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Brian Kelly is 100% CORRECT

John Marcase

John Marcase

September 4, 2023 at 5:00:00 PM

Tigers aren't who we thought after ugly loss to FSU

There is no disgrace in LSU losing its season opener to Florida State.

Both teams were ranked in the preseason Top 10, concluding the opening weekend of the 2023 college season with the marquee matchup of Week 1. 

But, how Florida State whipped the Tigers in the second half en route to a 45-24 victory is concerning in the least.

LSU entered Brian Kelly’s second season as a trendy pick to win the SEC West and make the final four-team College Football Playoff format. Let’s just say Kelly and his staff have their work cut out to achieve such lofty expectations after Florida State exposed LSU’s secondary time and again Sunday night in Orlando, Florida.

“This is a total failure from a coaching standpoint and player standpoint that we have to obviously address and we have to own,” said Kelly. 

At one time, LSU was DBU - Defensive Back University. Those days are long gone after Florida State constantly torched a Tigers’ secondary that features five transfers among its two-deep depth chart, including a pair of additions from the FCS Southland Conference.

Even worse, LSU fans watched a product of Opelousas Catholic have his way against the Tigers’ secondary to the tune of nine receptions for 122 yards and three touchdowns. Keon Coleman was a two-sport star for Opelousas Catholic, who wanted to attend LSU and play football and basketball. The Tigers, then coached by Ed Orgeron (football) and Will Wade (basketball) were not interested. Michigan State’s Mel Tucker (football) and Tom Izzo (basketball) welcomed Coleman with open arms and he played both sports as a freshman before entering the transfer portal after the Spartans’ football program cratered in 2022. 

To Kelly’s credit, he tried to recruit Coleman back to Louisiana, but the lingering damage had been done and Coleman landed at Florida State, knowing FSU’s season opener would be against the Tigers. 

We will have to see if Coleman’s game against LSU was a harbinger of things to come -- for the Seminoles and the Tigers -- or the result of Coleman being highly motivated to inflict damage on his home state school. Coleman did catch 58 passes for nearly 800 yards and 7 touchdowns a year ago.

It could be that Florida State has finally arrived under Mike Norvell, who is now in his fourth season in Tallahassee. The one-time Louisiana Tech Bulldog suffered through 3-6 and 5-7 seasons with FSU after arriving from Memphis. FSU went 10-3 a season ago, and it may be the favorite to win the ACC.

Maybe too many LSU fans and college football pundits were buying into the second-year storyline for Kelly and the Tigers. After all, Kim Mulkey (women’s basketball) and Jay Johnson (baseball) won national championships earlier this year in their second seasons at LSU. But, it is more difficult to turn over a football roster than those other sports, Deion Sanders excluded. Angel Reese was a timely transfer from Maryland, who was key to the Lady Tigers’ championship, and Paul Skenes immediately infused the baseball program with a dominant ace pitcher not seen since the days of Ben McDonald as he eventually was taken first overall by the Pirates in June’s MLB Draft.

There is plenty to clean up for LSU before it travels to Starkville to open SEC play in two weeks against Mississippi State. The Tigers should have Maason Smith back on the defensive line and perhaps running back John Emery, who missed Sunday’s game and will miss Saturday’s cakewalk against Grambling State.

While LSU’s defense tied for allowing the most points in a season opener by an Associated Press Top-5 team in the poll era (since 1936), its offense and special teams also had issues. LSU was stymied on six consecutive plays inside the FSU 5 on the game’s opening drive. LSU turned the ball over on downs a second time at the start of the second quarter. Even two field goals give the Tigers at worst a 23-14 halftime lead. Punt returns were still an adventure, and the defense forced just one FSU punt, coming on the Seminoles’ second drive of the game.

The stat of the game was third-down conversion: LSU was 3-for-10; FSU was 9-for-14.    

“The buck stops with me,” said Kelly. “... 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.”

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