LSU did look like a team not ready for the moment, a top 25 moment and the first of Kelly’s tenure with the program. The Tigers lost 40-13 and it didn’t even feel that close as the team was outplayed and outcoached in every facet.
Kelly was asked a lot about the failures in the Tiger’s loss but it was the final question of the day that really carried some extra substance. The cold hard truth is this program has a long way to go to be considered among the elite teams in the SEC.
“It allows you to look at clearly the areas you have to support the program in,” Kelly said of the loss. “The old line ‘we don’t have anybody walking through that door that’s going to change this football team.’ We must focus on ourselves as coaches and do the necessary things to improve this team.
Many of the problems that have reared their ugly heads this year cropped up again Saturday, only this time the opponent was too strong to stay close. A slow start on offense, including the inability to push the ball down field early, as well as coverage and tackling issues defensively all contributed to the loss.
Nine penalties and 12 plays resulted in a loss or sack on offense as Tennessee built up its lead. Kelly gave an example offensively of how the coaching staff has “a little slow to the punch” in potentially adding some seven man protections to give more help for the offensive line.
LSU is a little battered up with Will Campbell and Garrett Dellinger missing the game Saturday, whose futures are very much doubted this season. The Tigers have started five different groups in six weeks, and it’s not hard to tell this is a group still in search of continuity.
In the secondary, perhaps there are ways to hide some of the coverage issues that have really stood out over the last few weeks, including simplifying the defense, signals and coverage calls.
“Just attention to detail. Everything we do has to be more focused on the field and off the field. I’ll make sure to harp on that to the guys this week,” safety Greg Brooks said.
“It’s humbling. We expect to win every game so we gotta come out next game and be more focused on the little things,” cornerback Jarrick Bernard-Converse said. “Making sure we’re in the right spots, communicating more, tackling better and getting into the right areas.”
Part of this first year is helping establish a culture that Kelly hopes will only grow as the young players in this system start to grow with it. But along the way, there will be growing pains like the one suffered Saturday on the Tigers home turf.
There’s not much that a blowout loss can say other than this is a team that must start to find some answers in the short term. Nobody else is walking through the door to help this team and if the Tigers want to have a respectable season in year one under Kelly, the improvements need to start now.
“They wanna win and they’re gonna play hard so that’s why I like this team. I like the grit in them, I like the way they fight. We’ve gotta do a better job coaching them,” Kelly said.