The 38-27 loss to UCLA was not only disappointing, but a bit uninspiring. There were issues offensively in the run game and with the offensive line. The defense still gave up big plays through the air. And fans even called into question some of the players’ efforts, particularly toward the end of the game.
But, for what it’s worth, the players are already insisting that the rest of this year won’t be a repeat of last season’s underwhelming campaign.
“This year is not going to be another last year,” senior defensive tackle Andre Anthony said in the players’ weekly press conference. “That’s not going to happen. We need to stay together as a team for one. We can win out, ball out and learn from our mistakes. Just knowing what we went through last year, we don’t want that to happen again.”
The changes can start this week as LSU faces McNeese State in the Tigers’ home opener back in Tiger Stadium.
The Cowboys enter the contest 0-1 after losing 42-36 to West Florida in their season-opener. The Tigers will go up against plenty of familiar faces in the in-state battle, headlined by McNeese State starting quarterback—none other than Cody Orgeron.
“First of all, the game is about LSU winning,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said in his weekly press conference when asked about facing his son. “We’ve got to win the game. It’s about LSU-McNeese, but personally, I’m proud of Cody. … He’s excited to play in Death Valley. For a quarterback from McNeese to come to LSU and play in Death Valley, he’s really excited about that. But once the game starts, it’s going to be competition. I’m the head coach at LSU, and he’s the quarterback at McNeese. We’ve both got to do what we can to win the game.”
Orgeron the quarterback is coming off a strong Week 1 performance, completing 31 of his 47 passes for 367 yards and 2 touchdowns, adding 35 yards and another touchdown on the ground.
The quarterback situation on the opposite sideline is a little more up in the air. Max Johnson is sure to get the start after throwing for 330 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception last week, but he’ll certainly have more critical eyes on him this Saturday after recording his first loss as a starter.
Johnson also struggled sporadically throughout the UCLA game, missing a few open targets, looking flustered at times and even throwing a no-look, behind-the-back ball that luckily fell to the turf.
“We were going, going, going and all of the sudden, they started getting pressure on the quarterback,” Ed Orgeron said. “He missed several balls. … Some balls were low. He was really good at times. At times, he’s got to get better, but again, it’s not his first start, but his first time he’s the man. He’s the quarterback, and we’re going to give him time to get better. But he needs to improve.”
And the leash may have gotten just a tiny bit shorter this week.
Orgeron said he intends on giving true freshman quarterback Garrett Nussmeier some snaps on Saturday, at the very least helping solidify the backup role behind Johnson.
“Hopefully, I can get Garrett in this week,” he said. “I plan on playing on Garrett, let him play and get some snaps, and let’s see what he can do.”
In an ideal world, LSU will come out clicking, grab an early lead and get the chance to rest some starters later in the game.
They’ll certainly need a bounce-back performance after being mocked on social media following the UCLA loss. But more important than the defeat is the response to it, which the upperclassmen on the team continue to say won’t mirror 2020’s struggles.
“It’s a very different energy from last year,” LSU offensive lineman Ed Ingram said in the players’ weekly press conference. “After we lost to Mississippi State, a lot of us kind of turned on each other. You could tell. This year everybody’s holding each other saying, ‘We’ve got you, stay according to plan, trust the process.’ We’re going to get it fixed this next week.”