LSU football's loss proves rebuild under Brian Kelly may go longer than anticipated
The Tigers (0-1) fell in their season opener to Florida State (2-0) at the Caesars Superdome on Sunday night in New Orleans, 24-23. LSU drove 99 yards down the field in the final 1:20 and scored what appeared to be the game-tying touchdown to force overtime, only for Damian Ramos' extra point to get blocked on the final snap of the game.
It was an excruciating way to lose, particularly after all of the special teams miscues LSU had already committed. Malik Nabers muffed two punts, including one with 2:25 left in the fourth quarter. Ramos had a field goal blocked in the second quarter and punter Jay Bramblett shanked his second kick in the second half.
"I've been doing this a long time. You put a guy back there and a guy like Malik Nabers and you watch him and you evaluate him through four weeks of practice. And you feel comfortable with his elite skill set and his mindset that he'll be able to do a great job and that wasn't the case," Kelly said. "That was a mistake that we made."
Few expected LSU's first game under Kelly to go perfectly smooth. The Tigers added 16 players from the transfer portal and changed all but one member of the coaching staff.
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Building chemistry and continuity would take time.
But many of the mistakes LSU made were beyond reasons that had to do with unfamiliarity, like the special teams errors. And in the areas of the game where it was, the Tigers were further behind than anticipated.
It was no secret that LSU's offensive line was a potential weakness. But against the Seminoles, the Tigers were out-manned and out-classed in the first half. They were consistently miffed by stunts and late blitzes to the point where it was a surprise that their heads were still on straight by the game's end.
Quarterback Jayden Daniels was consistently on the run, rushing for 114 yards. There were times when the transfer didn't need to scramble but most of his dashes were the result of LSU's poor line play. And with Daniels running around constantly, it stilted any chemistry that still needed to be built with his receivers.
"They showed different things that they didn't show on tape," Daniels said. "Kudos to their defensive coordinator for switching up the game plan."
Daniels' protection improved in the second half, once the Seminoles' pass rush slowed down as the game wore on. But relying on Alabama, Texas A&M or any of the other uber-talented pass rushers the Tigers will face this season in the SEC to wear down at the end of games isn't a recipe for success.
Defensively, it wasn't as ugly but the Tigers weren't perfect either. They failed to get off the field on third down, allowing the Seminoles to convert 11-of-17 opportunities and looked vulnerable in the middle of the field. The unit didn't break much but bent a lot, missing tackles and not forcing enough negative plays – they only had four tackles for loss.
"There's a lot of things we've got to go clean up," safety Major Burns said. "I have to go see film to see particularly what it was."
Nobody expected LSU's rebuild to be completed in one offseason. And perhaps LSU fans and the nation are overreacting to one game in September.
But if the ugliness that unfolded on Sunday revealed anything, it's that Kelly's first title contender at LSU won't be built in a day.
Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.