GREEN BAY, Wisconsin – All hands were on deck, or in this case on the sidelines, but the LSU coaching staff still struggled to get the right call to its players.
And after No. 5 LSU’s 16-14 loss to unranked Wisconsin at Lambeau Field Saturday, what’s next? Walking the plank.
“There was some difficult getting some plays in. We have to do some work on that,” said LSU coach Les Miles said, who made the rarest of moves entering this season by having all of his nine top line assistant coaches work from the sidelines. Usually there are a few in the press box for eyes in the sky. Miles left he and his coordinators – Cam Cameron on offense and Dave Aranda on defense – with just young graduate assistants upstairs.
Miles said when asked about the lack of experienced eyes in the press box that he would make changes if they were not getting the view desired. That may or may not happen when the Tigers (0-1) host Jacksonville State (1-0) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium on ESPNU.
There appeared to be more of an ear than an eye problem Saturday, among other things, as Miles was forced to call two timeouts in the first half just to get plays in order.
“It was a first-game communication issue,” said Miles, who lost his first season opener in his 12th season as LSU’s coach. “One of them was our headphones dropped, and the guy that was doing the signaling did not have headphones. And we were communicating, and the guy with his headphones off did not get the signal because he wasn’t getting any feed.”
LSU’s main problem, though, was blocking Wisconsin’s defensive line and linebackers. LSU quarterback Brandon Harris was sacked twice, and tailback Leonard Fournette had seven rushes for two yards or less, including back-to-back no gains on third-and-one and fourth-and-one plays from the LSU 45 that led to a Wisconsin field goal for a 6-0 lead in the second quarter. Harris also had a rush for minus-five yards on a blown assignment.
“There were some guys who were not necessarily blocked,” Miles said.
Wisconsin star outside linebacker Vince Biegel heavily pressured Harris’ on the game’s pivotal play with about a minute to go. Harris avoided the rush and scrambled out of the pocket, but then threw it to safety D’Cota Dixon, whose interception sealed the game.
“He dodged extremely well,” Miles said of Harris. “He was getting sacked and really got out of the grasp of the defender, but then he didn’t make the play that he wanted to make that is for sure.”
Had Harris thrown it away, it would have only been second down from the 35-yard line of Wisconsin. That would have been a 52-yard, game winning field goal opportunity for Colby Delahoussaye, whose longest field goal was a 50 yarder to beat Florida in the final seconds in 2014. There was plenty of time for a couple of runs to make that kick shorter.
But LSU passed on first down – something Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron have been roundly criticized for not doing. And it backfired because of the offensive line’s breakdown, and Wisconsin first-year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox (who replaced new LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda) called a blitz … from the press box, by the way.
“Yeah, Justin radioed in my favorite blitz call,” Biegel said. “It’s called a ‘Psycho Track,’ and I came inside the tackle, and I was surprised I was unblocked.”
Biegel noticed the same thing Miles did.
“I actually thought it was a screen at first because I was unblocked so much,” he said, perhaps not aware that LSU rarely runs screen passes, which usually combat blitzes well. “But give credit to No. 6. He’s a very shifty quarterback. Give D’Cota the credit, he was exactly where he was supposed to be at the right time. We’re not going to discuss what happened after the play.”
LSU right guard Josh Boutte clotheslined Dixon, who had already been ruled down, and Boutte was ejected from the game for a flagrant personal foul. He is expected to be suspended by rule for LSU’s next game by the Southeastern Conference office.
“I grabbed him right away,” Miles said and planned to review film of the play.
That one and several others for various reasons.
“It was not what I was expecting,” LSU defensive tackle Lewis Neal said of the game.
When asked about the offense’s struggles, including a 2-of-10 mark on third downs. Wisconsin, though, was only 3-of-15 against LSU’s defense on third down.
“I don’t want to point any fingers,” Neal said.
NOTES: LSU’s and Coach Les Miles’ 52-0 mark in regular season, non-conference games was snapped with the loss to Wisconsin. It was not a 42-0 mark before Saturday as reported in Sunday editions. The Tigers’ last regular season, non-conference loss was 26-8 at Virginia Tech in 2002 when Nick Saban was the head coach. The 52 straight such wins was the longest streak in NCAA upper division football history. … Tailback Leonard Fournette became the fastest LSU back in history to 3,000 yards on Saturday. … The Tigers’ 257 yards of total offense Saturday has them No. 113 in the nation in offense per game.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Well coached with great talent.”
---LSU safety Jamal Adams on Wisconsin on his Twitter page.
(Coverage of LSU and commentary by Glenn Guilbeau supported by Hebert’s Town & Country Auto Dealer in Shreveport located at 1155 East Bert Kouns Loop. Research your next Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Ram at http://hebertstandc.com/.)
(© 2016 WWL)