The days of Joe Burrow and Ja,Marr Chase in Baton Rouge are long gone. The LSU Tigers came into their Sunday night season opener as the No. 5 ranked team with aspirations of a National Championship. What they got instead was a humbling lesson from an upstart Florida State squad; if you are going to talk trash, you better back it up on the field.
The Tigers played a good first half on the road, holding a 17-14 halftime lead. However, they squandered opportunities to hold a much bigger lead. On their first drive, the Tigers were stopped four times from the 1-yard line, coming away with no points after quarterback Jayden Daniels was sacked on 4th down.
Later in the half, on 4th-and-goal from the 1, Daniel was again stopped, resulting in a turnover on downs. Kelly said that both calls were: “standard fourth-down calls and decisions.” While they are risky calls, a team with designs on a championship simply must be able to execute in those moments. LSU did not.
The loss comes with the inglorious distinction of being LSU’s largest defeat as a ranked team in a season opener in the AP poll era (since 1936). After the games, Brian Kelly wasn’t happy. He said: “This is a total failure from a coaching standpoint and a player standpoint that we have to obviously address and we have to own. I know adversity is always going to strike at some time in this game, and this is our first real piece of adversity that we have to address. I’m confident our guys and our coaches will rally in the manner that they need to.”
It likely didn’t help matters that Kelly wrote a very big check on Thursday, saying, “We’re gonna go beat the heck out of Florida State.” It’s a check a head coach should know not to write, especially when referring to a ranked opponent in their stadium, and ultimately it was a check that his Tigers couldn’t cash.
Whether the bulletin board material had any effect on Florida State, it certainly didn’t help the Tigers. Kelly continued: “The buck stops with me, and I’ve got to get our football team to understand and recognize that you’ve got to play this game for four quarters with a mentality. We just did not, for some reason. We thought we were somebody else. We thought we were the two-time national champion Georgia Bulldogs or something. I don’t know what we thought, but we were mistaken.”
This is the second season at LSU for Kelly, after replacing the beloved Ed Orgeron, and it is the second season opener the Tigers have dropped to Florida State. Kelly’s teams have had a history of slow starts, particularly at his last stop at Notre Dame. However, in the SEC, you simply can’t afford early losses if you want to compete and ultimately keep a job.
To the coach’s credit, he is owning the loss and challenging his team. He concluded: “How do we handle this? Is this who we want to be, or do we look at this and say this isn’t the kind of football team we want to be? When you have those kinds of losses, they are disappointing, and in some instances, they are devastating losses, but it’s how you respond to them. They have a chance to respond to this very disappointing performance in the second half. So the choices they will have to make will be ones that start tomorrow.”
In the end, it is a challenging, positive message Kelly is delivering to his players. However, it is a message that must resonate quickly if LSU has any hope at all of challenging for a National Championship. One more misstep by the Tigers, and that dream is done.
Featured image screen grab from embedded YouTube video
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