Updated: Sep 28, 2020
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
LSU started the 2020 campaign fulfilling many of our predictions: our defense created turnovers and pressure, Gilbert scored, Marshall caught 2 TDs over 100 yards on a big day, Jacoby Stevens' playmaking was in full force, Gaye's length batted 3 passes, we even had Brennan passing for over 300 yards, his 3 TD passes was what we'd forecasted...we even called an INT by Eli Ricks BEFORE Stingley's absence; we witnessed some breakups and hard nose tackling by Flott, LSU's defense held Miss State to 9 yards rushing, we saw the Tigers' first defensive touchdown since 2018....so, LSU should've won, right?
No....actually, LSU lost by 10 points 44-34 at home in one of the most colossal upsets in recent SEC memory, our Tigers becoming the first defending champion to lose on opening day since 1998 Michigan.
The margin of defeat wasn't the worst part, it was the pre-game news about the health and absence of Derek Stingley which truly deserves a large chunk of the blame for LSU's horrific showing.
On the eve of his sophomore debut, Derek Stingley Jr suffered an "acute ailment" last night in a serious situation. EMTs responded to the Stingley residence in the early hours of the morning, taking Derek Stingley to a local hospital and attended to his condition.
He was stabilized but it was a scary situation beyond "acute illness" which shook and distracted the defensive back corps today, especially with their lack of experience, the early kickoff and shock from the events transpiring overnight.
Due to Stingley's middle of the night absence, LSU's DBU coaching staff of Raymond, Busch and Pelini rushed out a game plan in lieu of the iconic sophomore, throwing a banged up Jay Ward and Nicholls State transfer corner Darren Evans into the fire....but no one expected the volume of record-shattering nonsense allowed by LSU, 44 points and 623 passing yards from Miss State's quarterback K.J Costello...yes that isn't a typo, 623 yards.
More than any game possibly could, today showed exactly how vital Derek Stingley is to LSU's success this year and how key he was to their title in 2019....when a player is so dominant on his side, it allows the other guys to gain confidence by their mere presence, i.e our safeties can help other guys cover or jump the underneath routes rather than worrying about Stingley's side...we saw his influence throughout all of last year.
You saw how the danger to their brother overnight affected this young unit and it was a tidal wave which never stopped, our secondary never recovering from their first half horrorshow, allowing more than the outrageous 294 first half total (329 in the second).
#26 Darren Evans, our transfer corner was destroyed for 8+ catches, if not more, such was the amount of evisceration coming his way. He was burned time and time again for colossal plays, but worst of all there was no effort to stop the yards after catch, forcing an injured Jay Ward to sacrifice his body further. Evans was sliced and diced, Todd Harris and Jay Ward were rushed on to the field after surgeries and we're lucky only missed tackles or blown coverages came of their ill-advised appearances.
This wasn't on the secondary alone and absences weren't just affecting our DBs:
Crucial leader and senior DT Glen Logan was suspended for the game today due to unknown reasons, forced to stalk the sidelines without pads, barely raising his voice for his teammates....and though this didn't affect our pass rush one would say, Logan's loss and the manner in which he departed (coupled with Stingley's medical scare) had to upset a squad who'd been through so much already over the past few months.
Due to the ineptitude of our offense (0 points in the 1st quarter and 1 TD to end the half) handing Mississippi State nearly 50 plays of offense during the first two quarters, DBs coaches Corey Raymond and Bill Busch never made adjustments and the game flew by, but not for our defense...our guys constantly out there battling a nonstop passing game and breathing on fumes.
This was the worst performance by an LSU secondary I've ever witnessed, it must be said...
Regardless, our DB coaches needed to figure something out and try freshmen Dwight McGlothern in coverage and Jordan Toles at free safety over the just-returned Todd Harris and banged up Jay Ward....and Ward still battled and played tough despite being at 35% fitness.....we simply couldn't get Mississippi State off the field.
This Tigers unit continued to shoot themselves in the crotch over and over, 1st and 2nd down screwups leading to 3rd down sacks or busted plays, few of which were ever positive. Brennan held on to the ball longer than James Harden and ignored open chunks on 1st or 2nd down, forcing the offensive rhythm behind the eight ball.
Myles was sacked 7 times, hit repeatedly and smashed by Miss State, Deculus and Rosenthal failing on the outside truthfully....some plays were #15's fault and on others he didn't even have a chance.
Asked if the bulk of our offensive struggles was a combination of busted protections or Myles making mistakes, Coach Ed Orgeron said after the game: "It was a combination of both to be honest. There were times he (Myles) could've stood in the pocket and delivered the ball quicker and he didn't do it."
Myles held on to the ball far too long while Dare Rosenthal and Austin Deculus lost mano e mano battles constantly on the edge (Miss State's Marquis Spencer destroyed us today), Brennan also left himself exposed to the battering from Miss State, running himself into trouble within the constantly collapsing pocket.
Worse than holding on to the ball, it's why Myles held on:
Watching the game for the third time now, we see a multitude of openings including clear path throws Brennan should've made, and easy catches our receivers should've grabbed...
Today, Myles ducked his head from the pressure and ran for help, our wideouts dropped the ball 8x total (4x in the first half alone) and sad to see Terrace Marshall drop 3 passes so carelessly.
Also, we had a horribly hard time sustaining big plays after the catch; Our running game was alright but didn't make the full impact whatsoever (TDP and Curry in the 40 yard area and the team rushed for 80 on the dot total)...and we failed to get Boutte or Gilbert involved.
LSU lost the game long before the final whistle...not due to all of the above, but from the lack of belief or swagger as a team...we saw a squad looking empty and shellshocked on the sidelines when the score stood only at 3-0...no energy.
At 17-14 guys were hanging their heads while failing to communicate...and such was the drain of energy, the 25,000 fans in attendance couldn't get their mojo workin' for 4 quarters. Our guys fed their panic with awful tackling, uncharacteristic mistakes drawing dumb penalties, as Myles looked frustrated and disconnected from his teammates and Ensminger's working system...
Our offense really pushed the pedal to the metal during the 3rd quarter, though we were forced to settle for 3 points on a crucial first drive (with the assist from Brule's fake injury) and scored a brilliant touchdown from Myles to Terrace Marshall, #6 catching over the middle to retake the lead 24-20....everything felt back on course.
Then again the lead only lasted seconds as Kylin Hill busted a long play from a catch out of the backfield...somehow, with the sideline at his disposal, Todd Harris couldn't make the tackle to stop Hill....Todd had executed a few brilliant tackles earlier in the game. This is where his reactions from the knee injury are just slightly late, missing Hill by a centimeter as he dove at #8's feet, Hill scampering into the end zone to retake the lead 27-24.
It was far too easy for Miss State, running up a disgusting Ole Miss-ian amount of yards on LSU's defense.
Responding on the next drive, Ty Davis-Price and John Emery made a couple good runs and some 1st downs, including a strong 3rd down conversion by Emery bouncing off some hits; Freshman Koy Moore received playing time and caught a 5 yard pass, Brennan made a smart tuck and run away from a collapsing pocket, geauxing down before the unnecessary hits.
Once again, Brule went to the ground, sensing the high tempo from LSU's offense and attempting to grind the Tigers momentum at all costs, receiving no treatment on either occasion.
Soon after, Brennan made a gutty 3rd and 5 throw during this drive to Terrace, fitting the ball through the eye of a needle...just as LSU had a handle on things, suddenly a game-changing play happened:
Though it still wasn't perfect and there were some weird errors, LSU's offense were driving and gaining momentum, looking to surely re-take the lead then and there.....with Racey McMath wide open standing at the 10 yard line, Brennan identified #17 and began to uncork a long throw to the senior.....right as he reared back to release the pass, Myles' elbow was slapped and the pass went well under target, straight into the lucky hands of the corner McMath left stranded in the first place.
After the pick, Costello went for the kill shot and sent the score to 34-24 with yet another TD pass on Cordale Flott, and the game seemed out of the Tigers' reach....
But #1 wasn't having that... when our offense left our defense with their backs against the wall yet again, Eli Ricks made an incredible play.
Defending a back shoulder fade, Ricks reached high above and took the ball out of the air when his team needed possession most, pulling off an interception which would've made made Derek Stingley green with envy.
And the tables turned....Ricks changed the game, but more than regaining possession, our offense came out and socked Miss State in the mouth with an aggressive play-call immediately, a long bomb to Terrace Marshall up the side-line. Brennan knew all he had to do was lead Terrace into the back of the end zone and #6 would bring it down. Terrace stuck out a single hand and Randy Moss-gripped the touchdown, bringing the score to 34-31.
Once Jacoby Stevens stripped Costello and recovered yet another fumble (more on this here), It felt like the game was ours to take.
When we failed to take the lead (Brennan ignored a wide open Terrace Marshall across the middle and settled for a sack and a tying Cade York field goal), followed by K.J Costello's butterfingers escaping infamy (after the refs overturned the original call of "fumble" on the field), it seemed the writing was on the wall...
LSU were luckless...alongside our gratuitous inability to stop big plays in the Miss State passing game (Darren Evans and Cordale Flott were diabolical today, Mo Hampton missed tackles and whiffed at the air disturbingly...these guys must be better), we let it fall right through our hands...
We never played to win, we played in fear of defeat.
Still, when you consider the events of the night before clear up to the scandalous overturning of the Ika fumble recovery deep in Miss State territory from Butterfingers Costello, our players also couldn't catch a single break...
Despite the moxy from his 3rd quarter comeback and 4th quarter posture, Myles' body language was all wrong, although I guess ours would be too if we were running for our lives....the vibe was off...there was a fear and a panic instead of our typical Tigers Swagger on Saturday....that's what happens when your best defensive player is in a serious medical situation the night before Week 1 after a lengthy, exhausting, emotionally-draining off season in which Orgeron and his core squad have lost one key returning cog after another (Chase...Vincent Jr....Shelvin...now Stingley's absence allowed Mike Leach's SEC debut to become something special for the oft-forgotten Pirate).
Maybe this loss was for the best...perhaps a good ass whoopin was what we deserved after challenging all comers for the last 12 months, standing alone bathed in the blood of the fallen....
We accepted the target on our backs as if it were further proof of our own omnipotence...as an LSU repping writer, I am most guilty of this crime, too....we listened to Orgeron and his staff hype the team relentlessly, we watched the team play well against each other throughout scrimmages and practices with a constant energy and intensity....yet games will always be completely different than a scrimmage...it's why we play the games, Herm.
We have to say, something felt off all day and it had to be due to the Stingley situation's seriousness....every time the camera showed Orgeron (which was rare) he looked sober in devastation....
We hyped this team righteously before the season and we still back what we've said...this game doesn't end or define the Tigers season...at least it doesn't yet...
More than anything, I cannot believe how unlucky 2020 LSU have already been, through transfers, opt-outs, NFL departures and now Derek Stingley's illness the night before kickoff....
This wasn't how today was supposed to geaux down...Stingley's health at risk and the #1 defensive force in the country is out, Ja'Marr Chase done, Shelvin gone....
We can't make excuses, some have dealt with the pandemic more than others, I get it..."next man up" and all of that...but when you lose a top G like Derek Stingley the night before the game following two months of interminable roster dramatics, it takes a toll...especially when this final, biggest blow happens the night before the opening game...
Orgeron's men still control their own destiny....in fact, if the Tigers can turn this around and successfully defend their title, today's embarrassing loss may just be the best thing for 2020 LSU.
Copyright 2020 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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