“Don’t do that. Don’t give me hope.”
Jeremy Renner’s soft delivery of one of the most compelling Marvel Cinematic Universe lines has me now feeling the same way about the Tigers, as we have one “scheduled” game remaining this season.
The Tigers, sitting at 5-6 after their win over Monroe, do still have a chance at a bowl game if they can find a way to upset Texas A&M this upcoming Thanksgiving weekend.
Max Johnson’s offense was up 10 points midway through the third quarter when he stared down a 4th and 3 from UL-Monroe’s 14-yard line.
LSU fans, however, might want to avoid being thankful for this. Sure, if they win against A&M, they can be selected, giving them the chance to finish both Ed Orgeron’s tenure with a win, this season over .500, and another bowl win for the program.
However, this gives Orgeron another opportunity to have Tiger fans questioning his decisions, as there were many to point at against ULM.
This game should have been a lot closer than it was, as two drives for Monroe ended within two yards of the goal line. Both drives in question were extended due to costly penalties by the Tigers, as they gave up three first downs due to them.
This “bend, but don’t break” mentality may have gotten them past ULM; however, opportunities like that are not going to be wasted against a greater opponent like Texas A&M.
LSU was favored by 29 points in this game, and managed to walk away winning by 13. Texas A&M, on the other hand, easily covered the spread of 41.5 points, knocking aside Prairie View 52-3.
In their four non-conference games this year, the Aggies outscored opponents 237-20, winning all four games. LSU went 3-1 out of conference, losing to UCLA 38-27 to start the season, but collectively outscored opponents 137-80, a much tighter margin.
One call that was reflected on during the postgame press conference was the decision to attempt a fake punt on their own 39-yard line. On the play Punter Avery Atkins took the snap and threw towards the Monroe sideline attempting to connect with Jontre Kirklin.
Instead, Kirklin slipped coming out of his break, and the pass was easily intercepted by Monroe’s Josh Newton and returned to the LSU 28-yard line. A negative 11-yard play for the Tigers, and two plays later ULM had their first score of the game.
“We were going to throw the ball to Jontre [Kirklin]. It was forth and three and ULM’s cornerback played off. All we had to do was catch the ball and throw it four yards. He would’ve been wide open, but Jontre [Kirklin] slipped. It was wide open,” Orgeron said postgame.
Even in his explanation of the play, Orgeron was off. Had Kirklin not slipped, the play could have been there, a likely 7-yard reception good enough for a first-down. However, where the throw ended up, 11 yards off the line of scrimmage, says there was miscommunication even on the play.
Kirklin was breaking in his route, likely to curl back for the reception. If that was the mark, like Orgeron says it was, the ball should have been thrown short and incomplete.
This play is one of many marred by miscommunication this season.
Being up by 10 points halfway through the third quarter would have most coaches desiring more points even if they were field goals. Instead of taking the points, Orgeron decided to go for it on 4th and 3 at the ULM 14-yard line. This would have been PAT distance for Cade York, who is a perfect 33-33 this season on point-after attempts. Easy points.
Alas, Orgeron did not go this route and opted for it all. Max Johnson fumbled the shotgun snap and, replay review confirmed, regained control of the ball while his knee was down.
Reflecting on this, Orgeron felt that a two-score lead would not be sufficient at this point in the game. Mind you, the Tigers had only given up 130 yards of total offense at this point, and the seven points were a result of a short field.
The aggressive nature of play calling was reminiscent of the Alabama game a few weeks ago. The Tigers had to pull plays like these off to have a chance of beating Nick Saban. That game ended up closer than most were expecting, but like most games this season Orgeron has not lived up to his competition.
ULM is not the same level competition as Alabama, and giving them an opportunity to gain momentum with careless mistakes as those on display Saturday night was reckless to say the least.
The Tigers got the win, and that’s the positive that can be taken from the game. Everyone stressed the importance of the next game on the schedule, but none looked to be ready for the challenge that the Aggie’s present.