One team, no heartbeat

SEC Banter: LSU rapidly falling to bottom of league ranks - Gainesville  Times

There are very few family-friendly adjectives that would accurately describe LSU’s 38-27 season-opening loss against UCLA.

Fortunately, there are silver linings to every gray cloud, so I’ve listed the following positives to the embarrassment of a football game that I witnessed:

  1. Wide receiver Kayshon Boutte

Now that we have appreciated all that was good, let’s plow ahead to the negatives, starting with signal caller Max Johnson.

Johnson became the de facto quarterback after Myles Brennan suffered an offseason injury, but many fans believed he would have won the starting job regardless of Brennan’s injury.

If you are one of these fans, I’d love to speak with you about some ocean-front property I have for sale in Arizona.

Though Johnson finished with 330 yards through the air and three passing touchdowns, there were many times throughout the game when I thought Ameilia Earhart had a better idea of where she was than the sophomore quarterback.

Johnson struggled with accuracy in key situations, forced ill-advised passes, and ignored open receivers.

There was even a moment when Johnson launched a “pass” as he was oriented rear and elbows from the line of scrimmage. Some fans on Twitter thought the moment was “praise-worthy” as he avoided a sack, but these same people would probably disapprove of me merging into a crowded interstate with a blindfold over my eyes.

Unfortunately, Johnson was under duress from the UCLA defense all night and was unaided by a turnstile offensive line, a non-existent running game, and dropped passes from wide receivers.

Fans were shocked that an offensive line that returned all of its starters from the previous season could perform so poorly.

104.5 ESPN’s Matt Moscona had repeatedly made the point throughout the offseason that simply returning starters who have not played well in the past would not guarantee that these same players would play well in the future, and this take was right on the money.

Speaking of players with a reputation for not playing well, let’s switch gears to the defense.

For a brief glimmer of time, LSU’s defense appeared to show improvement from what was arguably the worst defense in school history in 2020.

That reality quickly faded into the California night.

The Tiger defense was gashed for one big play after another and allowed a total of 470 offensive yards on the evening.

Other than a different defensive coordinator, not much was different from LSU’s 2020 unit when infamous fan scapegoat Bo Pelini was at the helm of the defense.

Now, instead of having Pelini and the worst defense in school history, LSU has an extremely bad defense, but now the Tigers have the privilege of paying Pelini his buyout money while he watches the games from his high definition television.

Brilliant management of the team budget.

Before the season began, fans were told that hiring current defensive coordinator Daronte Jones, who has not held a coordinator role since 2009, greatly improved communication between players and coaches. Jones was a coach that “players wanted to play for.”

After seeing hours of passionless defensive play, I would love to see how players respond to a coach they hate.

All in all, LSU’s total performance against UCLA showed no discernable difference between this year’s team and the unforgettable 2020 Tigers.

Which brings me to the supposed captain of this rudderless LSU vessel, Ed Orgeron.

Orgeron often repeats mantras such as “one team, one heartbeat” and “LSU standard of performance” in his press conferences and media interviews.

After witnessing the product that the Tigers took the field with in their last 11 games, I wonder if there these slogans have real meaning or if they are the equivalent of the same programmed catchphrases a stuffed doll makes when the string is pulled.

When it comes to any team, the buck stops at the head coach, and, frankly, this program hasn’t played up to the LSU standard of performance since Orgeron fell rear backwards into passing game coordinator Joe Brady and Tiger legend Joe Burrow for the 2019 season.

Since then, his teams have played as lifeless as the talking points he recites as soon as he realizes the cameras are rolling.

The good news is the moments he sticks to his fake script are far better than his improv. Those moments include the times Orgeron produces free bulletin board material by cursing at opponents or challenging fans to meet him on the field for a fight hours before kickoff.

Sadly, being a loose cannon doesn’t even scrape the surface of the thin ice on which Orgeron skates.

There are serious Title IX allegations looming over his head, and he currently works for an athletic director who did not hire him, and, in all honesty, would have never hired him.

Saturday’s loss was not the end of the season and will not define this football team, but the losses that will inevitably follow this uninspired and uncompetitive group will continue to strain this coaching staff.

If Orgeron can no longer instill a heartbeat in this football program and fan base, it would not surprise me to see him as an analyst for the University of Alabama next season alongside the other failed head coaches of America.

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