GREEN BAY, Wis. — With all offseason to prepare for the Wisconsin defense, the LSU offensive line struggled Saturday.
It was downright abysmal at some points of the game as the Tigers dropped their season opener 16-14 at historic Lambeau Field.
The Tigers returned three players who started last season on the line — center Ethan Pocic, left guard Will Clapp and guard/tackle Maea Teuhema — along with right guard Josh Boutte, who earned some playing time. The Tigers lost just right tackle Vadal Alexander and left tackle Jerald Hawkins, who both were selected in the NFL draft.
On Saturday against Wisconsin, Pocic, Clapp and Boutte played their customary positions, and tackles Toby Weathersby on the right side and K.J. Malone on the left side were plugged into the starting lineup. The two new bookends to the line had a combined one start — Weathersby started one game last season — coming into the game.
Teuhema, who is returning from an ankle injury and started 11 games last season, had to be thrust into game at both tackle positions on at least four series because of the shaky line play. He played left guard last season as a freshman. Clapp has also been fighting injuries, having undergone hip surgery in April and was in a walking boot Friday with a minor foot issue.
“At times, we executed, but at the same time you know there were spots here and there where we weren’t on the same page,” said Pocic, a three-year starter. “It was all stuff we’ve seen in practice, and we’ve just got to get back to it and come back out on Monday and keep working. We’ve just got to execute, plain and simple.”
The Tigers had a rough first half, tallying just 64 total yards — Heisman Trohpy candidate Leonard Fournette rushed for 35 of those yards — and no points. LSU ran just 21 plays and held the ball for 8 minutes, 8 seconds.
Quarterback Brandon Harris was sacked twice but had to hurry passes all game long.
LSU coach Les Miles said he needed to watch the game film to evaluate his offensive line’s performance.
“I really have to see the film, because it seems to me that there were some guys that were not necessarily blocked,” Miles said. “I know that some guys had a heck of a day and blocked extremely well. I’ll have to see how it goes.”
When asked about who is best five linemen are, Miles reiterated he was “going to have to see the film.” When the coach watches the offensive lineman’s play, he might not be overly pleased.
Behind the Tigers’ offensive lineman, Fournette finished the game with 23 carries for 123 yards. When LSU and Wisconsin squared off in 2014 in Houston, Fournette rushed for just 18 yards in his first collegiate game.
The Badgers had a strong defense in 2014; but this season, Wisconsin was returning seven starters on defense. So it is a defense with experience.
“I think they played really quality defense,” Miles said. “And, again, I think they have really good concepts and I think they’re a very strong defense.”
LSU defensive end Lewis Neal watched his team’s offense from the sideline and knows the team not just the offense has to improve before next week’s game against Jacksonville State.
“It’s football, so we’ve just got to execute in all phases,” Neal said. “I don’t want to point any fingers, because we’ve got to execute offense. Everybody’s got to do their job, and that’s how we come out with the win.”