Can’t quite measure up
More questions than answers in 19-17 loss
Despite the conditions and hurdles in soggy Orlando, the fight was there from Tiger players. Need any proof? Check out Trindon Holliday (8) sizing up muscled-up Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman (11). (Photo by Jessica Marshall)
By BEN LOVE
Tiger Rag Acting Editor
In the moments before Friday’s kickoff, I sat in the press box and penned four big-picture questions from an LSU perspective. I figured the answers to these questions, in particular the first three, would go a long way to explaining who’d come out on top in Orlando.
Unfortunately for purple and gold nation, my hunch was correct.
In a game flooded with questions and intrigue, read on to see how the answers all came together to bring us the following: Penn State 19 - LSU 17.
Question: Will the field conditions be that big of a deal? And will LSU - with its speed/perimeter players offensively - be more negatively impacted than Penn State?
Answer: Resounding yes to part one, and kinda-sorta to part two.
From jump street, players on both teams struggled to maintain footing, make cuts or plant their feet (an especially big deal for kickers, who all had shorter leg wind-ups).
“Obviously you could see the turf was messed up,” Kelvin Sheppard said post-game. “It slowed down our speed … Towards the beginning of the game guys were concerned about that. You had to get a feel for it. But as the adrenalin started pumping and the game started going and guys started hitting, that went all away.”
It’s an admirable statement from a classy guy in Sheppard, but it was easy to see certain players were tentative. Patrick Peterson, for one, looked as if he wasn’t ready to risk his million-dollar knees early in the ball game. How else can you explain PSU’s first score - a 37-yard out-and-up from Daryll Clark to Derek Moye? Hardly anyone’s gotten behind Peterson all season. No. 7 also gave way more of a cushion throughout the afternoon than is his customary pre-snap positioning.
But it would be hard to declare the field affected LSU more than State. After all, one of the Tigers’ biggest get-to-the-edge threats on offense - Russell Shepard - touched the field only once all day (and didn’t receive a carry on the play). So, really, the Tigers limited themselves again in that department.
Given, PSU did rush for 124 yards. But it did so on 40 carries. John Chavis will take 3.1 yards/carry anytime. The men from Penn had just as hard of a time catching and holding onto footballs as LSU did. Biggest difference is they held the ball for almost 17 more minutes (38:21 to 21:39) and ran 26 more plays (75 to 49). The result: the blue and white outgained LSU, 340-243.
Q: Who’s gonna step up for LSU in this bowl game (like Jefferson did last season)?
A: Aside from the Derek Helton/Josh Jasper combo - which pretty much stepped up all year - the answers here were two seniors: Trindon Holliday and Brandon LaFell.
After the game, Miles bragged on Holliday, saying he “played big in my opinion all day long.” The short speedster from Zachary again showed his all-around worth for the Tigers as he racked up 116 all-purpose yards (63 on kick returns, 43 on punt returns and 10 rushing). His kickoff returns were especially timely in this game, and the last one of his college career - a 26-yarder to get LSU out to its own 41 - put the Tigers in a winnable position once again and seemed to rescue them from a late Daryll Clark-led field goal drive which helped PSU retake the lead with 57 seconds remaining.
Jo Jo had a big impact as well, and his 24-yard TD grab late in the third quarter was LSU’s most vital play on offense all day. It was typical LaFell flash, too, as he reeled in a ball after seemingly having his eyes trained on it for all of four nanoseconds. The senior ended his career with a five-catch performance for 87 yards and a score (and seven yards rushing).
Q: Would clock management/discipline be a factor again?
A: Yes on both counts. C’mon, wouldn’t have been a 2009-10 LSU football game otherwise.
For the third straight contest, LSU’s hopes to win came down to end-game management when the offense had the ball late with the Tigers trailing. And, for the second time in those three outings, Les Miles’ men finished second. Looming large this time was an inside slip screen called to LaFell with 38 seconds left (and no timeouts).
Said Miles after the game: “We expected certainly that there would be a pass rush, and an opportunity to get up the field and get a first down - [that's] what we thought we would get there. But we got tackled certainly short of the first down and that cost us maybe [some] seconds there.”
But it ain’t all coaching, folks. Coaches can’t account for a Lyle Hitt personal foul following that play. Of course, according to Miles, the call - which sent LSU all the way back to its own 40 - was more than just a little dubious.
“I guess if you’re helping a guy off the ground, it would be difficult to call that a personal foul,” wondered Miles. “But I don’t know. You know, I guess if you intend to lay on the ground and you’re being lifted off the ground, I guess that could be a personal foul. I don’t know. But it just didn’t seem right to me.”
Q: Will another Miles’ bowl win help salvage a season and renew faith going forward?
A: Mark this one a big “not applicable.” Told you there were more questions than answers.
Ben Love is the acting editor of Tiger Rag. Reach him at email@example.com.