The LSU Tigers finish the 2014 campaign with a 31-28 loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and it sure feels like a microcosm of the major issues LSU encountered during the season. It basically came down to subpar play from the quarterback position, and the inability to stop the running game on defense.
The Tigers finish at 8-5, equaling 2008, and the worst record during Les Miles’ tenure at LSU.
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In doing this write-up, I would much rather focus on the positives from the game, particularly the stellar play of Leonard Fournette, and records set by LSU during this game. One would think that scoring 28 points would be enough to win, especially with how well the LSU defense played in the final six games of the year.
In looking at the LSU defense today, there are several numbers that stand out:
- 11-17 (65%) on third down conversions – The defense simply could not get off the field at crucial times, allowing the Irish to extend several scoring drives. Notre Dame was 8-10 in the early going.
- 37:00 minutes – The time of possession for Notre Dame – this number is certainly related to their third down success throughout the game. Another contributing factor was LSU’s ability to strike quickly, scoring one touchdown on a kickoff return, and two touchdowns on the first play from scrimmage to start two drives.
- 449 total yards, including 263 rushing – Notre Dame’s numbers on offense. The last time LSU was gashed this badly was the Mississippi State and Auburn games. The Tigers seemingly had no answer for Irish backup quarterback Malik Zaire, who rushed for 96 yards. He looked like Nik Marshall and Dak Prescott with his running ability.
The above figures are not a recipe for LSU to have success, even on a good day for the LSU offense.
One other item stands out – the uncertainty of whether DC John Chavis will stay or leave. Reports have surfaced over the past several days of Texas A&M making an offer to Chavis. This, combined with the fact that he has not signed his extension with LSU has led to speculation that he will leave.
In his post game press conference, Les Miles said Chavis “was very productive for us,” and that he has had a “great career for LSU.” Miles further stated “I’m going to go try to pitch him again.” When asked how it might look that Chavis is leaving for a division rival, Miles said “I don’t know how it looks, nor do I give a damn.”
It is difficult to know from those statements whether Chavis to Texas A&M is a done deal. According to this post game report in The Advocate, Chavis had not communicated anything to the players. Several players said after the game they had first learned of this possibility from what they read on Twitter just prior to the game. Whether this had anything to do with how poorly the LSU defense played is not known; we can certainly speculate, however, given the defensive performance. The Tigers did not look prepared on defense today.
Special teams play also hurt LSU – there was the blocked Trent Domingue field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, and of course, the fake field goal at the end of the first half resulting in holder Brad Kragthorpe being ruled short of the end zone. It sure looked like he broke the plane before his knee hit the ground. Judge for yourselves:
While the loss is disappointing, we do need to look at several positives from today (from both the offense and defense):
- Leonard Fournette set the LSU rushing mark for a freshman with his 143-yard day (on only 11 carries) – he finishes the year with 1,034 yards, breaking Justin Vincent’s mark of 1,001 set in 2003.
- Fournette scored on an 89-yard run in the third quarter, which set both a Music City Bowl and LSU bowl record. He also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, which tied a school record. LSU fans have a lot to look forward to with Fournette in the backfield.
- Amid the quarterback woes from Anthony Jennings, he did connect with WR John Diarse on a 75-yard touchdown at the beginning of the third quarter, a career-long reception.
- Four passes were completed to LSU TE DeSean Smith for 66 yards. These were his first receptions of the year.
- WR Travin Dural continued to find success on the jet sweep, gaining 61 yards on four carries.
- S Jamal Adams had a career high in both tackles (10) and tackles for loss (2).
- LB Kwon Alexander finished the game with 11 tackles. He also finishes the season with six double‐digit tackle games.
So, as the books on 2014 are now officially closed, I’ll leave Tiger fans to ponder several question marks as we look ahead to 2015:
- If Chavis leaves, who are possible replacements? I think LSU will be fine on defense, though, even if Chavis departs.
- What of the quarterback situation? Why have we not seen Brandon Harris? Can enough be done to develop a quarterback for next year?
- Does LSU need to look for a new placekicker? Late season woes in the kicking game have hurt.
Spring practice can’t get here soon enough!