by John Marcase
Oct 10, 2022
Rocky Top... & Bottom
Each of those could describe the 2022 LSU football team.
The first-year Fighting Tigers of Brian Kelly can’t get out of their way, no matter how hard they may try.
Special teams continue to hamper LSU. Whatever hope LSU may have had to give Tennessee a game Saturday quickly dissipated when Jack Bech fumbled away the opening kickoff to the Vols. Seventy-four seconds into the game, LSU trailed. This time, there would be no comeback. Tennessee pounded LSU, 40-13, setting up a showdown with Alabama this weekend in what is the first meaningful Alabama-Tennessee game in decades.
Before you pile on and begin criticizing Kelly for his failed fourth-down attempts, he actually made the right decision on each occasion.
Tennessee is averaging 48.5 points a game. The Vols have been impressive in 2022, led by quarterback Hendon Hooker, who should be the Heisman Trophy favorite at this point. Hooker has now passed for nearly 1,200 yards and 8 touchdowns against zero interceptions. He also has rushed for 175 yards and three scores.
Kelly knew LSU couldn’t trade field goals for touchdowns and expect the Tigers to be in the game. And, LSU had a chance to seize the momentum going into halftime
Jayden Daniels, who actually had a decent game and took more shots down the field than he has all season, had the Tigers marching when Jaray Jenkins had a pass go off his hands that likely would’ve led to a touchdown, cutting Tennessee’s lead to 20-13. Instead, Daniels was sacked on fourth down and the Vols quickly moved into field goal range for a 23-7 halftime lead.
It was one of five sacks for the Vols, who took advantage of the absence of LSU starting left tackle Will Campbell, who was hospitalized Friday after a medical incident during the Tigers’ walkthrough. Then, LSU lost Garrett Dellinger to a knee injury, further decimating an offensive line that has not exactly been the Tigers’ strength.
LSU rushed for 55 yards against a Tennessee defense that was allowing almost 100 yards a game on the ground.
The LSU defense never had a chance, put in difficult situations the entire first half.
LSU’s special teams cost the Tigers their opener against Florida State and their play Saturday was unacceptable, but not surprising.
Yes, it is a broken record, and so is reminding everyone LSU’s roster is not nearly as deep and stacked as should be expected from one of the nation’s top 25 programs. Two places that lack of depth often shows is on the offensive line and special teams.
Unfortunately, it is likely to get worse before it gets better with Ole Miss and Alabama two of the Tigers’ next three opponents. However, games against Florida, Arkansas and Texas A&M don’t appear nearly as daunting as they did back in August, or September for that matter.
Kelly finds himself in the same situation Nick Saban did in 2000 when he took over for Gerry DiNardo. That season is remembered for UAB upsetting the Tigers’ 13-10. Less remembered is after a 3-3 start, LSU finished the season winning five of six.
As long as the Tigers can avoid losing to UAB, which visits Tiger Stadium Nov. 19, Kelly’s first season is in position to duplicate what Saban accomplished, which would be a remarkable feat considering the numerous shortcomings LSU displays game after game.
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