AUBURN, Ala . — The LSU Tigers need a hug. And some quick-drying cement. And a fire extinguisher.
The smell in the air over the so-called loveliest village on the plain wasn’t corndogs. (Sorry, Katy Perry.) It wasn’t even from a four-alarm gymnasium blaze next to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
It was from the conflagration that appeared to consume any tattered remnants of hope the LSU Tigers had about their season.
A 41-7 loss to Auburn was for LSU a humbling, demoralizing hot mess, but ultimately perhaps necessary. This was always going to be a rebuilding season for the Tigers. Better to go ahead and gut everything down to the foundation and start anew.
Starting with Oregon’s upset loss Thursday to Arizona, this was a weekend of titanic upset explosions all across the college football landscape.
Here in Auburn there was also a KABOOM! But it was more implosion for LSU, like a purple-and-gold building being torn down to make way for a proposed Auburn expressway to the College Football Playoff.
As far as LSU’s hopes of reaching the CFP? Well, the Tigers simply can’t get there from here.
The Tigers had so many deficiencies exposed in what amounted to a high-definition autopsy on national TV that it was truly shocking. Things can change rapidly from year to year — no better proof of that than Auburn in 2013.
But right now Auburn looks like a vanishing point on the horizon, while LSU is parked on the shoulder with the hood up.
Les Miles talks constantly about trying to be successful in all three phases: offense, defense and special teams. Saturday, LSU failed, or rather was trampled, in all those phases.
And add another area: coaching.
We’ll start with the quarterback position. Everyone knew true freshman Brandon Harris, the kid with the braces on his teeth who was asked to take a bite out of a man-sized job, would make his mistakes.
But aside from one great running 52-yard throw to Malachi Dupre to set up LSU’s only touchdown and a great scrambling run to the Auburn 25 to set up nothing (more on that later), Harris looked like a drowning man. He sailed passes high, ran the wrong way and was so overwhelmed that he was replaced by the man he replaced, Anthony Jennings.
If there is a shred of optimism for LSU in this shattered mirror of a game, it’s that Jennings showed a lot of heart after being benched last week following the disaster that was his first quarter against New Mexico State. His passes were more accurate, and he didn’t have the deer-in-the-headlights look we saw in Tiger Stadium.
But his administration of the LSU offense didn’t lead to any points, either.
Now LSU has two quarterbacks with dented confidence. It looks like LSU is stuck with a two-quarterback system this year and zero prospects in the alternatives department.
Were quarterback LSU’s biggest problem. That gold medal goes to the defense.
Again, you knew LSU would have problems up the middle after defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson left for the NFL, joining a conga line of other early entries into the draft.
But there’s soft, and then there’s quick sand.
LSU’s defense is cream cheese up the middle. Auburn had 247 total yards after the first quarter, putting those Tigers on pace to land on the moon by Tuesday. LSU surrendered 566 total yards in all (298 rushing) and tied the score of the 1999 game that was LSU’s most lopsided loss in this series.
When LSU’s performance starts drawing comparisons to the end of the Gerry DiNardo era, it’s time to put up a large neon sign on the roof of the LSU football complex that says, “THIS IS A HUGE CRISIS!!!”
The quarterbacks have a chance to grow and improve. This defense may not be getting any better. Just like there were calls for LSU to replace Jennings with Harris at quarterback, there were pleas for LSU to sub out D.J. Welter at middle linebacker for Kendell Beckwith.
Things didn’t improve. Auburn just let off the gas.
Special teams? Meh, nothing special, though LSU didn’t let Quan Bray run wild on punt returns.
In the coaching department, LSU coach Les Miles was seen gripping a play chart on the sideline, and if he wasn’t actually calling the plays, he was certainly setting the tone. LSU doesn’t have the defense to play safe with the offense, but Miles didn’t get the memo, going with the ultra-conservative attack that looks as modern as a 1957 Chevy Impala right now.
Seventeen of LSU’s first 20 plays were runs. Then there’s the clock-management gaffe at the end of the first half, when Harris scrambled to the Auburn 25 with 10 seconds left. LSU had a timeout but didn’t call it. When Harris’ pass in the end zone was batted away from Travin Dural, the clock ran out.
Timeout. Pass. Try a field goal if you have to. This writer has taken up for Miles as much as anyone over the years, but these issues have never gotten better.
Now LSU goes to Florida, which looks like a pillow fight of two fallen empires seeking better days.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.