On second down, quarterback JaMarcus Russell was forced out of the pocket by the Vols defense. He had three choices: throw it away to set up for a field goal, throw a five yard pass to Joseph Addai, or keep it himself. He opted for the last choice and ran it eight yards to the Tennessee five. LSU scurried to set up the field goal unit but time expired.
"I don't know if that play is where we lost it," said coach Les Miles. "It was a young quarterback in a two-minute drill."
The score was 21-0 in favor of the Tigers and, at the time, did not seem crucial.
Apparently LSU was wrong.
In the second half, the Tigers only managed to score six points off of two field goals. The offense was involved in a slow crumble that was highlighted by the insurgent Volunteer offense led by Rick Clausen.
Everyone seems to look to one factor to explain the breakdown.
"Lack of execution," said Russell. "Things go up and down and we have to make sure they go up more than down."
Russell knows that better than anyone. In the fourth quarter, Clausen rushed for a one yard touchdown to make the score 24-14 LSU. At 9:35 seconds left in the game, LSU had the ball on their 20 yard line. With their lead dwindling, all they were trying to do was kill the clock.
Instead, Russell threw an interception to Jonathan Hefney who returned it all the way to the LSU two yard line. And with 7:15 seconds remaining, Gerald Riggs punched it in to make 24-21 LSU.
"We shot ourselves in the foot" said Russell.
Then the wheels fell off.
In the first half, however, the Tiger machine was in full force and it was led by Russell.
At halftime, Russell was 11-19 with 145 yards passing. He spent the first half keeping everyone involved and executing. The only scoring opportunity lost was his fumble deep in Volunteer territory. That came two plays after an incredible 47 yard flee-flicker pass to Buster Davis. For the rest of the game, Russell was 3-7 for 13 yards.
"We lost our poise," said Miles. "We were ahead but stopped converting. If you eliminate the three turnovers it makes a difference."
It certainly does, and what is worse, was that LSU started most drives with incredible field positions.
Skyler Green continued his special teams tour-de-force by taking five punt returns for a total of 90 yards. He single-handedly eliminated most of the field for the Tiger offense.
But that can not score points.
After Tennessee scored to tie, LSU had 2:02 to erase their second half woes. On the first play, Addai ran for two yard prompting the fans to boo over the play calling. The second play saw Addai gain one yard. The fans booed again. The series resulted with a punt with :23 seconds left.
"We can't blame anyone but ourselves," said Andrew Whitworth. "We did not get significant yardage running the ball on first down. Anytime you run the football on first down, you have to get alot yardage or you are going to get stuffed. You make the defense's job easier when it is second and long."
Joseph Addai did all he could to help the struggling offense.
For the game, he rushed 15 times for 73 yards and one touchdown. His 19 yard touchdown began the first half offense, but with a struggling passing game in the second half, the defense could key in on him.
"Addai has done a good job all year," said Whitworth. "He is a great guy for us and a great leader. He is someone we can always lean on."
Amidst all the reasons and factors that contributed to their performance, there was one thing in which everyone was on the same page.
"It is a short week and we will be ready to play a football game(against Miss St)", said Green. "It is going to be a tough game. They will play a great game against us because they are coming off the Georgia game where they played hard."
Tigers offense struggling from a lack of execution
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