For a team that has such high expectations entering the contest as the number five team in the country and a favorite to compete for a SEC championship, the LSU Tigers looked anything, but that last night in a humbling and embarrassing 45-24 loss to Florida State. There are a lot of key reasons why the Tigers were manhandled on Sunday night, but here are the five biggest negatives that turned a once competitive game into a blowout in the second half.
1.Missed Opportunities in Key Situations:
As bad as the end result was, LSU had a chance to actually make this a great and competitive game. In fact, LSU actually was winning the game heading into halftime, but even then, it didn’t feel like it as the Tigers squandered many opportunities including turning the ball over on downs twice inside the red zone.
The first time the Tigers were inside the 10-yard line was extremely disappointing as it was the first opening drive of the football game. Jayden Daniels completed a 55-yard pass to Tre Bradford and a 15-yard pass to Mason Taylor to set the Tigers up inside the five-yard line, but the Tigers could not find a way to punch the ball into the end zone. The Tigers had six opportunities thanks to an unnecessary roughness penalty against Florida State to score but could not execute with Daniels losing his footing and being sacked on fourth and goal at the one.
Two drives later, LSU was on another promising drive, but once again on fourth down and 1 inside the 13-yard line, Daniels was stuffed for a two-yard loss.
If the Tigers could have managed to find a way to score those two touchdowns, it would have been different with LSU taking a 31-14 lead at halftime instead of a 17-14 lead.
Along with being inefficient in the red zone, 3rd down and 4th down efficiency was terrible on both sides of the football as the offense was a combined 3 of 13 on third and fourth down while the defense couldn’t get off the field in crucial moments as Florida State was a combined 9 of 15 on the money downs.
Finally, when talking about missed opportunities, there were plenty of them for LSU’s passing offense. Early in the game, Jayden Daniels overthrew a wide-open Josh Williams underneath, but it wasn’t just Daniels’ fault. Kyren Lacy dropped what could have been not only a first down conversion on third down, but potentially a touchdown in the second half, and right before the end of the third quarter, Brian Thomas Jr. had a chance to make a big play to set the Tigers up once again but failed to make the grab. A play later, Daniels threw an interception to start the fourth quarter.
Statistically, the numbers may look the same in the stat sheet as LSU had 460 total yards and Florida State had total 494 yards, but the biggest difference was that Florida State made the big plays and LSU simply didn’t.
2. Concerns in the secondary reared its ugly head:
Heading into the game, it was evident that Florida State’s wide receivers had a big advantage over LSU’s secondary, but it proved to be a total mismatch throughout the night. It didn’t matter who it was for LSU, they just could not matchup with Florida State’s two big, athletic wide receivers in Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson. Time and time again, the receivers made play after play, and statistically, it could have been worse if it wasn’t for a couple of drops from the unit in the first half.
Louisiana native and Michigan State transfer Keon Coleman was the most dominant player on the field last night as he made highlight reel catch after highlight reel catch. A lot of times, LSU’s defensive backs were in position to make the play, but the former Opelousas Catholic two sport star could not be stopped as he finished with 9 catches for 122 yards and three touchdowns.
Johnny Wilson also made an impact with 7 catches for 104 yards. With Florida State having a veteran quarterback and athletic receivers combined with new transfers in the backend of the defense, the recipe turned to be a fatal one for the Tigers.
3. The offensive line got pushed around.
Perhaps, the most surprising takeaway on this list is how LSU’s offensive line got dominated physically by Florida State’s defensive line. Coming into the game, the offensive line was expected to be one of the Tigers’ stronger units, especially with all five starters returning, and even though Florida State returns a very strong defensive line themselves, the battle in the trenches was supposed to be a good one, but it was a battle that was dominated by the Seminoles. Jayden Daniels was consistently pressured throughout the night and was sacked four times while there was zero showing of a running game. Take away Daniels’ 40 yard run and Josh Williams’ 35 yard run, the Tigers only gained 38 yards on the ground.
Being pushed around up front was quite a surprise for such a veteran unit that improved over the course of the year last season.
4. Harold Perkins was a non-factor in his new role.
A big storyline in the offseason how LSU was changing in the way that they would utilize Harold Perkins Jr. Last season, the freshman star impacted games on the edge as a pass rush specialist, but this season, Matt House is trying to make the former five star a more complete three down linebacker on the inside. So far, the experiment hasn’t worked as although he ended up with five tackles, none of them were impact TFLs, sacks, or quarterback hurries. #4 did not put his stamp on the game and did not have any opportunities to try and rush Jordan Travis consistently. Without Maason Smith being available, Perkins’ role in this game was going to be even more important in order for the defense to have success against Florida State’s passing attack. It will be interesting to see if Perkins will continue to play on the inside or if the coaches will re-evaluate and have Perkins rush on the edge where he was so effective last season.
5. LSU was outclassed in the second half.
When it comes to every phase of the game, LSU was outclassed and dominated in the second half with Florida State scoring 31 unanswered points to pull away from the Tigers. What was a competitive back and forth game in the first half turned into an absolute rout in the second half. Florida State made adjustments, executed at a high level, and played with a chip on their shoulder with something to prove. The way that Florida State came out and played from the start was with a lot of intensity and motivation, which is something that you didn’t see with the Tigers.
For the fourth year in a row, LSU loses its season opener in very disappointing fashion. Last year, LSU started off with a disheartening loss, but they did turn it around and finished by winning 10 games and the SEC West. What LSU does in response to this upsetting performance will definitely be something to monitor and keep a close eye on.
As bad as this loss is, there is still plenty to play for LSU. It is one thing to see how the team responds mentally, but how they address these negatives will be key on how the rest of this 2023 campaign goes.