Ole Miss outlasted LSU in an offensive explosion in which the fireworks were on full display. In a game that was a joy for fans and a travesty for defensive coaches, the Rebels gave LSU their first conference loss. As for the expectations of the LSU team and defense, Ole Miss gave the Tigers a reality check.
The importance of the game in the SEC West race and the offensive prowess of both teams led some to expect a classic in the making leading up to this game. That proved to be the case as both teams traded blows for four quarters. The pace of the game lent itself to more of a tennis match than a football game. Punters were bored, play clocks were useless, and Lane Kiffin wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ole Fashioned Shootout
Give Kiffin credit for exposing what was thought to be an inconsistent but talented LSU defense as a submissive, nonthreatening group resigned to the reality that they had no answers. Kiffin used tempo to his advantage but also ran more plays from the pistol than he had in earlier games. Ole Miss seemingly played with a short playbook, but everything worked as the Rebels ran and threw the football at will. Jaxson Dart could’ve been mistaken for Eli Manning as he passed for 389 yards without breaking a sweat. Unlike Manning, he also ran for 50 yards.
The Tiger defense was historically bad. LSU gave up over 700 yards of offense in an embarrassing “effort”, for lack of a better word. They were toothless against the run, allowing over six yards per rush. The LSU defense was no better against the pass. Ole Miss beat LSU over the top when they brought their corners closer to the line of scrimmage. The LSU secondary missed tackles when they played off the ball with a cushion, which was most of the game.
The loss was disappointing in more ways than one for LSU, as the ineptitude of the Tiger defense outweighed the brilliance of Jayden Daniels. The much-maligned quarterback shredded the Ole Miss defense with 414 yards passing and 99 yards rushing. Daniels threw with anticipation, accuracy, and touch. In doing so, he helped both Brian Thomas and Malik Nabers surpass 100 receiving yards for the game.
How Did We Get Here?
It’s apparent that Ole Miss brought a dose of reality to LSU’s season of high hopes. Brian Kelly and the Tigers now must understand their regression defensively before concluding how to improve. Even Kelly admitted before the season that the secondary could be an issue. That doesn’t explain how a defensive line with multiple future NFL picks could suddenly look like they’ve forgotten how to play football.
Perhaps the loss of defensive line coach Jimmy Lindsey was more impactful than people realize. With Lindsey out this year with a health issue, the Tigers do not have a true defensive line coach. Kelly has now hired former LSU defensive line coach Pete Jenkins as an analyst, so Kelly knows he needs help in the trenches. Now 82 years old, Jenkins has coached at LSU for 15 years. He’s highly respected and brings knowledge that is otherwise missing from the LSU meeting rooms.
Coaching vs. Personnel
At first glance, it’s a stretch to blame coaches for defensive failures while watching scholarship players routinely miss tackles and/or look lost in coverage. However, Ole Miss rushed for more yards against LSU than they did in games against Alabama, Tulane, and Mercer combined. This is beyond a player personnel issue. Matt House has personnel issues, but he also has discipline, understanding, and fundamental issues. Defensive ends crash down the line and give up the edge. Safeties take bad angles to support the run. Linebackers completely disappear at times, and corners don’t know if they’re in man or zone. House might not deserve all the criticism, but it’s not asking too much to expect LSU to contain the Ole Miss running game as well as Tulane did.
The LSU coaching staff knows that there are deficiencies atypical of an LSU team in the secondary. They can’t sign a free agent in the middle of the season, but they can get the defensive line on the right track to help avoid making an inconsistent linebacker group and subpar secondary look worse. It all starts up front for the Tigers. They’ll have to start with the defensive line if there’s any chance of reviving the defense this season.