He saw what everyone else saw. LSU did not play close to its expectations, yet Kelly and this 2022 team learned a little more about the common theme that has defined the Tigers in the first month of the season.
“It’s been the DNA of this group to battle, to fight and they certainly did that tonight. They found a way to win,” Kelly said. “Look, at the end of the day, there’s a saying in golf, ‘There’s no pictures on the scorecard. There’s just what you score.’ Tonight, there are no pictures on the scoreboard for us. We just found a way to win this game.”
There was plenty of adversity to overcome as the passing offense was nowhere to be found, the secondary struggled mightily and the self-inflicted wounds reached a disturbing new high. Now the No. 25 ranked purple and gold welcome a top 10 Tennessee team to Baton Rouge for a chance to make a statement in the conference early under Kelly’s tenure.
But to do that, this LSU team will have to play a much cleaner brand of football in all three phases. Starting with the penalties, far too often, LSU put itself in precarious situations, drawing six penalties for 60 yards on offense and four penalties for 36 yards on defense.
Over 100 yards in penalties against Tennessee will lead to a lopsided outcome for the Volunteers, led by the high-powered offense that quarterback Hendon Hooker has operated under. That leads into the second part of the equation, which is the secondary.
LSU’s secondary was burned multiple times against Auburn’s offense, including throws of 53 and 18 yards that scored touchdowns and completions that went for 61, 35, 31, 27, and 25 yards throughout the night. When LSU started to make some changes in the secondary, like putting Jarrick Bernard-Converse back at safety, the defense was a little more consistent during the game.
After allowing 17 points in the first half, LSU didn’t surrender a point for the rest of the game and came away with timely stops and turnovers, a trend that’s been a part of this defense’s identity in the higher competition contests. This week against Tennessee, the defense will likely take a few lumps, but how they respond will dictate if this team can hang with one of the early-season juggernauts in the SEC.
Lastly, there’s the passing offense, and for Kelly and the offensive coaching staff, this should be the primary concern heading into this week. LSU mustered just 80 yards through the air when Jayden Daniels was on the field, and everyone had a hand in the down performance.
There were drops, missed throws, and miscommunication, and the overall lack of execution was alarming. To put into perspective what LSU accomplished Saturday night, the purple and gold became the first team to win an SEC road game with under 100 yards passing since 2017. The last time that happened was coincidentally LSU-Tennessee in 2017.
With LSU welcoming in a high-powered offense in Tennessee, there will need to be more balance from this offense to keep the Volunteers off the field. Like a few weeks ago against Mississippi State, the offense and defense will need to work in cohesion to slow down a Tennessee offense averaging 559.2 yards per game, the country’s worst.
It takes a complete team effort to take that kind of team out, and LSU must find ways to get Kayshon Boutte, Malik Nabers, Jack Bech, Jaray Jenkins, and the rest of the receiver core involved.
Last week was messy. This week needs to be clean if the Tigers hope to have a shot at pulling off a home upset, where they’re currently 4.5 point underdogs.