LSU vs. Ole Miss: 10 Things We Learned in Tigers' Loss
In a 27-24 loss to Ole Miss Saturday night, the LSU Tigers' hopes of winning a national championship were squandered.
It was an ugly sight early. Zach Mettenberger threw three interceptions in the first half, and the Tigers defense was on its heels for most of the night. Add in a full moon, and LSU fans should have known this was going to be an eerie night.
When the Tigers rely so heavily on the offense's production, it's obviously hard for LSU to overcome a shutout in the first two quarters.
Many lessons are learned in victory, but more are learned after a loss. Here are 10 things we learned from the Tigers' defeat.
A National Championship Is No Longer a Reality
Brace yourselves, Tigers fans—a national championship is not within reach this season.
After two losses, it's hard to make the case that LSU could reach the title game.
The reasons why are Alabama (favorable schedule), Oregon (best team out west), Florida State (may be the best team in America) and Ohio State (softer schedule than Alabama).
The field is too strong for a two-loss team to make it to a national title, so don't expect a repeat of 2007.
How Valuable Zach Mettenberger Is
If you had any doubts about Mettenberger being LSU's MVP before Saturday night, those went out of the window against Ole Miss.
Mettenberger was horrid in the first half. He forced throws, underthrew his receivers and was unaware of the location of the Ole Miss safeties at times. This led to three first-half interceptions.
Mettenberger came back strong, though, as he hit Odell Beckham on a crucial fourth-down conversion and Jarvis Landry on a game-tying score late in the fourth.
The comeback was too little too late, however. If LSU's best offensive weapon is ineffective for a full half, the Tigers are likely going to lose every single time.
The Tigers Offense Can Be Shutout
You have to go back eight seasons to find an LSU team that's been shutout in the first half.
Against Alabama in 2005, the Tigers were shutout (down 10-0 just like the 2013 squad was against Ole Miss) and came back to win 16-10.
The melodrama in Oxford didn't have as happy of an ending. Ole Miss, injured and all, played inspiring football to say the least.
The Rebels outgained LSU 525 to 388 in total offense, and because of the Tigers' slow start, they couldn't come away with a victory.
Jalen Mills Is a Sack Machine
Jalen Mills is reaping the benefits of a position change.
After three games of playing the nickelback position, Mills has three sacks in two games for the Tigers defense.
Mills is a physical defensive back who isn't afraid to bite down on his mouthpiece and meet opposing backs in a head-on collision. He also isn't afraid of shoving players late for a personal foul call.
Personal foul and all, Mills played perhaps his best game of 2013, giving LSU a dynamic pass-rusher off of the edge.
Kenny Hilliard Looks Back to Form
Kenny Hilliard looked like the old Kenny Hilliard Saturday night.
Unlike the past year and a half, Hilliard was running through tackles and showing great balance as he weaved his way through defenders.
It was reminiscent to the 2011 season, where Hilliard burst onto the scene and was the Tigers' most explosive back.
He finished the game with 58 rushing yards and a touchdown, and if Hilliard continues to produce like that, he'll be a great spell back for Jeremy Hill.
D.J. Welter Is a Ghost
I've been patient with D.J. Welter this season.
He's quietly racked up tackles at the middle linebacker position, but he is not having a dramatic impact on the game—not like Kevin Minter did a year ago.
Is it fair to compare him to Minter? Probably not, but he hasn't played at the level that fans expect middle linebackers at LSU to play at.
Lamar Louis came in late in the game and made two huge back-to-back plays that set up a 3rd-and-long for the Rebels. I'm not saying Louis is the answer for the defense, but perhaps his explosiveness and ability to change direction is needed.
Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Are Clutch
You can't blame the loss on the dynamic duo.
Beckham and Landry made critical plays to keep LSU in the ballgame, and every time Ole Miss ceased momentum, one of the Tigers' big playmakers on the outside tilted the momentum back in LSU's favor.
Neither player had a drop in the fourth quarter, and until the clock struck zero, Beckham and Landry were fighting valiantly and making plays.
The great ones are clutch when it matters most, and this season, Landry and Beckham have been just that.
LSU's Communication on the Offensive Line Must Improve
Too many times in this game, Ole Miss defenders came through the line unaccounted for.
Because of a schemed defense (a twist for example), the Rebels were able to rush four at times and still get pressure on Mettenberger.
That simply can't happen, especially when LSU's offensive line is supposed to be one of the better lines in the league.
The line must communicate better in future contests, so it can make adjustments at the line and account for every player stunting and rushing.
The Tigers Have No Depth on the Defensive Line
You can credit a lot of things for LSU's lackluster defensive performance.
Well, the one glaring note is LSU's inability to substitute defensive linemen in the game who can impact the game like the starters.
LSU can't even put players in who resemble the same type of play as Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson.
It was glaringly obvious late in the game, as both players grew tired and had to remain in the ballgame. Just about every time Christian LaCouture came in, Ole Miss pounded the rock with Jaylen Walton, who finished the game with 106 rushing yards. It's a young defense, and LSU has showed its youth in 2013.
Never Overestimate Your Opponent
I'm as guilty as anybody.
The media, the fans and the LSU football team all overlooked the Rebels. Ole Miss had three losses entering the contest, and after everyone got their hands on an injury report, we all chalked this game up as a victory in unison.
This is the SEC, and this is LSU vs. Ole Miss, a rivalry that always produces thrilling games. Ole Miss brought it, and LSU didn't. LSU's hopes of winning a championship are now gone as a result.