Tigers’ offense left picking up pieces after loss

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 30, 2005

BATON ROUGE &045; The only good thing about LSU’s 30-27 loss to Tennessee Monday night is that the Tigers only have four days until they can wash the taste out of their mouths.

How the team graded out:

Offense: D

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Of the offense’s two touchdowns, one was set up by the defense and the other was the product of sheer athleticism, a spectacular 47-yard catch and run that started with quarterback Ja’Marcus Russell breaking out of a defender’s arms and ended with Craig Davis dancing down the sideline and diving to the 2-yard line.

Other than that, it was wasted opportunities and miscues. A poor decision by Russell not to throw the ball away with time running down before halftime cost the Tigers an easy field goal and his pass into triple coverage deep in Tiger territory in the fourth quarter set Tennessee up for an easy touchdown to bring them to 24-21.

Russell, who finished 14 of 28 for 156 yards, and Joseph Addai each lost one fumble.

LSU gained just three first downs in the second half &045; none in the fourth quarter.

Joseph Addai rushed for 84 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown, accounting for 41 of the team’s 56 second-half yards.

Upon reflection:

&uot;I wasn’t thinking about trying to get out of bounds, I was just trying to make something happen.&uot; &045; Ja’Marcus Russell

Defense: C-

Hey, they scored a touchdown and set up another with a forced fumble on Tennessee’s first possession. Yes, they gave up 24 points in the second half, but they were on the field for most of it thanks to an offense that froze up after halftime. The defense bent in the second half but never broke.

They forced the Vols to eat up a lot of time on their scoring drives &045; the 9:35 mark of the fourth saw LSU leading 24-14 &045; but the offense gave the ball right back at the LSU 2, and the tide had turned. Penalties hurt and there are major holes in the secondary &045; several dropped passes were the only reason for the first-half shutout &045; but if they’d gotten any help from their offense, it wouldn’t have been an issue.

Upon reflection:

&uot;We came out and got after them. We shut them down in the first half, but there are two halves.&uot; &045; DT Kyle Williams

Special teams: A

The lone bright spot for the Tigers. Skler Green was very effective returning punts, his 18-yard per average didn’t include a 32-yard effort called back because of a penalty, the only negative on the night for the unit. The kickers were perfect on PATs and field goals and punter Chris Jackson averaged 39 yards on the night.

Upon reflection:

&uot;It’s tough, things got turned around on us, just like we did to Arizona (State).&uot;

&045; Skyler Green

Coaching: D

Les Miles got a rude introduction to the SEC. After failing to put the Vols away before halftime, the coaching staff didn’t make the adjustments defensively to combat Tennessee’s short passing attack.

The play calling got hyper-conservative after halftime, eliciting the first boos of the Miles era.

The collapse brought to mind the Miles-coached Okalahoma State Cowboys’ defeat from the jaws of victory 56-35 loss to Texas, a game the Cowboys led 35-7 at the half.

Upon reflection:

&uot;When you’re into your second game, you wish you would have played with the ability to finish, and we didn’t. That’s why we lost the game&uot; &045; Miles.

Redemption: It’s been quite a week for quarterback Rick Clausen. After getting benched earlier in the week, Tennessee senior said he didn’t take the demotion well.

&uot;There was a point where I didn’t want to be there anymore, I didn’t want to go through it again,&uot; he said.

After a disappointing two years at LSU, lowlighted by a forgettable start against Mississippi, Clausen transferred to Tennessee. The lefthander was named MVP of the 2005 Cotton Bowl but struggled in the Volunteers’ first two games before being benched in favor of sophomore Eric Ainge.

After going 21 – of – 32 for 196 yards in relief, he credited his family and teammates for helping him keep his spirits up.

&uot;Those are the guys who kept me going and their faith in me and I will always be indebted to those guys,&uot; he said.

Sweat it out: With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, it was the Bengal Tigers who couldn’t handle the heat and humidity of Baton Rouge in September. While cramps were dropping Tigers like flies, Tennessee remained fresh. Tennessee coaches credited their strength and conditioning coach as well as the decision to have the players stay in a hotel over the weekend in Knoxville.