They finished 0-for-13.
LSU failed to convert all 13 of its third downs in Saturday’s 41-7 loss at Auburn, a dreadful number that has players frustrated and fans miserable.
The Tigers (4-2, 0-2 Southeastern) travel to Florida (3-1, 2-1) for a Saturday night meeting having converted less than 20 percent of their third downs against major conference teams.
LSU has failed to convert its past 17 third downs against SEC teams, dating to its loss to Mississippi State on Sept. 20. And all of this comes a year removed from the Tigers posting a 57 percent conversion rate, best in the nation.
So what’s the problem this year — outside of missing their quarterback, top two receivers and top running back from a year ago?
Missed assignments, at least one player said.
“Just some things we’ve got to work on as individuals and as a team as well,” receiver John Diarse said. “Third down is the money down, we say in the receiver room. Just got to get better and have less and less (missed assignments).”
Against Auburn, LSU’s third-down woes started early. The Tigers went three-and-out in their first three series. In each of those drives, LSU crumbled on second down, setting up a less-manageable third.
On a second-and-4, freshman quarterback Brandon Harris fumbled the snap from senior Elliott Porter. On a second-and-2, Harris threw an incomplete pass. And on a second-and-1, the QB appeared to run the wrong way and lost 3 yards.
“Not being able to convert a third down is frustrating, being how we put in so much work,” receiver Travin Dural said.
LSU coach Les Miles suggested earlier this week that the offense’s woes in that game hurt a defense that grew tired. Linebacker Lamar Louis echoed that.
LSU’s defense allowed scores on its first four possessions against Auburn.
“We got to get off the field. Our offense had trouble sustaining drives early,” Louis said. “We were off the field, right back on, off the field, right back on. You’re going to have guys going to be winded who could be, very well, in position to make the play. I think that had a lot to do with it.”
LSU’s quarterback situation continues to be a fluid situation, but sophomore Anthony Jennings and Harris continue to stay positive, their teammates have said.
“I believe their confidence is still high,” right tackle Jerald Hawkins said. “Got to make sure you don’t go into a slump and just take it. Haven’t seen that from them two in practice.”
It’s unclear who will start Saturday’s game, but both are likely to play. Each quarterback has replaced the other in a game, and both have had impressive spurts followed by head-shaking woes.
That has led to a hit-or-miss passing game. LSU is 78th nationally averaging 220 yards passing per game. Among teams that have played six games, just two teams have attempted fewer passes than LSU.
“Passing game has to take a step up. We’ve got to be better than we were the last few weeks,” Dural said. “At times you get a little mad because things aren’t going right. We knew coming into this season that teams weren’t going to respect our passing game, and we knew it was going to be some rough times, being that we had young quarterbacks and most of our first time starting.”
Saturday’s game marks the 61st meeting between LSU and Florida in a series that dates to 1937. The Gators lead the series 31-26-3, though the Tigers hold a 5-4 edge under Miles since 2005.
Florida leads 15-11-3 in games played in Gainesville, including a 14-6 victory in 2012. LSU’s last win at The Swamp came 33-29 in 2010.
Trying to avoid 0-3
The Tigers haven’t started SEC play since 1999, when they lost their first seven conference games before beating Arkansas in the regular-season finale.
That season was also the last time LSU suffered as large of a margin of defeat as it did last week — both 41-7 scores against Auburn.
The Tigers have five players from Florida: defensive tackle Maquedius Bain (Fort Lauderdale), safety John Battle (Hallandale), wide receiver Avery Peterson and cornerback Rashard Robinson (Pompano Beach) and defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (Hialeah).
The Gators have one Louisiana native: defensive end Gerald Willis of Edna Karr.
LSU leads the SEC in punting with a net average of 43.4 yards. Jamie Keehn is averaging 45.7 yards per boot, and he leads the SEC in punts inside the 20 (14) and punts of 50 yards or more (12). … This is LSU’s first game as an unranked team in The Associated Press poll since Nov. 28, 2008, when the Tigers dropped a 31-30 decision at Arkansas. LSU has played 124 of 126 games under Miles ranked in the Top 25.