by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
In-state minnows taking on the state's biggest sports brand...we think we've got a handle on this plot line, right?
A small city college taking on the major giants should always end in a massacre of default-ish proportions....right?
Backing up that big program hype, LSU are dominating the series recently, out-scoring ULM 131-7 over their past 3 meetings since 2003, including 2 shutouts during these matchups.
Can the same be certain this time around?
Not if you're LSU in the middle of an offensive identity crisis:
Regardless of the opponent's level, Jake Peetz's offense has been a painful exercise in futility, flashing between the infuriating and the comical...scoring just a single touchdown against Arkansas while targeting Jack Bech only 7 times, from the ineptitude and injury crisis along the O-line to the unit's complete reliability on Kayshon Boutte & Ty Davis-Price's combined 17 TDs (no other player has more than 3), there could be a storm to weather vs ULM.
No mistake about it, LSU has become a team who's experimentation at quarterback over the past two weeks borders on reckless at best, political at worst, risking the team's appearance in a bowl game, all in exchange for Coach O saving some face with the fanbase & Nussmeier family.
After first deciding to red shirt his freshman campaign, Nussmeier and his family changed course during and after the Alabama game, demanding Garrett played significant reps against Arkansas. So, on orders from a player's family, starting QB Max Johnson began the game, looked alright over two fruitless drives (completing 3/6 including a 3rd down conversion), then never took the field again, watching on as the freshman played the rest of the game.
Yes, Nuss showed off his brilliant play extension and gutty passing prowess.....on only a few snaps; overall, his freshman decision-making cost LSU the win vs Arkansas, tossing 2 loose red zone interceptions.
Now, Coach Ed Orgeron reveals the family have reversed course, opting to shutdown Nussmeier for the rest of 2021....so....what just happened?
In all fairness to Garrett, I understand he wanted to play, but whoever made the call to Coach O didn't think this through. The caller forced LSU into a corner, either let Garrett play or watch him leave; thinking the season was "over", Orgeron opted to bench starting QB Max Johnson, never returning to him in a tight, mostly tied ball game vs Arkansas, and now, after having taken over the offense for an entire game, throwing 2 critical interceptions to go along with some bright flashes, Nuss will sit down with Johnson back starting again.......
So....how the hell can the Tigers' offense rebound from that?
Knowing their lame duck head coach will replace them to bow to the demands of another player, LSU's entire roster has to be in disgust and dismay over the handling of the QB situation, both damaging the locker room & forcing an already lifeless offense to start from zero....twice in the space of a week...
It's frightening to think LSU's offense could be horrible against ULM, but considering how every on field decision is being guided by the off field roster politics of Orgeron & his carelessness towards LSU's future, my worries are real.
Will Jake Peetz finally understand Jack Bech is his #1 primary playmaker, especially inside the red zone?
Against low level cover corners, Saturday could really be an invaluable opportunity to get Bech, Thomas Jr and Nabers all on the score sheet, let alone a major chance for each freshman wide out to rack up large amounts of yards.
Will Peetz finally understand Johnson's strength is the intermediary throws, dial up the short lasers to get him in rhythm before calling some play action deep shots? Or will Peetz continue to call long developing routes and fail to use any blitz-stalling device, outside of TDP's pass protection, to help his confidence-rattled quarterback?
You can tell I am not worried whatsoever by LSU's defense heading into this game, especially adding Sage Ryan back to the mix; it's clearly our diabolical offense which could make Saturday night a 24-21 type of event.
Allowing 294 yards through the air as well as 2.7 passing scores, Max Johnson's 22 TDs should be increased to 25 or 26 at the least with LSU's receiving talent, Boutte or not.
Giving up 169 rushing yards on average each outing, there's every possibility LSU RB Ty Davis-Price should have a monster outing against Terry Bowden's squad.
Eclipsing 100 yards in 4 of his last 5 games, totaling 837 over 10 games behind a porous, constantly injured, barely reliable offensive line, with 100 yard outings against top defenses Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and his single game LSU record 287 yard outburst vs Florida, TDP has had a brilliantly unsung 2021 campaign.
Surprising all the analysts except LSUODYSSEY, TDP should be hitting the 1,000 yard mark by the end of 4 quarters at Death Valley, looking to become LSU's first 1,000 yard rusher since Clyde Edwards-Helaire back in 2019.
Angered by his recent fumbles, Ty will likely come out of the gates ready to devour ULM up front, hopefully driving LSU's offense to new heights.
Once again, can we trust Jake Peetz's fearful offensive distrategy to capitalize on early turnovers or 4 and outs or build a sizeable lead against ULM's top defenders Zack Woodward or DB Josh Newton?
Can we expect the under-fire former Panthers assistant to deploy our best players during the most critical moments, or hand Max complete control over the short passing game instead of long developing routes to nowhere?
Can we yell loud enough for Peetz to hear us shout "GIVE BECH THE BALL"?
Or will the message become lost in translation, a simple plan now muddied over a headset riddled with bellowing, unintelligible anger from the man who hired him?
Collectively, our offense still won't get it together, but in totality, our individual athletes take over, led by some colossal turnovers from our defense. There's just no way LSU goes into this game and doesn't take out a lot of offensive frustration on ULM....there's simply no way.....
If we see a 21-17 type of outing, even in victory, this offense has no life and Jake Peetz cannot lead this offense for another minute.
ULM's defense allowed 41 points, 59 x2 and 55, their offense scoring 19 points or less on 4 occasions, LSU should be eviscerating this team in all three phases, and with vulgar displays of power.
If not....there's no point....
I have no choice but to believe Max Johnson will take the field ready to exorcise the demons of 2021, licking his chops at the prospect of dropping some big time numbers....hoping to finish on a high over the final 2, potentially 3 games heading into an uncertain 2022 junior season.
MAX JOHNSON: 311, 3 TDs
JACK BECH: 142, 2 TDs
TDP: 177, 2 TDs
MALIK NABERS: 78, 1 TD
SAGE RYAN: 1 FF, 4 TACKLES, 1 PD
JAY WARD: 6 TACKLES, 1 PD
DAMONE CLARK: 9 TACKLES, 1 SACK
B.J OJULARI: 5 TACKLES, 1.5 SACKS, 2.5 TFLs, 1 FF
CORDALE FLOTT: 1 INT TD RET
JAQUELIN ROY: 1 FR, 1.5 SACKS
NEIL FARRELL JR: 0.5 SACK, 1 TFL, 1 FR
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc