By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
In the days leading up to LSU’s homecoming clash with Troy, head coach Ed Orgeron spoke multiple times about the need to “simplify” his team’s offensive approach.
On Saturday night, the offense was, for most of the evening, simply bad.
Yes, LSU finished with more than 400 yards of total offense – 266 through the air, 162 on the ground – and averaged 7.0 yards per play. But much of that damage came late, well after Troy had built a 24-7 lead, when the Trojans dropped into a softer defense, content to milk the clock while the Tigers chalked up cheap yards at the expense of valuable time.
In fact, those yards came after LSU abandoned the simplified approach Orgeron insisted upon all week, and got back to offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s bread and butter attack, featuring shifts, motions, jet sweeps and play action.
“As you probably noticed, we didn’t motion or shift much in the first quarter,” said tight end Foster Moreau, one of the offensive bright spots on the night with three catches for 41 yards and two touchdowns. “We just kind of wanted to go T for T and see what we could do, try to resort back to some old playing styles, just play some smash mouth LSU football. Which I know all of our other teammates, we love to do that. That wasn’t working. So we resorted back to the motions and shifts, got things going, got some momentum. We just lost that momentum once we crossed the 40.”
If LSU’s approach from the outset was to keep things simple, it clearly wasn’t simple enough, as evidenced by an apparent miscommunication amongst the coaching staff on the game’s first first play from scrimmage. Nick Brossette carried and fumbled on LSU’s first offensive play, the first of six Tiger turnovers on the night. Orgeron, after the game, fumed that Brossette – and not Darrel Williams, who carried 17 times for 69 yards deputizing for the injured Derrius Guice before he suffered an injury himself late in the game – received the game’s first touch.
“Wish we could’ve had that first play back,” he said. “I wanted Darrel to get the ball. Instead, our third-string back got the ball. I should have done a better job game planning that. I was not aware that we were going to do that.”
Asked who made the call to hand the ball to Brossette rather than Williams, Orgeron responded: “I make all the calls. Everything goes through me. I should’ve checked it, and I didn’t. No pointing the fingers at anybody. If I could’ve had that call back, Darrel would’ve got the ball back.”
Was it a miscommunication? asked a reporter.
“You heard what I said?” Orgeron snapped, angrily. “Thank you.”
Also complicating things was LSU’s indecisiveness at the quarterback spot – or, specifically, how to handle the position. Danny Etling got the start, but after going just 7-of-11 for 61 yards in a scoreless first half for the Tiger offense, Myles Brennan took over to start the second half. The freshman began promisingly, completing 4-of-5 for 68 yards and a third-quarter touchdown to Moreau – Brennan’s first touchdown toss as a Tiger – to pull LSU within 17-7. But he opened the fourth quarter with an incompletion and an interception, and Etling soon re-entered.
The senior nearly led an improbable comeback, calling to mind echoes of LSU’s record-setting comeback against Troy in 2008, when the Tigers erased a 31-3 late-third-quarter deficit. Etling entered with LSU trailing 24-7 in the fourth, and promptly tossed two touchdown passes, first to Moreau, then to Russell Gage, to pull LSU within a field goal. In the second half, Etling was 10-of-14 for 137 yards and two scores, with another four carries for 38 of his 57 rushing yards on the evening. If the QB carousel affected the other 10 men on offense, they didn’t say so afterward.
“You get in the huddle and you see 15 or 16 is in there, you know that guy knows what he’s doing,” said Moreau. “At this point, Myles, I can’t call him a freshman anymore. That guy’s a sophomore now, to me. He’s had some big moments, he’s made some big-time plays. You just have to make sure he’s ready to play if Danny goes down.”
Which quarterback gets the nod next week on the road against a stout Florida defense remains unclear, though Etling’s finish and experience will give him the edge. What is clear, is LSU’s offense has to start better in the Swamp, or else it will dig another hole too deep to escape.
It’s a simple as that.
“We tried less motions and shifts…it didn’t work,” said Orgeron. “We tried a new quarterback. It didn’t work. We’re going to have to do a better job coaching.”