The LSU-UCLA season opener for the Tigers answered a lot of questions about the program. In a 38-27 loss, Max Johnson looked solid throwing the ball. The Sophomore signal-caller left a lot of yards on the field on Saturday. However, he did what was asked of him. It just wasn’t enough for a win. LSU’s struggles from 2020 continued against a tough UCLA Bruins team in Pasadena. The Tigers fall to 0-1 on the season with the home opener looming next week.
LSU-UCLA Analysis: Tigers Struggles Continue
For starters, the Tigers’ rushing attack looked the exact same as last year. Tyrion Davis-Price earned the start in the backfield against the Bruins. He ran for just 31 yards on 13 carries. The lack of the rushing game can be attributed to the offensive line. The Tigers’ front seven had a tough time opening lanes for the tailbacks, which put LSU in a bind in terms of gaining crucial yards on the ground. In Saturday’s loss, the Tigers totaled just 49 rushing yards on 25 carries. When the rushing attack was struggling, Orgeron could have put either one of the freshman tailbacks into the game. Both Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin are set to get carries this season. So why didn’t they play against the Bruins with Davis-Price struggling?
Sure, the offensive line had a tough time opening up running lanes. But there came a point in the game where it would have been a viable option to try something different with one of the young tailbacks.
After the game, Orgeron spoke on the lack of the running game and stated ” We need to have multiple runs or multiple sets, which we didn’t do tonight.”
Now to the quarterback. Johnson finished the game 26-of-46 for 330 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. While those numbers are solid for Johnson’s third-career start, he left plenty of big plays on the field. The UCLA defense covered the Tigers’ receivers well which gave Johnson little to work with at times. Sophomore wide receiver Kayshon Boutte had nine receptions for 148 yards and three scores. If there is a bright spot to the offense, it’s surely Boutte’s stellar performance. Despite the big numbers, this was nowhere near the offense that Tigers fans expected to see.
Same LSU Defense
Sure, LSU put up 27 points. But the struggles were there and need to be fixed immediately. On defense, the Tigers couldn’t stop the prolific Bruins balanced pass/rush attack. UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson finished 9-of-16 for 260 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. The LSU defense was outmatched from the start of the game. When DTR got going, the Bayou Bengals couldn’t figure out how to stop him from throwing darts all over the field. UCLA was able to have their way in the passing game as the stellar LSU defensive backs couldn’t make tackles or cover well enough to get big stops. New defensive coordinator Daronte Jones has to implement a new scheme before it’s too late.
In run defense, the Tigers’ struggles continued there as well. Bruins running back Zach Charbonnet ran for 117 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Brittain Brown added 17 carries for 96 yards and a score. Not only did the pass defense struggle, LSU had a tough time defending the run. One way the Tigers can fix the defense is to find a way to not give up the explosive plays.
The No. 16 Tigers will surely fall in the rankings following the loss. At this point, the Tigers either have to fix their mistakes or a 2020 replicate year is on the horizon. Many thought the Tigers would improve after a 5-5 record in 2020. From the looks of game one, that will not be the case. The program has a lot to work on with two easy wins upcoming. The Tigers begin SEC play on September 25 at Mississippi State.
LSU-UCLA Postgame Discussion
Following the loss, Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron spoke on the game. On the loss, Orgeron said, ” Obviously, a tough night. We didn’t perform like we’re supposed to at LSU.” Just two years removed from a College Football Playoff National Championship, the Tigers must get it together on both sides of the ball. While it is still early in the season, Orgeron’s name has started swirling on the hot seat rumors. He went on to say that “One game doesn’t define a season” and that it was a “letdown for our fans”.
LSU gets to rebound next week as the Tigers host the McNeese State Cowboys inside Tiger Stadium on September 11. Kickoff is set for 6 pm on SEC Network.