LSU offense still at mediocrity level
‘Somehow, someway we’ve lost our identity since Georgia’
BATON ROUGE — When LSU beat Georgia 36-16 last month, it looked like more than a big upset and a signature win.
It appeared the Tigers’ offense had finally, at long last, turned the corner on their offensive mediocrity.
It turned out to be a mirage.
For sure, that gorgeous afternoon in Tiger Stadium was a don’t-pinchme 60 minutes of football, just the way head coach Ed Orgeron said he always imagined his Tigers.
LSU not only scored its secondhighest total of the season for an SEC game in the 36-16 victory, they did it clicking on all cylinders with 475 yards of total offense fairly well balanced between 275 yards on the ground and 203 in the air.
Happy days were here again.
It didn’t take.
Since then it’s been the same old same old in the three subsequent games as LSU, despite losing to only No. 1 Alabama since then and still ranked No. 7 in the College Football Playoff Rankings, has struggled for yards, points and first downs.
The first two games were so
mewhat understandable. Mississippi State and Alabama are the two topranked defenses in the SEC.
But Georgia is a close third in the league behind them both in total defense and scoring defense.
For that matter, it wasn’t exactly fireworks and Mardi Gras last week while picking up 359 yards in a 24-17 win against Arkansas — the Razorbacks came in averaging 33 points a game allowed.
Orgeron has noticed.
“I think somehow, someway we’ve lost our identity since the Georgia game,” he said Monday.
And they’re working on it. Trying to get that Georgia magic back.
“I asked (offensive coordinator Steve) Ensminger to go back and look at the (Georgia) game and figure out what we did right there,” Orgeron said. “Because we were clicking pretty good that game. Let’s look at the things that we did.”
He wouldn’t share what, if anything, Ensminger uncovered.
But they’re also analyzing what has gone wrong in the last three games.
LSU has some obvious weaknesses on the offensive side, most notably trouble protecting Joe Burrow, a quarterback who can make all the throws when he has time, but who also sometimes complicates matters by holding the ball too long in the pocket.
They’ve often been forced into “max protect” formations, which keeps additional blockers in to keep Burrow vertical but takes them away from the available receivers running routes.
“I do expect Joe to play better,” Orgeron said. “He’s had some really good games, he’s had some OK games, and he knows that. He’s a competitor. I would expect him to pick up his game the next couple games.”
Oddly, the production dropoff has come with the offensive line the healthiest it’s been all season. The first seven games were mix and match as the Tigers were forced to use different starting combinations up front in every contest due to injuries.
“Maybe sometimes we feel like we’re handcuffed, we can’t get as many receivers out as we want to or something like that because of protection or whatever it may be,” Orgeron said. “But I did ask (Ensminger) to go back and look at the Georgia game, look at what we did.”
What they haven’t done since is come anywhere near those gaudy Georgia numbers.
“We looked at it, and we looked at tendencies, we looked at the down and distance (and what) we called on it,” Orgerons said. “We looked at formation, we looked at what are we giving away, what are they doing to take it away from us.
“And, you’re exactly right, it’s not working.”
The solution? There are no guarantees, but he suggested they want keep trying the same old, same old.
“I think it’s more or less to simplify. (Are) we putting too many things in? Are we trying to cover up some things that are some weaknesses?
“We’re going to…look at what the guys are doing to us on defense, the defenses that are giving us problems, (and) have answers for those defenses because we’re going to see them again.”
LSU’s Joe Burrow