LSU lets The Boot slip away

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LSU QB Garrett Nussmeier
(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

Five straight years of owning The Boot came to an end as Arkansas gave LSU the boot Saturday night at Tiger Stadium.

Cam Little was the biggest man on the LSU campus Saturday night, calmly booting a 37-yard field goal in overtime to give Arkansas a 16-13 win over the Tigers.

In a second season in succession of frustration, LSU found a way to lose a game it should have won.

LSU should have been up two scores on more than one occasion but failed to take advantage of opportunities.

One of those, inexplicably, came when the Tigers were driving, certain to get points, and LSU pulled Garrett Nussmeier, inserting Tyrion Davis-Price at quarterback in a wildcat formation/play at the Arkansas 18-yard line.

Predictably, Davis-Price did not handle a snap he should have handled, fumbled and Arkansas recovered.

It was a microcosm of LSU’s offensive performance on the night, filled with missed opportunities and key mistakes.

You cannot turn the ball over three times and expect to win.

In his first significant, meaningful playing time of the season, Nussmeier did good things and did bad things. It was, as you might expect, a mixed bag.

Nussmeier made a tremendous play on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jack Bech in the second quarter, spinning away from a free blitzer, rolling left and tossing a perfect throw to Bech in the back of end zone.

Bech, LSU’s best receiver in the absence of Kayshon Boutte, went up and got it, a thing of beauty.

With that beauty came the ugliness of two interceptions, including the critical pick in overtime when Nussmeier tried to throw a jump-ball fade to Devonta Lee.

The pass did not have enough air under it and it was poorly thrown, to the inside, rather than to the sideline boundary. Montaric Brown, who had inside position, went up and intercepted it, killing LSU’s chances of winning.

It was truly a shame as the LSU defense, despite missing several key players, played its heart out for a second straight game and deserved to win. There are as many as nine players who have started games for the Tigers who did not play on defense.

The only blemish on the defense was another blown coverage when KJ Jefferson hit a wide open, uncovered Dominique Johnson with a 43-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.

To Jefferson’s credit, he extended the play by evading what should have been a sack.

Much like against Auburn and Bo Nix, the LSU defense had several chances to sack Jefferson and simply could not get him on the ground.

Offensively, LSU had a chopped-up offensive line, missing as many as three starters during the game.

Davis-Price still was productive, running hard against a good defensive front and gaining 106 yards on 28 carries as LSU stuck with the running game.

Ed Ingram and Chasen Hines did not play and Cam Wire went down during the game as the musical chairs game up front which has been prevalent all season continued.

As for where LSU goes from here at quarterback, the guess is that Ed Orgeron will give Nussmeier the ball and his first start next week against ULM.

Nussmeier finished 18-of-31 for 179 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

It was not bad but it was not good enough.

Max Johnson started the game and played the first two series with no results.

Nussmeier took over on the third series and Johnson never saw the field again.

As stated previously, LSU’s problems are not Johnson’s fault.

His numbers are admirable and his play has been solid, overall, but he had hit a wall in the previous three games.

Johnson lacks a big arm and has average mobility.

His success is predicated on good decision making and accuracy.

The former had regressed a bit and the latter most certainly regressed.

Some of that can certainly be attributed to losing Boutte and the revolving door on the offensive line but no one can blame Orgeron for trying to find a spark and for seeing what Nussmeier could do.

If Walker Howard was watching, and I suspect he was, he should remain steadfast in his commitment to LSU, regardless of who the new coach will be, understanding that he may have an opportunity to start sooner, rather than later, for the Tigers.

That is not a shot at Johnson or Nussmeier, both competent players who can be successful at the highest level of college football.

It is simply a statement about how a new coach will take a new approach and may be willing to do so with a new leader.

Meanwhile, while LSU and Daronte Jones have solved their defensive woes of earlier in the season, the offense has nothing but woes, having scored just 44 points in its last three games.

Now 4-6, LSU must win out against ULM and Texas A&M to be bowl eligible and to avoid the possibility of a second straight non-winning season and second straight season without a bowl appearance.

Those facts are unacceptable for LSU football.

That is why Orgeron is moving on and why we are looking into the crystal ball searching for the next answer in a guy named Cristobal (Mario), Jimbo Fisher, Lincoln Riley or even Billy Napier.

For what it’s worth, Oregon remained firmly in the playoff picture with a win over Washington State while Oklahoma likely fell out of the playoff picture with a loss at Baylor and Texas A&M lost to Ole Miss.

If you are on the Lane train, perhaps that would provide ammunition for Lane Kiffin being your preference over Fisher.

If you are a Napier fan and do not buy into the “don’t hire a coach from a lower level program, especially in-state,” you have a guy who coached under Nick Saban, Tommy Bowden and Dabo Swinney who just keeps winning and doing it less than an hour from the Baton Rouge campus.

Scott Woodward has the biggest decision of his professional life lingering.

For LSU fans, that cannot come soon enough, just as the end of another highly disappointing, depressing season cannot end soon enough.

It is time to give the 2021 LSU football season the boot.

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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