For Baton Rouge, La., natives and all LSU fans across the country, watching the LSU football team on Saturday afternoon at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., was difficult, frustrating, and downright sickening at times.
There were many other negative adjectives to describe the Tigers lack of balance on offense against the Wisconsin Badgers, but some of them are unfit to be printed in a family-oriented publication such as ours.
While many LSU fans hoped to see a better offensive attack, with a balance of run and pass, led by junior quarterback Brandon Harris and junior running back Leonard Fournette, many fans and critics would argue that the Tigers looked a lot like the team that took the field on Nov. 7, when LSU faced the Alabama Crimson Tide on the road in Tuscaloosa.
Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles looks to the scoreboard surrounded by players during the fourth quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
With such high offensive hopes to open the season, many of those “hopes” turned to “worries” as Brandon Harris struggled to get the ball in the hands of his key targets in Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre.
Harris, who threw for 131 yards on 12-for-21 passing, finished the game with one touchdown and two critical interceptions that helped the Badgers win the game.
But, can all the blame be put on Harris? It should not be.
The LSU offensive line did not get good push consistently for four quarters against the Badgers’ defensive line, which limited Fournette to only 35 rushing yards in the first half.
If the 2015 LSU-Alabama matchup did not come to anyone’s mind at the end of the first half, I am not sure what could have been your thought.
Despite the Tigers’ offensive line getting push up front and Fournette getting into a little groove to begin the third quarter, giving the offense a much-needed boost, LSU failed to make the plays it needed to when they counted the most.
Not to mention, the Tigers did not convert their first first-down off of a third-down situation until the third quarter.
For the Tigers, this cannot happen if they expect to win games against some the best and toughest teams in the country each week.
Nov 7, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Brandon Harris (6) looks to pass during the third quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
After the Tigers’ performance against the Badgers, there are some improvements that need to be made and quickly.
LSU returns to Baton Rouge for its home opener against Jacksonville State, a game that the Tigers should win easily.
However, don’t be fooled.
Any team can be beat on any given Saturday in college football. Ask Mississippi State, who loss its home opener, 21-20, against Sun Belt conference member, South Alabama Saturday.
Right after what should be a fairly easy win for the Tigers, LSU has four-straight games against SEC teams in Mississippi State, Auburn, Missouri and Florida.
Mississippi State will not only look to give the Tigers their second loss of the season but seek revenge against them as LSU pulled out a close victory in Starkville a year ago, 21-19.
Sep 12, 2015; Starkville, MS, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Brandon Harris (6) drops back to pass under pressure from Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Will Redmond (2) during the 2nd quarter at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
In case you forgot, Auburn gave No. 2 Clemson everything it could handle before Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers pulled out the victory in the final seconds of the game.
Missouri loss its season opener to West Virginia but returns to Columbia for its home opener against Eastern Michigan before playing Georgia. Missouri’s Tigers will not be an easy match-up for Louisiana’s Tigers, as well.
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Last year, the Tigers defeated Florida, 35-28 in Death Valley. This year, however, the Tigers travel to “The Swamp” to face the Gators, who are looking to make a bold statement in the SEC this year.
Then, after the four SEC matchups, things still will not get a lot easier as LSU will return home to play Southern Mississippi, a team who showed it could stand tall in the face of adversity as the Golden Eagles came back from a 35-10 deficit to defeat Kentucky, 44-35.
The concept or solution is simple.
The action or outcome of this solution remains to be seen. Harris has to become more efficient in moving the ball through the air to give the Tigers the balance they need on offense.
If Harris is not able to perform at the best of his ability, Fournette will continue to have games like he did against Wisconsin an against Alabama a year ago. The remaining teams on the Tigers’ schedule will begin — if they have not already — to design their defense to limit Fournette’s production on the ground.
It will be interesting to see what comes of the Tigers throughout the months of September and October before they face their SEC west rival, Alabama….