By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
A celebratory vibe will permeate through the city of Baton Rouge this week when HBCU's finest Southern University take on LSU inside Death Valley....the first ever battle between these neighboring city schools.
That festive air will supply a party unlike the city has seen for some time, culminating this Saturday when Brian Kelly's Tigers look to rebound following their shocking last second loss to Florida State.
There should be some motivated, if not angry members of this squad, especially within our receiving corps, aiming to do plenty of damage on Saturday.
WRs & DANIELS MUST GET GEAUXING
After this much talked about, much hyped group only hauled in 209 yards, with Jaray Jenkins' 46 yards leading the way, offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock must steer QB Jayden Daniels towards extending the pocket with his legs, rather than bailing on secondary routes.
Against Southern, you have to believe this is a great opportunity for Daniels and his receiving corps to establish their in-game chemistry, specifically when it comes to Kayshon Boutte.
Under the Superdome lights, LSU's Biletnikoff-candidate endured his worst night as a Tiger, becoming frustrated after receiving only 2 targets during the first half. The fact both chances were accurate passes, which should've ended as Boutte touchdowns, only added to his nationally televised angst.
Across 55 snaps, Boutte received just 6 targets, dropped 3 passes and caught 2 balls for 20 yards (including a nice 4th down conversion).
Far worse in my mind?
While Boutte at least received a couple accurate shots in the red zone, the surprising lack of targets or reps for Jack Bech grew startling by the snap.
Only involved in 19 total plays, receiving just a single target (a pass he caught for 5 yards), Bech's absence from Denbrock's play-calling was inexcusable.
Ignoring both Boutte and Bech for basically the entire 4 quarters, LSU should consider themselves lucky to even be in the game on Sunday night.
The Southern game is the perfect setting to establish Boutte and Bech within the offense, utilizing short passing schemes, mesh concepts and the random deep ball, Daniels must realize how critical this Saturday will be for the future chemistry and confidence of his receiving corps.
Highly lauded wide out Malik Nabers also has a fast chance to turn the page on a forgettable Sunday night. Watch for Daniels to make sure #8 receives attention inside the red zone....nothing cures the blues like a purple and gold touchdown inside Death Valley.
CHANGES ON THE O-LINE?
Coach Brad Davis' offensive line are under fire once again following a disastrous outing vs the Seminoles...with some factions of LSU's fan base beginning to wonder if Davis is more of a top recruiter than O-line developer.
I believe Davis will prove his pedigree, but first he had to experiment with the pieces at his disposal, including some Oregon era veterans who continue to perform poorly.
Look for a change at right tackle, a spot where returning 2019 veteran Cam Wire allowed penetration on every 3 out of 5 plays, including a near catastrophic sack on Daniels during LSU's final drive, forcing Kelly to use his last timeout and possibly killing any chance at a comeback.
Marcus Dumervil could be moved outside on the right, his natural position, or Davis could slide right guard Anthony Bradford to the edge, a job he fulfilled at times throughout fall camp.
Is Brad Davis ready to ride with his freshman left tackle Will Campbell all season?
Or could he replace the Neville High great with Miles Frazier, while calling on Tre'Mond Shorts to fill Frazier's place at left guard???
Marlon Martinez has been fighting injury, but we should see the talented guard back in the fold sooner rather than later, if available. Former 5 star guard Kardell Thomas is another option who's chomping at the bit to get his opportunity.
Simply put, LSU were bossed at the line of scrimmage by FSU, rushing the ball for only 39 yards outside of Daniels' scrambling.
If they can't run the ball or protect Daniels vs Southern, then LSU's offense have an even longer season ahead of them.
CREATING SACKS & TURNOVERS
Matt House's defense were a mixed bag in Week 1. The former Super Bowl champion's squad were underwhelming at times on Sunday, ghastly on occasion, but also, this group were full of heart and an inability to quit.
The defense allowed Jordan Travis to complete eleven 3rd down conversions through the air, converting his first eight tries, and only sacked Travis twice while pressuring him on 36% of their snaps (LSU's front missed sack opportunities left, right and center).
This weekend, LSU's front seven should eat up front, building back the confidence within Jamar Cain's defensive line and Matt House's linebackers.
Once again, nothing is certain in 2022, but if 4 quarters go by without LSU registering at least 4 or 5 sacks vs Southern, then there's more issues with our defensive front than we realize.
In the passing game, LSU gave up far too many big plays to Jordan Travis, mostly on key downs.
The trick play touchdown bomb on Mekhi Garner, the one handed catch in the corner of the end zone on Jarrick Bernard-Converse, these were plays which changed the entire tone of proceedings.
At the same time, House's squad also showcased remarkable resilience:
Totaling 406 yards the week before, LSU's defense held FSU's ground attack to 3.5 yards per carry, with a leading rusher of 49 yards; Most importantly, House's unit executed four key red zone stops, all leading to zero points for Florida State.
Both muffed punts could not be cashed into points, Sage Ryan broke up a 4th down would-be touchdown pass right before halftime, Mekhi Garner rebounded to bat away and nearly intercept another endzone-bound pass, Jay Ward made a few touchdown saving tackles in space, even breaking up another end zone shot, Mekhi Wingo stepped in for the injured Maason Smith and recovered a fumble on the goal line with one minute remaining, all as defensive leader BJ Ojulari played every snap like a true #18 representative.
This weekend is a chance for LSU's defense to reclaim their season, and nothing does that better or faster than creating turnovers.
I'm looking for this defense to force at least a trio of turnovers against Southern, while scoring on defense would also be a major boost.
From Head Coach Brian Kelly on down to the least visible walk-on, LSU's body language and demeanor on Sunday was pisspoor.
Looking like a deer in headlights after Florida State's double reverse flea flicker, Kelly exuded an agitated, annoyed and almost sad energy on the sidelines,
This morose, aggrieved mentality bled over on to the field, where Kayshon Boutte dropped passes, his head was out of the game for a touchdown opportunity, and LSU's star receiver threw a tantrum for the world to see, Jayden Daniels' attempts to console him proving to be in vain.
Over 4 quarters, I rarely witnessed any member of Kelly's staff showing any intensity, most following suit with the same wide eyed glares and incredulous shaking of the head as their Head Coach displayed.
We can't see that again.
Robert Steeples, Jamar Cain and Brad Davis remained animated or engaged throughout, Steeples making good adjustments, Cain trying his best to make up for the missing Maason Smith and Davis constantly in the ears of his offensive line.
These coaches weren't perfect, however we need to see that kind of willingness to win from everyone on staff, beginning with the Head Coach.
This isn't the frigid weather of South Bend anymore, Coach, this is the SEC.
Show some intensity and fight.
Straight up, Brian Polian must figure out what in the name of Merlin went wrong on Sunday, why the PAT and field goal were blocked as if kicker Damian Ramos was teeing up Dikembe Mutumbo, how LSU's blocking failed them in the most critical moment and devise a solution to get around their deficiencies or lack of proven personnel.
Is it time to give true freshman kicker Nathan Dibert a chance, only the #1 kicker of his 2022 class?
Rather than deploying inexperienced, physically over-matched freshmen up front, maybe it's time to consider using LSU's better protectors on their PAT and field goal unit?
Is this a case of a one-off, awful night where fundamentals were traded for going mental?
After Saturday, we'll find out a good indication of where LSU's special teams are heading.
If they struggle against Southern, we know we're going to experience more issues within SEC play.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
©️ Uninterrupted Writings Inc