A lot goes into losing a game when you have several weeks of momentum and are facing an injury-plagued team with plenty on the line for both teams.
And just like a win, little things add up.
LSU lost to Florida 16-10 Saturday and there were major blemishes for everybody to see. Three trips in the red zone with no points and loads of frustration. A busted coverage and then ill-advised attempt to strip the ball instead of tackling the receiver that led to a 98-yard Gators’ touchdown. A fumble on a kickoff return.
Those are the big-ticket items.
Some smaller things stung just as much, though. In particular, three dropped passes hurt the Tigers during a performance when they turned out to need every hard they could grind out. http://www.scout.com/college/lsu/story/1730035-orgeron-s-success-may-hav...
At first glance, the offense did a lot of things well. LSU finished with 423 total yards against a solid but patchwork Florida defense, and Danny Etling was steady as he has been most of his time in the starting role with 204 yards passing on 14-of-25 passing.
Three of those 11 incompletions could’ve created a different ripple effect, though:
- On the Tigers’ first snap of the second quarter, Etling executed a perfect play-action fake, dropped back and rifled a pass downfield to Travin Dural, who had beaten Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor.
Tabor adjusted well and got into position enough to distract Dural, but the ball clanged off the LSU senior’s hands, negating what would’ve been a 25- or 30-yard pickup. The Tigers did manage to generate a nice drive despite the drop, but Dural struggled to get open the rest of the game and didn’t catch a pass.
- Right before halftime, LSU got the ball back with 2:07 on the clock and had a chance to stretch a 7-3 lead. On 3rd-and-8, Etling zipped a screen pass to Darrel Williams in the middle of the field, but the ball ricocheted off the bulky Tiger back’s hands and was nearly picked off. There’s no guarantee that Williams would’ve gained enough yards for the first down, but he isn’t a one-tackler runner, so it was conceivable.
As it turned out, the only positive on the play was that Florida didn’t come up with a turnover.
- On the fateful final drive, Etling spotted Russell Gage open on a 2nd-and-10 play and sent the ball his way. Gage dropped the ball and the Tigers had to convert a fourth-and-10 play after that just to keep the drive alive.
If Gage makes the catch and gets downfield for a first down there, the playbook is much more open, plus he emerges as another threat that the Gators have to keep in mind.
None of those drops alone cost LSU the victory. The same can even be said of Derrius Guice’s costly fumble on 1st-and-goal from the 7-yard-line in the second quarter, although that gaffe inflicted a more immediate and obvious wound.
But taken together, those misplays – those little things – add up in a negative way just like they can positively.
On a day when LSU didn’t have to play flawless to win but needed more positive plays than it could generate, it turned out that little things hurt just as much as the big mistakes.
You can follow Randy Rosetta on Twitter @RandyRosetta.