’re going to go beat the heck out of.”

His players evidently bought into it, in the wrong sort of way. Maybe assumed it.

“We thought we were somebody else,” Kelly said after the rude awakening. “We thought we were the two-time national champion Georgia Bulldogs or something. I don’t know what we thought, but we were mistaken.”

Bad wrong.

While FSU improved by leaps and bounds — Georgia beware — it looked a whole lot like the same disjointed Tigers team that had excuses in opening last season against quite different Seminoles in Kelly’s LSU debut, a close but ugly 24-23 loss.

Nothing really changed — nothing that suggested the way the Tigers turned things around a year ago to win the SEC West.

The partial, but by no means not complete list:

The offensive line, with four returning starters instead of the piecemeal arrangement of a year ago, got dominated just as badly up front — no running game, quarterback Jayden Daniels sacked four times and two key LSU fourth-down attempts stuffed.

The offense was Daniels or nothing — he had to lead the Tigers in passing (347 yards) and rushing (64) — even though he missed on several key plays as his decision making left a lot to be desired.

There was even an obligatory special teams blunder, another muffed punt, that turned out to be a harmless reference to a year ago.

LSU made up for it with costly dropped passes.

Defensively, DBU may have desperately dipped into the NCAA transfer portal one time too many as the secondary was basically helpless fish in a barrel.

The vaunted defensive front did not sack FSU quarterback Jordan Travis.

True, perhaps they missed star defensive tackle Maason Smith, who was serving a silly one-game NCAA suspension, but not that much. It’s not true, though, that LSU didn’t pressure Travis. They chased him all night, got oh-so-close numerous times, just never got him to the ground.

But there was an added touch. The LSU coaches did what no SEC staff managed last year when they neutralized star linebacker Harold Perkins, Jr. — basically turned the league’s most jaw-droppingly dynamic defender into a role player, almost exclusively dropping him in coverage instead of lending a hand in chasing — and possibly catching — Travis.

“Total failure,” Kelly called it, being sure to put most of the blame on he and the coaches.

Somehow LSU led 17- 14 at the half.

Maybe the tip off should have come then, when closer analysis would have shown most of what went right for the Tigers in the first half was more about what the Seminoles did wrong — silly penalties, mostly — than any hint of the Tigers taking control of the game when they had the chance early.

A former LSU coach — if memory serves it may have been Curley Hallman or perhaps Les Miles — used to run down similar laundry lists and conclude each with “Easily correctable.”

Maybe these will be for Kelly.

But it may not be that simple.

Kelly is known as much for the “culture change” he brought to LSU as any X-and-O wizardry in pursuit of that elusive perfect game.

It seemed to be lacking Sunday.

Kelly tiptoed around it delicately afterwards.

“The second half we didn’t play with a sense of urgency,” Kelly said with the good grace to add that that oversight “falls on the coaches.”


That’s one way of putting it.

But, to take away the “coach speak,” bottom line: it looked suspiciously like LSU, particularly when things went awry in the second, well, the Tigers — dare we say it — sort of … quit?

When they start correcting things, that ought to be Job 1.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at