It didn’t require LSU football Brian Kelly much thought to pinpoint his team’s downfall in Sunday’s 24-23 loss against Florida State.
Two muffed punts, a blocked field goal and blocked extra points contributed to Kelly’s angst, but upon further review, he was more concerned with his team’s poor start.
LSU trailed 7-3 at halftime, had eight first downs and gained 119 total yards. Junior Jayden Daniels, making his first start for LSU, was 7 of 10 passing for 47 yards.
With the Tigers, twice trailing by two touchdowns, 17-3 and 24-10, changed tempo on offense and went faster and flourished with consecutive long scoring drives in the last nine minutes of play.
Daniels, who finished 26 of 35 for 209 yards and two touchdowns, threw a pair of scoring strikes to wide receiver Jaray Jenkins of 22 and 2 yards, respectively, that brought the Tigers to within the final score that was sealed on a blocked extra point.
“We need to start fast,” Kelly said after Thursday’s practice in advance of Saturday’s home opener with Southern University at 6:30 p.m. “From a coaching standpoint, we needed to put our practice schedules together this week where early in practice, we were starting faster. We didn’t go right to individual; we went to some team work just to get our guys going.
“We have to understand our personnel and how they play in an up-tempo situation,” Kelly said. “We have to coach better. We have to play better. And then we have to look at our start and that sense of urgency is that every play matters. We can’t wait until the last 30 minutes of the game where we go, ‘Ok, we got to turn it on’. We’ve got to turn it on from the very beginning.”
Here’s what else Kelly had to say:
How do you turn around Malik Nabers in practice this week?
“Having done this for three decades, I’ve had great players that have had ups and downs and you just show confidence in them. And by doing so, they built up confidence. They’re great players. And I think the worst thing you can do is not continue to show confidence and a belief and help ease that look. He’s like everybody else. He wanted to excel. He didn’t catch punts in high school, but he wanted to do that here. And I give him great credit for wanting to do that. We’ve just supported him. He had a really good week, and we expect him to have a great game.”
Do you expect better communication in the secondary?
“It’s still about getting everybody to do their jobs. Sometimes, communication is one thing but maybe wanting to do a little too much. We spent most of this week really drilling down on making sure that those guys in the back end are doing a great job of visually looking at each other and acknowledging. I know it’s a bad analogy, but you know, there’s always some kind of validation of a squeeze play by the batter. We needed some kind of validation, that that they know what the coverage is and what the play is.”
How’s Mehki Wingo looked in practice in place of injured Maason Smith? How confident are you about this defense going into the game?
“I’m very confident. Maason Smith is an outstanding football player. I wish we had Maason Smith, but we don’t with an unfortunate injury, but we’ve moved past that. We’ve got Mekhi starting in his place and then we’re going to have other guys step up as well. And that’s just the nature of football, whether it’s high school, college or the NFL. You’re going to have injuries and they’re going to challenge your depth. This one’s going to challenge our depth, but we’re excited for the guys that get an opportunity to come in and play.”
What about the expanded 12-team playoff system?
“I’m excited about it. I just think about those November rankings that come out and you know when it was four, you know you’re looking down to the 12th-place team and wonder do they really have a chance. Now with 12 teams, it’s probably 20 teams deep now are involved, and I just think that’s good for college football.”
How did freshman Mason Taylor perform at tight end?
“I think the realities of it are such that he’s going to be able to continue to grow in the areas (receiving and blocking). He put on 20 pounds. He’s gotten himself stronger. He’s still a true freshman. He’s going to have some growing pains there. But I’m excited about his progress, but there will need to be more progress in those areas. Absolutely.”
How did freshman offensive tackle Will Campbell fare?
“We have to do a better job of maybe rotating the tackles a little bit more and getting some more guys in the game because that’s a lot, especially for a true freshman, and he battled. He was out there battling, but then you lose some of your technique and it just becomes survival. And he’s a warrior. He was out there battling every play, but I think we have to do a better job as coaches and making sure that there’s a bit of a rotation with the tackles.”
What does Jack Bech have to do to get more involved?
“I don’t know that he needs to do as much. We’ve been very careful with him. He had the stress fracture of his leg, and we didn’t want to put too much on him early in camp. As we begin to ramp up the season, he’s going to get more and more playing time. A lot of it was just being really careful with him so we didn’t have any major setbacks.”
What did you think of your level of conditioning at the end of the game?
“It looked good at the end; their conditioning level was really good. I thought we had Florida State on the heels. That doesn’t mean anything. We still lost the game. I’d rather be the team that won and wasn’t as conditioned, quite frankly. But there are a lot of good positive things that we see with our football team in terms of that level of conditioning, that we can push the tempo and continue to, you know, attack our opponents.”
What’s your thoughts on Southern defensive end Jordan Lewis?
“You can play him virtually anywhere. They’ve got an aggressive style of defense. They bring pressure and there were times that we didn’t handle the pressures as well. We’re going to have to prove that we can do that, because they, they certainly have brought a lot of pressure and they have some athletes that can run and be disruptive, so we’re quite aware of that.”
Who is Wingo’s back up at defensive tackle?
(True freshman) Tygee Hill will get some playing time there certainly. We’re thin, quite frankly at the position. We’re going to have to have to be creative. You might see some other fronts that give us a little bit more versatility. Just to give us a little bit more of a rotation than being in for down as much.”