Still searching for answers

For the second time this season, the LSU Tigers (7-4, 3-4) fell flat the week following an inspiring victory. Much like Oct. 25's 52-38 loss to Georgia, the Tigers' defense could not stop the Ole Miss Rebels (7-4, 4-3), and the offense could not get out of its own way in a 31-13 loss on national TV.

“We’re just not catching fire on the offensive side,” said LSU coach Les Miles. “I expected to play better. As we go forward, it will be really interesting to see how this team responds.”

Miles and his Tigers have stated all season long that the goal is to put together four complete quarters of football, but that hope evaded them once again Saturday night. Behind the efforts of quarterback Jevan Snead and the blocking of their massive offensive line, the Rebels outgained LSU 409 to 215 on the way to the win.

“[Snead] was again, an on-fire quarterback in Tiger Stadium,” Miles said. “We knew they were pretty good on defense. I’m surprised at how well they threw the football on offense. I felt like we would stop the run and did not expect them to throw the football as well.”

As was the case in lopsided losses to Florida and Georgia, LSU could not overcome a slow start and the Tigers’ defense which ended the Troy game on such a high note was abused (for lack of a better word) for the third time this season.

On just 16 completions, Snead tallied 274 passing yards and two touchdowns, both of which hit Ole Miss receiver and New Orleans native Mike Wallace in stride.

If that weren’t bad enough, the Rebels set the tone for the afternoon by beating Miles at his own game of calculated risks. Facing fourth and four from the LSU 38-yard line, upback Jason Cook completed a fake punt-pass to the Tigers’ five which would lead to a touchdown and a 14-3 lead just three plays later.

“They beat us in all three phases,” Miles said. “That fake punt really got us. Our defense was playing extremely well against the run and really good against the pass for a stretch, and they hit that fake punt. Certainly, we were unable to answer. That really distanced our opponent from us. We couldn’t come back.”

After yet another ugly half for the LSU offense, hope reared its head in the form of true freshman quarterback Jordan Jefferson, if only for a little while. After a handful of limited performances, Jefferson was finally thrown into the fire when Lee was knocked out of the game with what Miles called an ankle injury.

“[Lee] was much hindered by injury. It will be interesting to see how he goes,” Miles said. “I hope like heck that he’s available this week. I suspect not. I can’t talk about it, but it’s an ankle.”

The young Destrehan product gave the Tiger faithful a glimmer of hope, completing two passes for 46 yards and a touchdown and cutting the score to 21-10 at the break.

On the first series after halftime, Jefferson showed his abilities as a runner and gashed the Rebels for 28 yards. A 51-yard field goal from senior kicker Colt David made it a one possession game and it seemed Tiger Stadium would see another comeback.

But SEC competition is a bit more battle-tested than Troy, and the Rebels emphasized that harsh reality with an eight-play, 72 yard drive that culminated in a bruising 13-yard rushing score from Rebels’ receiver Markeith Summers.

“They are a very good football team,” said sophomore safety Chad Jones. “They have changed up their offense a lot from last year. They have a new offensive and defensive coordinator and also brought in some big-time players. They were definitely up for the challenge today and they came out on top.”

The field goal that gave Ole Miss the final margin wasn’t even necessary. Jefferson provided a spark, but it never caught fire as the Tigers’ offense was held to 42 total yards in the second half. As the LSU pass rush struggled, the Rebels’ front four penetrated through the Tigers’ veteran offensive line for four sacks and forced two interceptions, one of which was returned all the way to the LSU 13.

Of course, the field position wasn’t necessary either.  Tiger Stadium had long since started to empty, and the result had been decided. Ole Miss secured its first win against LSU in six years with several kneels on the LSU goal line, an anticlimactic ending to an anticlimactic performance.

They Tigers now have a shortened week to prepare for an Arkansas team that lost its sixth conference game Saturday.

“We still have two games left,” said sophomore wide receiver Terrance Toliver. “We have a lot that we can prove to ourselves. We have to start [Sunday]. We have to turn things around and work hard. We have a good team and we have to come out and prove it to everyone.

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