LSU’s loss to Mississippi State on Saturday night was stunning for many reasons.
One of them: It came so early.
The Tigers (3-1) haven’t lost a game this early in the season since 2006. Many freshmen on this team were 10 years old when coach Les Miles’ bunch last tasted defeat so soon.
So, how will they respond?
“We’re not just going to lay down,” fullback Connor Neighbors said. “I don’t think anybody in that locker room is going to lay down. I’m sure as hell not.”
Miles said he’s confident his team will fight back, but he has suggested changes might be needed heading into Saturday night’s game against New Mexico State (2-2).
Defensive end Tashawn Bower echoed that this week, saying changes are being made, but Miles and the players aren’t saying what positions and who will be affected.
“I definitely think they’ll be some changes,” Bower said. “Not sure on what side of the ball or whatever, but I think there’s going to be some changes. Maybe people getting more playing time.”
Miles said earlier this week that sophomore middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith and freshman quarterback Brandon Harris will get more playing time. He said coaches have “reviewed” all areas of trouble in the 34-29 loss to Mississippi State. That includes having the correct personnel on the field and communicating play calls to the field more effectively.
Defensive players said there were breakdowns in communication against the Bulldogs.
“Communication is key in whatever you do,” said Bower, a backup defensive end who saw a lot of playing time last week. “If we communicate better, get some calls in, get correct alignment, I think we do a lot better, and (Saturday’s loss) becomes a little bit different or a little bit more interesting. ...
“I think it was a lot to do with calls getting in late or linebackers and D-line not communicating the calls. We’re all taught to look at the call and look at the signal, so that’s on everybody.”
Moving past the loss started early, running back Terrence Magee said.
“I think it spoke volumes of how we fought all the way until the end the other night,” he said. “So it was good just to come out and practice (Monday) and put this loss behind us and see guys with a smile on their face. To be able to get out here and practice ... made everybody feel good. I feel like the morale of the team is good, and we’re ready to come away with another victory.”
Pepping up Jennings
Quarterback Anthony Jennings “took the loss hard,” receiver Travin Dural said. Dural approached Jennings after the game in an attempt to pep him up.
“I tried to tell him, ‘It’s a team thing,’ ” Dural said. “Everybody’s going to look at the quarterback and say it’s the quarterback’s fault. I try to let him know that it’s not all his fault. Everyone did things wrong. I made mistakes, running backs made mistakes, line made mistakes.”
Jennings was 13-of-26 for 157 yards and was sacked three times. On at least six of his incompletions, he missed an open receiver.
LSU plays its final nonconference game of the season Saturday — the fifth week of the season.
“That’s just how the schedule worked out,” said associate athletic director Verge Ausberry, who with Athletic Director Joe Alleva handles football scheduling.
The Tigers do not have their customary October nonconference game for homecoming; instead, LSU hosts Ole Miss for homecoming Oct. 25. That’s just the second time since 1995 the school has a Southeastern Conference opponent for homecoming; the Tigers beat Mississippi State 37-17 in 2012.
The Tigers’ Thanksgiving night game this year at Texas A&M is partly to blame for the unique schedule, Ausberry said. LSU wanted an open date before that game and before the Nov. 8 meeting with Alabama.
This is the second game between LSU and New Mexico State; the Tigers won 63-7 in 1996. … LSU has the nation’s longest nonconference regular-season winning streak at 48. The last time LSU dropped a nonconference regular-season game was in 2002, when the Tigers fell to Virginia Tech in the season opener. … LSU is 23-1 under Miles following a loss, and the Tigers haven’t lost back-to-back games since 2008 (Ole Miss and Arkansas). LSU has not lost consecutive games in Tiger Stadium under Miles.