We played LSU tough but, in the end, we lost yet another close game. Here's why.
Inability to pick up the blitz in the second half
Not really much need for explanation here. Our blockers had no answer for LSU's blitzes. The Tigers basically teed off on Garcia in the second half. He oftentimes had less than a second to throw. It doesn't matter if you have Joe Montana in there with Jerry Rice at receiver: you're not going to make many plays if you can't protect your QB.
Obviously, this has been a problem area for us all year and it's probably not going to magically go away over the next two weeks. However, if there's anything the coaching staff should be focusing on, this is it. Tennessee has a poor offense, but they're very capable of putting pressure on Garcia. If they're able to do anything resembling what LSU did to us last night in the second half, we could be in for a long night against a team that we have no excuse for losing to.
No safety-valve play
Let's not place all the blame on the offensive line. I'm not sure whether this is SOS and Junior's fault or if the blame falls on Garcia for not making better decisions at the line of scrimmage, but we should have had some quick-release play--a slant, or a WR screen--to counter LSU's blitzes. The Tigers often rushed three or four and left the rest of their players back in deep protection, so the quick midfield passes were there. The fact that we didn't go to these plays was even more perplexing because we had some success with quick throws to the TEs in the first half.
Unlike the offensive line woes, which go back to personnel problems that likely won't dissapear before the end of the year, the play-calling issues can be corrected. Spurrier will see these opportunities when he watches film and he'll come up with a solution. Garcia, likewise, is a young player and Spurrier will teach him to make better decisions when he sees the heat coming. I expect improvement
in this area when we play the Vols.
Could anything be more heartbreaking than to see your star WR slip and drop a pass like Kenny did last night? If he had caught that ball, things very well may have turned out differently, especially if he could have stayed on his feet while catching it, because he had room to run.
Similarly, our defense dropped a few possible interceptions. One of them was in the endzone and would have prevented a TD. It's hard to blame the defense, which again played a great game until they were worn out at the end, but I again felt that they missed a few opportunities to make big plays.
This loss stings because we had lots of chances to win it, but I still feel like we're playing better than we were at this time last year. The defense is playing well, we're for the most part healthy (I'm still waiting to hear more about Jamon Meredith), and Stephen Garcia looks to be as good as advertised. Garcia made some mistakes out there, but he's a freshman and he'll learn as he goes.
With a week to regroup and solve some of our problems, we should be able to get back on track and win the next two games. After that, Florida is a likely loss, but with the troubles in Tiger Town, we should be able to handle Clemson and get to eight wins. That would be success, in my opinion.
On another note, the official that tried to tackle Garcia needs to be reviewed and possibly fired. If you go back and watch the video, not only is it clear that the ref didn't make much of an effort to get out of the way, it in fact looks like he intentionally jumped in Garcia's path. This isn't sour grapes; the play didn't affect the outcome of the game in any way, and the guy actually helped us on an earlier play by getting in an LSU defender's way. I just think the play was suspicious and that the SEC should think hard about whether this guy deserves his job or not.
Take a look below.