For the first time this season, LSU is coming off a loss, and for the first time this season, the Tigers won’t take the field on Saturday.
The bye week leaves time for the Bayou Bengals to lick their wounds from a 28-21 loss at the hands of undefeated Auburn and fix some of the problems that have plagued the team all year.
Task No. 1: fix an offense that ranks 100th out of 120 FBS teams.
The Tigers throw for an anemic 138.8 yards per game, more than 20 yards per game worse than 11th place Vanderbilt.
There is more than enough blame to go around.
Both quarterbacks have been erratic, combining to complete just 57-percent of their passes. The wide receivers have shown an alarming propensity for dropped passes at inopportune times, and the offensive line, after playing solidly for the first seven games, was shoddy at best against Nick Fairley and Co.
“A play can’t start without the offensive line doing what they have to do and the running back doing what he has to do,” said junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson. “(Running the offense) depends on the quarterback, but it involves all of the other starters as well.”
Senior tackle Joseph Barksdale called a linemen-only meeting this week after the group’s disappointing effort Saturday. Auburn’s defense, led by Fairley, recorded three sacks totaling 25 yards, made 8.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and knocked Tiger quarterback Jarrett Lee out of the game for a brief time.
“It definitely wasn’t our best week, and that’s obviously disappointing,” said junior guard T-Bob Hebert. “It’s something we can use as motivation to work harder and get better throughout the rest of the season.”
Even when the offensive line has held up, the quarterbacks have often failed to put the ball on the money. Week after week, both signal callers have stood behind the approach.
This week was no exception.
“Jordan and I still trust in the system, and we’re just going to keep going with it and keep working hard,” Lee said.
“We just have to execute the game plan and be aggressive with the plays,” Jefferson said.
Perhaps the most disturbing offensive deficiency has been the reoccurrence of dropped passes.
“It’s very surprising to see those guys drop a pass in the game, and it’s a little frustrating at times too,” Jefferson said. “We still have confidence in those guys, though.”
When the first two groups catch rhythm and take care of business, the receivers said that they know the time will be theirs.
“We’re not a pass-first team, so when we throw the football it has to be very efficient” said sophomore receiver Russell Shepard. “When we drop balls, we’re not giving the quarterbacks confidence. As a receiving corps we have to put that on our backs. We’re going to fix it, and we’re going to get out of this slump.”
Senior Terrence Toliver is the elder of the group, the reason his plethora of drops have come as a bit of a surprise.
“We have got to be more focused on looking the ball in before we run,” he said. “You could see that on the play that I dropped on the sideline. I tried to run before I caught the ball.”
The Tigers rank 10th in the conference in scoring offense, and the bye week couldn’t come at a better time as Alabama, the SEC’s No. 1 scoring defense, comes calling next on the schedule.
The Crimson Tide’s arrival makes the rebound from LSU’s first loss of the season a lesser chore.
“It gives you something to aim for, it’s a big game,” Hebert said. “You can take your mind off the loss by focusing on the road ahead which is much more important than the past.”
Toliver said Wednesday that Alabama became the focus immediately following the Auburn loss.
“(Tuesday) we looked at Alabama, and we’re not looking at Auburn anymore,” he said. “That’s a loss, so we’re looking past that to a great team in Alabama.”