Everyone knew that the defending BCS national champions were going to face a bumpy road in 2008 with having an inexperienced quarterback, six new starters on the defensive side of the ball, and two coaches being promoted to call the shots on defense. But no one envisioned that the road for LSU would have as many potholes as it has had thus far into the campaign.
LSU is sitting at 5-2 overall and 3-2 in the conference after a 51-21 road loss to Florida, and this past weekend’s 52-38 loss to Georgia at home. One of the team’s main goals was pushed to the wayside on Saturday as LSU’s national championship hopes went down the drain, but there is still a chance that the Tigers could attain the next goal on the list which is a conference championship.
While a trip to Atlanta is what fans are clinging to as they try to remain positive after two devastating and demoralizing losses, that is not what Demetrius Byrd wants his teammates to focus on.
“In the locker room all we’re saying is don’t worry about the end of the road, think about the present,” Byrd said. “Don’t think about the future. Think about what we have coming up next and that is Tulane.
“We need to focus on Tulane and stop thinking about next week when Nick Saban comes to town,” added Byrd. “We’ll wait until next week to worry about that or when Ole Miss comes to town. We don’t need to worry about that because we have Tulane next.”
When the Tigers went to the Swamp a couple of weeks back, LSU’s defense was carved up for 475 yards and the Gators’ offense put up 44 points with the other seven by way of an interception return for a score.
LSU’s troops bounced back the following week and held South Carolina to 254 yards, including only 42 in the second half, in a 24-17 victory.
With six sacks and three forced turnovers, many felt that the defense had turned the corner under first-year co-defensive coordinators Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto.
However, a week later, Georgia’s offense carved up the Tigers to the tune of 443 yards and posted 38 of the team’s 52 points in giving LSU another bitter, tough pill to swallow.
“It’s always tough to lose at home,” said junior tight end Richard Dickson. “You just hate doing it when all your fans come out to a packed house to see you and you don’t give them what they want to see.”
Now, the chore facing the coaches and players is to bounce back yet again.
“It’s probably going to be a little tougher because right when we get up back on our feet we get another one [loss],” said junior running back Charles Scott. “It may be a little harder to get back but like I told the guys earlier, around here we’re not used to losing a lot. When you do it’s a shock and it’s disappointing.”
The two biggest question marks facing the Tigers is on defense and with the passing game.
Defensively, Mallory and Peveto’s crew is ranked 11th in the league at scoring defense at 25.9 points a game, and is ninth in total defense, giving up 316.4 yards an outing.
LSU safety Chad Jones said things have been spicy the last few weeks with the way the defense performed against Florida and Georgia. At this point though, it’s not about pointing fingers, but rather about getting things in order
“With some of the points being put up on the board there is kind of a question mark as to what happened to our defense,” Jones said. “So we’re just trying to get our identity back and fix some of the problems we’ve been having.”
A lot of those problems have been in the secondary where LSU is breaking in three new starters. Jones said that it’s not too late to correct things and it all starts with each player individually.
“Everybody just needs to look at the personnel and worry about doing their own job first,” Jones said. “With football, it is a group sport, but you still have to be locking in on your own man and figuring out what’s going on with yourself first.”
Just as the defense is breaking in new starters, so is the offense, and some of the problems on that side of the ball have been attributed to Jarrett Lee.
While the redshirt freshman quarterback has thrown nine interceptions which is tied for the third most in the league, he is second in the conference with 11 touchdowns.
Lee’s passing rating of 134.8 ranks only behind two of the better quarterbacks in the country in Tim Tebow and Matthew Stafford, so the young signal-caller has obviously done some good things in his first year of play.
With four of Lee’s nine interceptions getting returned for a touchdown, though, there has been quite a bit of criticism hurled his way by fans, and Lee’s top target says some of that is unwarranted.
“It’s real unfair when you hear that because some of it is on the receivers,” said junior wide receiver Brandon LaFell. “Sometimes we wait on the ball to come to us instead of attacking the ball. It’s on both of us. He’s doing some things wrong and we’re doing some things wrong too. But we just have to go and watch some film and get it corrected.”
Getting it corrected is what the focus is for this week with Tulane coming to town. Because after that there will be a big matchup against No. 2-ranked Alabama and that game will have a little more meaning to it in more ways than one.
But just like Byrd said, LSU needs to worry about the present and the future will take care of itself.
“All we have to do is worry about now,” said Byrd. “If we worry about now and take care of business then who’s to say we can’t still reach a lot of our goals.”