After only two games in a very young 2005 season, there are very few certainties concerning the LSU football program.
Fans left Tiger Stadium Monday shaking their collective heads wondering what just happened. In 30-plus minutes of football, the 3rd-ranked Tigers went from leading No. 10 Tennessee 21-0 and an SEC title contender to a team with no identity, no leadership and more question marks than anyone could have imagined for a team with 17 returning starters.
Is JaMarcus Russell the right quarterback for LSU?
What happened to the LSU defense?
For the last couple of years, the LSU defense has built a reputation as one of the most dominating units in all of college football.
Under the tutelage of defensive
guru Nick Saban, the Tigers possessed arguably the most feared defense in the
land. Even after Saban's departure to the NFL, Les Miles made what appeared to
be a quality hire in former
However, you could not convince an
LSU fan of that a day after the Tigers' loss to the Volunteers. For the second
straight game, LSU's secondary was sliced and diced, this time by a quarterback
far from the credentials of
Did Miles lose confidence in Russell,
offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher or both in the second half versus
Despite the fact LSU's offense didn't play all that great in the first half, the Tigers mustered 21 points and manufactured 200 yards of offense.
In the second half, LSU played with an obvious conservative, ‘play not to lose' approach on offense, opposed from a more attacking style they flaunted in the fourth quarter at Arizona State and in the first half versus Tennessee.
Did Miles, well-known as a hands-on offensive coach, put the breaks on Fisher's offensive scheme in the second half? Obviously the offensive play calling in the second half wasn't Fisher-esqe.
Russell was put on a short leash in the final two periods and when he did attempt a vertical pass in the fourth quarter, Jonathan Hefney returned the interception to the LSU three.
Is Miles the man for the job at LSU?
This seems to be a popular question making its way around Tigertown.
Nick Saban syndrome seems to be
stronger than ever in
Fans were skeptical when Miles was
hired. Was he an acceptable replacement to inherit the keys to the LSU Empire
built by King Saban? While he had turned
Sure enough Miles wasn't as
polished as Saban, nor was he as strong of a public speaker. But the players
seemed to relate to the
In the blink of an eye and ticks on a clock, the same fans that were praising the man that kept LSU together through a month of adversity is being prepared for a pink slip.
Two games do not make a coach or a season, but Miles is one JaMarcus Russell miracle away from being 0-2 with a team regarded as one of LSU's most talented ever. Let's just say he had better get it together or the fans that have not yet turned, will follow the vocal minority.
As for the grades, Tiger Rag will
not be as generous as it was in the post-Katrina roller coaster in
However, in the wake of what is being called one of the worst losses in LSU football history, let's just say this report card will land Miles and the Tigers in study hall for at least the next semester.
Lots of people are blaming the
defensive travails for the collapse versus
But if you check out the stat sheets, it is obvious the lack of production in the second half is what spelled certain doom on the Tigers.
In the first half, LSU gained 200 yards of total offense and scored 21 points. Even though the Tigers held a commanding 21-0 lead at the intermission, LSU scored three touchdowns off a Tennessee fumble deep in its own territory, a trick play "flea-flicker and a three-yard interception return for a touchdown on a bonehead pass from Vol quarterback Erik Ainge.
What semblance of offense LSU
showed in the first went away in the second as the Tigers went totally
Time and again LSU went three and
out, turned the ball over and left a helpless Tiger defense to try and combat a
By the time LSU got to the latter
stages of the fourth quarter and even more obvious into overtime, the Tiger
defense was beyond winded. When LSU's offense was unable to score a touchdown on
its first possession in overtime and was forced to settle for a field goal, it
was painfully obvious
LSU did manage to run the ball well in spots as Joseph Addai carried most of the load. But Justin Vincent failed to produce little at all and Shyrone Carey, while shifty, isn't the back to call on several plays in a row.
While it seems the offense's ineptitude is to blame for the defense being worn out in the fourth quarter, it isn't quite that easy.
While the LSU stoppers did a good
In the first half, it wasn't that
LSU's defense affected Erik Ainge as much as Volunteer receivers dropped wide
open, catchable passes. Had
It wasn't until Ainge departed and Clausen entered that the Volunteers took advantage of the short routes – which Clausen hit time and again – marching up and down the field for 24 second half points to force overtime.
Again, LSU's special teams played well.
The Tigers managed to convert every
extra point attempt and Chris Jackson and Colt David each made good on field
Skyler Green proved he might be the best punt returner in college football. Green's swivel hips wowed the crowd and led to excellent field position for the Tigers throughout much of the first three quarters.
However, a costly penalty on one return cost the Tigers prime field position and another sure scoring opportunity.
All responsibility falls on the shoulders of the coach, so Les Miles is to blame for Monday's loss to the Vols.
While the 21-point lead was the largest advantage lost in recent memory of LSU football (at least the last 10 years), it has not been so rare of an occurrence for Miles.
Just a year ago, Miles went to
While players are held accountable for certain mistakes – a la Russell's interception and Kyle Williams lining up offsides on more than one occasion – Miles made two major gaffes that were blatantly obvious to everyone.
At the end of the first half, following Russell's inability to collect a first down nor get out of bounds, Miles opted to race the field goal team on and attempt a field goal rather than have Russell and Co. spike the ball to stop the clock. The result was LSU running out of time and squandering a prime scoring opportunity.
Late in the fourth quarter, with
the score tied and
With the clock stopped for change of possession, Miles raced onto the field desperately trying to call LSU's final timeout. A heads up LSU assistant quickly corralled the head coach for wasting the team's final timeouts.
These are mistakes a coach at this level should not make. Fans are questioning the leadership. While LSU has played only two games, many more mistakes like these could cost LSU dearly.