DEVILLE: Trying To Figure Out These Tigers
Looking for answers to explain LSU’s issues after seven games
by Matt Deville
Tiger Rag Senior Editor
One definition of the word insanity reads, “repeating the same action many times expecting different results.”
Considering the way in which the Tigers have performed game after game this year, it is an ideal way to describe the LSU football season up to this point. Watching the Tigers make the same mistakes over and over again can literally drive a coach (and its fan base), well, insane!
Last August, Les Miles’ major concerns for this year’s team were inexperience at quarterback and in the defensive secondary. With seven games under their collective belt this season, nothing has changed for the Tigers.
An array of mistakes and miscues, mental lapses and missteps led to LSU being defeated for the second time in three weeks in humbling (almost embarrassing) fashion. The Tigers managed to out-gain the visiting Georgia Bulldogs, but three turnovers and a variety of squandered opportunities resulted in a 52-38 shelling in Tiger Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The loss all but eliminated LSU from the SEC Western Division race as the Tigers are now two games behind Alabama. The Tide visits Death Valley in two weeks. Even with a win over Nick Saban’s team, the Tigers would have to rely on Miss. State or Auburn to pull an upset of Bama. By the way, both of those games are in Tuscaloosa.
But in LSU’s current state, the SEC West crown and a berth in the title game is the farthest thing from reality at this point.
What’s wrong with the Tigers? Let me count the ways.
Most everything starts at quarterback.
While most people are up in arms about the play of LSU’s Swiss cheese defense, the root of the problem resides at quarterback.
Yes, it is quite evident that there are major issues on the defensive side of the ball – I’ll address that in a minute – but LSU’s unraveling begins under center.
Quarterback Jarrett Lee is on track to set a single-season record in interceptions returned for a touchdown.
The redshirt freshman tossed two “pick-sixes” on Saturday, both to linebacker Darryl Gamble, with the first coming on the initial offensive snap of the game. Just 20 seconds into the game, it was Georgia 7, LSU 0 – and Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and Co. hadn’t even touched the field yet.
For the season, Lee has four TDs going the other way and had South Carolina’s Carlos Thomas not stepped out of bounds at the six-yard line, it would be five.
Lee shared the snaps on Saturday with Andrew Hatch. The sophomore tried his best, but in the end, was equally ineffective. I guess one positive note is the fact he didn’t throw one to the other team for a touchdown.
One fan said leaving the stadium on Saturday, “Two quarterbacks equal no quarterback.”
There is some truth to that.
Also, the most telling stat of the game was the fact three Lee interceptions led to 17 points for the Bulldogs. Take away the two touchdowns and field goal stemming from three errant passes and LSU wins 38-35.
Now, it may seem I’m ganging up on the rookie from Brenham, Texas. In his defense, though, a phone call to Stafford could go along way to helping build his confidence.
Thinking back to 2006 (his freshman season), Stafford took over the Georgia offense from Joe Tereshinski in the third week of the season and went on to throw for seven touchdowns and an SEC high 13 interceptions. The Bulldogs limped to a 9-4 record that year with losses to Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida and Kentucky.
And, as bad as Lee has played at times, you must remember the Tigers would not even be in this situation if not for the dismissal of Ryan Perrilloux.
I have received several e-mails about Perrilloux’s exile to Jacksonville State (like the one below) and I am quite disturbed at some fan’s priorities.
Now, as for the defense, reference the quote above and apply the following logic, “Two defensive coordinators equal no defensive coordinator.”
It seems like an easy target to blame Miles’ decision to promote Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto to co-defensive coordinators. Patience was applied when the Tiger defense struggled early on (i.e. 250 yards passing by Auburn’s Chris Todd). But after seven games, the LSU defense is ninth in the league in total defense and while giving up 26 points per game.
The Tigers have already given up over 50 points – twice – in a regulation game this season, which is a first in LSU history. Even Curley Hallman’s 1992 team (2-9) never gave up more than 32 in a game. The worst season average of points per game allowed was 28 by the 1993 team, which gave up 50 or more only once.
In defense of LSU’s defense, 28 of those points have come by way of offensive miscues.
Sure, LSU had to replace several stars on the defensive side of the ball, including all-Americans Glenn Dorsey, Craig Steltz and Ali Highsmith, as well as all-SEC cornerbacks Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon.
The troubling thing is almost every player that has started a game on LSU’s defense this year played on last year’s team. For the most part, these are the same players who played back-up and reserve roles over the past few seasons, especially along the defensive line and in the secondary.
You can argue there is a greater lack of experience in the secondary than on the D-Line, but the inconsistent play and lack of production along the defensive front is unacceptable. This was considered the premiere group of defensive linemen in the nation. Over half of these 10 or so players will play in the NFL.
Looking at the statistics, the Tigers finished third in the nation in total defense in each of Miles’ three prior seasons at LSU. In 2005, LSU gave up 266 yards per game. The 2006 campaign was the best season statistically in which LSU allowed 242 yards each outing. The national championship team gave up 288 yards per game.
Currently, the Tigers are giving up 316 yards per game and are 35th in the nation and ninth in the SEC in total defense.
So what’s wrong?
It could be several things.
New personnel? This is part of the problem considering the holes that had to be filled after last year’s team.
Quality opposition? Florida and Georgia possess the best collection of offensive skill players in the nation.
Coaching? This has to be part of it as well. It’s not necessarily time to throw in the towel on LSU’s co-coordinators. But if the defense continues to struggle, some offseason maneuvers must be considered.
In the meantime, while this loss was a disappointing setback because many felt LSU could win, don’t fret. With Perrilloux out of the picture and no experienced quarterback, LSU wasn’t supposed to be a national contender this year.
If the Tigers can squeeze out nine or 10 wins, possibly spoil Alabama’s undefeated season in two weeks and make it to a January bowl game, considering the circumstances, 2008 will be looked upon as a heckuva a year.
FROM THE MAILBAG:
Time to start calling for a REAL defensive coordinator!! This is right up there with DiNardo and Tepper.
Why did he get rid of Perrilloux??? Nothing Perrilloux could have done off the field could have been as bad as 2 pick sixes. I think he is now tied for the LSU record for pick sixes in a career.
You need to conduct a survey for those who say they like home afternoon games.
Which was their favorite? Saturday v. Georgia? Last year against Arkansas? Or 2003 against Florida?
Tiger Stadium at night is the most intimidating place to play in college football. In the afternoon it looks exactly like Baylor.
Editor’s Note: At the end of the year, Miles definitely needs to examine his defensive staff. As for Ryan Perrilloux, don’t be so short-sighted. Perrilloux was a mess, a bad egg, a cancer. It’s painful watching Lee throw that many TDs to the other team, but you can’t argue with Perrilloux’s dismissal. You can argue that his actions off the field and dismissal are the reasons for LSU’s travails under center. He is responsible for the mess at QB.
And as for the afternoon kickoff, LSU has no choice in the matter. They get big checks from the TV networks that must adhere to their schedules. If you are a successful team, then the networks want you to play in a 2:30 afternoon time slot. If you don’t like that, you’d better go ahead and scalp your Alabama tickets because that one’s going to be at 2:30, too.
Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag. Reach him at email@example.com.