Last six weeks, this LSU team has been different in both confidence and execution of the week-to-week process it takes to win in the SEC. But the purple and gold couldn’t match their recent success Saturday night in College Station, leading to the disappointing result that ultimately dashes any hope of a college football playoff berth.
The common theme from Kelly and the players after the game was a lack of getting the job done. From a coaching and execution perspective, it wasn’t the kind of effort conducive to how this group has won so many games this season. “This is hard and they’ve been great all year. They’ve done incredible things. They changed everything in the way they think, their habits,” Kelly said. “But you have to do it consistently, can’t just rely on talent. Talent’s gotta make plays and when you flip the switch to performance, you’ve gotta be able to bring those with you. For some reason we were off. I didn’t get them prepared the way they needed to be. They were off today and I’m disappointed in that.”
Texas A&M played very well but it’s hard not to think that LSU hurt itself more than anything and that’s a sign of a team that maybe was due for a letdown performance that not even the immense strides it’s made this season could overcome. The Tigers didn’t make some of the plays in the second half that had made this a dangerous group for the last six weeks.
Even Kelly admitted that some of the momentum swings, like the Jayden Daniels’ fumble, returned for a touchdown, and the subsequent offensive drive derailed because of a penalty were mistaken this group didn’t make in the past.
Kelly pointed to the team’s preparation in practice throughout the week and said it was up to the standard. This week differentiated in Kelly’s mind was the 24 hours before kickoff, where the ‘juice’ and ‘fire’ were both lacking from the Tigers.
“I think they have done some incredible things and I don’t want this loss to take away from what they’ve accomplished,” Kelly said. “This was one of the most enjoyable years I’ve had in my career in watching these kids grow. This was not a step back, this was a bump in the road where they’re gonna learn from it and understand how hard it is each and every week in this league.”
Now the thought process immediately must shift to No. 1 Georgia and the SEC Championship as this is a team with still plenty to play for. Perspective after a loss like this is extremely important as there isn’t an LSU supporter alive who wouldn’t have been encouraged with this scenario.
But as some teams do, there was an element of overachieving that came with this group and the loss to Texas A&M was a painful reminder of the ups and downs in this conference schedule. There’s still plenty that can be accomplished, including ending the first year of Kelly’s tenure as SEC champs, a good sign of where this program can go in the future.
“We’re pretty much moving down the road already. They know what happened tonight, they understand our process and what they need to do and what wasn’t done tonight,” Kelly said.
“Just to stick to our process,” Mike Jones said. “Whether we win the game or lose the game it’s a 24 hour rule. We’ve still got more games to play, you correct what went wrong and then you stick with what got you here. We respond the right way and keep it moving.”