Tigers still planning to make trip to Fayetteville
You almost need a standard disclaimer that the situation is fluid these days, but as of Monday LSU coach Ed Orgeron expected his Tigers to play Arkansas this Saturday in Fayetteville.
If so, it will be the Tigers’ first game in three weeks — since an embarrassing loss at Auburn on Oct. 31 — with a scheduled open date two weeks ago before an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus among the Tigers forced postponement of last week’s home game against No. 1-ranked Alabama.
Arkansas (3-4) is coming off its worst loss of the season, 63-35 at Florida, but otherwise the Razorbacks have been one of the surprisingly competitive teams in the SEC under first-year coach Sam Pittman.
Pittman will be back on the sidelines Saturday after his own positive test forced him to miss the Florida game.
Orgeron said the Tigers’ available numbers were down last week more due to the quarantines from contact tracing than from the handful of actual positive tests.
“That was the protocol,” he said of the SEC rules on handling the pandemic. “Obviously there’s different opinions but I’m not a doctor and those are the rules.”
Texas A&M, for instance, reportedly has only one active case of the virus, but the Aggies are going to have to postpone a second consecutive game — this week against Ole Miss — due to quarantines from contact tracing.
Orgeron added that LSU didn’t have enough players to scrimmage last week almost solely due to the quarantines.
“Most of our guys that weren’t able to play last week was because of quarantine (due to contact tracing),” Orgeron said. “It wasn’t because of the number of guys that had COVID.
“We feel that we should get most of our quarantined guys back either today or tomorrow. The room is going to be full today for the first time. We’re actually going to have two quarterbacks to practice.”
That won’t include starter Myles Brennan, who’s likely done for the season with an abdominal injury suffered in the Missouri game.
That most likely leaves it up to true freshman T.J. Finley, who’s started both games in Brennan’s absence.
The other true freshman quarterback, Max Johnson, who played late against Auburn, was one of the players held out of practice last week while in quarantine.
That forced the Tigers to use 30-year-old punter Zach Von Rosenberg as the backup quarterback.
“T.J. has taken the first team reps, Max hasn’t practiced for a week now,” Orgeron said. “For right now, it’s probably going to be T.J. unless Max comes on and has a great week.
“But we’re probably going to play both of them in the game.”
Finley had an impressive debut in a 52-24 win over South Carolina, but his two interceptions and a lost fumble were the turning points in letting a 48-11 loss at Auburn get out of hand.
“We’ve got to take care of the football, make smart decisions, which he did the first game,” Orgeron said. “The second game he didn’t.
“We had three turnovers. You can’t go on the road and turn over the football.”
Orgeron insisted that it wasn’t all on Finley.
“It’s on play-calling, keep it simple, it’s players around him playing better, it’s about the offensive line protection. It’s about everybody.”
“I think the first game was perfect. The guy was on fire. … We were protecting him. The second game, all sorts of stuff; we were playing away, didn’t start off well.
“I think we dropped the first pass. The second one was low, behind him or something like that. And I think we kind of got behind the 8-ball. Too much pressure on him.”
l COMING BACK: Help could be on the way for LSU’s offensive line. Orgeron said that Dare Rosenthall, a starter at left tackle before he was suspended indefinitely from the team before the South Carolina game, could be back this week.
“That’s not a definite yet,” Orgeron said. “ I think that would help us. I should know something more today (Monday) or tomorrow if he can be reinstated to the team.”