BATON ROUGE — So maybe you’re wondering what it must been like to be in the LSU coaches’ office Sunday morning, taking stock of the Tigers’ first attempt at defending last year’s national championship.
Or maybe you already know.
Been there, done that — at least if you happened drop by Lake Charles in the immediate aftermath of our friend Laura’s whirlwind visit.
Yeah, it was that bad, that shocking.
Piles of debris here, there and everywhere. Streets blocked off. Familiar landmarks missing. No electricity. Tangled wires and snapped-off trees.
Hard to take it all in from so many angles. Mostly, it looked overwhelming.
Some areas even reported a stench.
What a mess!
Where to start?
It takes patience in a post-hurricane scene.
College football doesn’t afford that luxury.
Maybe it’s not fair to compare LSU 2020 to LSU 2019.
But at this program’s stage it should be fair to compare the Tigers to Mississippi State.
Maybe Bulldog quarterback K.J. Costello is this year’s Joe Burrow. Maybe Mike Leach and his Air Raid offense is going to be the shock to the SEC’s system that Joe Brady was a year ago.
If nothing else,his postseason talk-show tours should bring glib to a new level, but save us all from more cowbell after the takeover.
Or, a sobering thought, maybe LSU was just that bad.
I could give you disclaimer that a lot of strange things have happened on the football field in this gerrymandered New Normal.
But, if anything, it was more of a mismatch than the 44-34 final score would suggest.
Even the cardboard cut-out fans were horrified.
Maybe it was arrogance.
Did LSU really think it was going to waltz into an SEC-only gauntlet with only five returning starters from last year’s Dream Team and pick up right where the confetti left off?
When that number got reduced to three in the 24 hours before kickoff, shouldn’t it have been a jolting reminder?
Maybe All-American cornerback Derek Stingley would have brought some order to the Bulldogs’ air show. He took violently ill Friday night, although it was not from the trendy COVID stuff.
Defensive lineman Glen Logan sat our for “unexplained reasons,” so who knows.
But this is no time for excuses.
There were two main areas of concern — a disjointed offense and a helpless defense (special teams, bless their hearts, didn’t really step in anything untoward; 30-year-old punter Zach Von Rosenberg was a rare bright spot while making far too many appearances).
Of the two, right now I’d say the defense has the most hope.
Remember, this is the bunch that Ed Orgeron had said — probably the go-to, feel-good quote of the summer — was “better than at any point last season.”
But they can build around a front seven (six, mostly, for this game) that accounted well for itself.
It got five sacks and four turnovers, a pretty good day.
But, if you want to sum up this game, a day where LSU never had the answers, here you go: Mississippi State was sacked twice and gave up two turnovers in the fourth quarter alone — and still scored 17 points.
Somewhere along the line Costello threw for 623 yards, which, at roughly the distance from Baton Rouge to Leach’s old stomping grounds at Washington State, is an SEC record.
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ self-styled DBU was suddenly flunking out cornerbacks left and right, most of whom kept turning left when right would have been the prudent move.
New defensive coordinator Bo Pelini was excited to have the luxury of speedy, talented cornerbacks to go with his blitz-happy fronts.
He does have the speed, probably the talent. Right now he doesn’t have the experience.
But that didn’t stop them from throwing them into the fire, locked up nose-to-nose in mismatches all day. Leach couldn’t believe it. But he was going to take what they were giving him, mostly in large, jagged chunks.
“Welcome to the SEC, we’ve got to get better,” Orgeron said. “We couldn’t play manto-man.”
Orgeron even said that the Tigers might have to resort to some zone defenses, a tough concession for DBU.
Admitting there’s a problem is the first step. Of course, Orgeron said that after the game. It might have come in handy as a halftime adjustment, but at least it’s a possible solution in the coming weeks.
The offense, meanwhile, defied its statistics — 425 yards, 345 in the air —to the point it still can’t decide whether to blame the disaster on poor blocking, dropped passes, indecision or timing or maybe sun spots. There was blame to go around, for sure. Fingerpointing was at a minimum. As usual, safety Jacoby Stevens had the most reasoned reaction when he suggested, “Attack the problem, not the people.”
But most of it seemed designed to distract attention from the man behind the curtain, the great quarterback-inwaiting experiment.
Some were quick to defend Myles Brennan, even dragging out Burrow’s stats from his first start two years ago — 11 of 24 for 140 yards, zero TDs.
Bad example. Different offense. One that wasn’t really designed to put up big passing numbers.
But even then Burrow seemed to have control of that offense, and when he got the keys to the Lamborghini ... well, you know the rest of the story.
Burrow isn’t walking through that door.
But this offense has to have a triggerman to get into any kind of rhythm, which never really happened Saturday.
Brennan can get better, mostly more decisive.
And that’s probably the key to turning this season around.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at