This is a weekly tradition for Will Clapp and KJ Malone.
Each Sunday LSU’s two veteran offensive linemen watch film together in complete silence at the football operations center.
“Honestly, win or loss, me and KJ don’t say a word. I normally just run the film,” Clapp said. “If he has a question, he’ll ask me and then I’ll answer it. And then back to silence. That’s how me and KJ roll on Sunday morning.”
The two players weren’t the only ones at the football building last Sunday, a day after the 37-7 loss at Mississippi State. Teammates were spread throughout the sprawling, two-story building off of Skip Bertman Drive.
Inside linebacker Devin White arrived at 10 a.m. and spent time in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s office – down the hall from Clapp and Malone – rewatching LSU’s worst defensive performance under Aranda’s leadership.
Quarterback Danny Etling and the Tigers receivers were in another room, reliving one struggling offensive series after another – many of them hampered by some of the nine penalties the team committed.
“We all knew what it was,” Clapp said in summation. “We shot ourselves in the foot the whole time and State played a hell of a game.”
Sunday and Monday at LSU weren’t necessarily about the next opponent – the 25th-ranked Tigers (2-1) meet Syracuse (2-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium. It was about the last one – the Bulldogs smothered LSU for their biggest win in the 111-game series.
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An off day for players, Sunday became a work day – a voluntary one.
Many of them rewatched the game, identified the problems and began, they hoped, to fix them during practice and meetings Monday. Coach Ed Orgeron said Monday that he believed the outcome in Starkville, Mississippi, will be a turning point – at least, he said, “it better be.”
“This is a day off,” Orgeron said of Sunday, “but there were a lot of guys. Not with the coaches, on their own, doing a lot of things yesterday. I think those guys are … they're very focused and detailed on what they want to get accomplished. They were very disappointed in the way we played.”
What’d the tape show? A lot of miscues on both side of the ball, players say.
Of all the missteps, the most stunning came on defense, a unit that entered the game against Mississippi State having allowed one touchdown in the previous three games combined. The Bulldogs scored four Saturday.
State became the first team to score three touchdowns on an Aranda-led LSU defense in the first three quarters of a game. No squad had accomplished such a feat in Aranda’s first 14 games running that unit.
That didn’t sit well with the mild-mannered, soft-spoken coordinator.
“He was furious,” White said. “You could tell … he didn’t like that. He’s got a standard for himself, and we didn’t meet that standard Saturday. He puts some on himself, but at the end of the day, he draws it up and we have to play. He’s going to come with a different approach this week and he’s probably going to be 10 times better with different stuff.”
The defensive woes Saturday might be easier to explain than those offensive problems. Orgeron, White and cornerback Donte Jackson shed light Monday on the issues from a unit that rotates and starts as many as seven true or redshirt freshmen.
They explained why LSU failed to contain the outside rush and allowed two long touchdown scores to wide open receivers. The Bulldogs gained 177 of their first 239 rushing yards outside of the tackles, averaging nearly 9 yards a carry on outside runs.
“We let too many runs get outside of us,” Orgeron said.
Why? White says the answer is two-fold: Players did not use proper technique in avoiding edge blocks – “We didn’t set the edge strong enough,” he says – and they failed in a concept he called “eye discipline.” Defenders, especially safeties and linebackers, must watch certain offensive players – White calls them “keys – to determine the play’s destination.
That didn’t happen Saturday, for whatever reason.
“(Aranda) gives you keys within his defense,” White said. “If you don’t follow your key, it’s a big bust. Everybody has to be locked in and on the same page.”
The same goes for the secondary, Orgeron said.
Several big pass plays, including State’s 45-yard and 20-yard touchdown passes, were because defensive backs were peering into the backfield, foiled by a play-action from a dual-threat quarterback. While in man coverage, safeties and cornerbacks bit on State QB Nick Fitzgerald’s play fakes.
Their men were left free and open in the end zone.
“You've (got to) keep your eye on your man until he blocks,” Orgeron said.
It’s not an easy thing, says Jackson. The Tigers were losing by wide margins during those touchdown passes.
“When you’re down, you just want to get in there. You’re so frustrated,” he said. “You want to make somebody feel you, put your pad on somebody.”
The defense is only half the game, of course.
Offensive mistakes took place in all three phases: offensive line, backfield and receiver. The line allowed nine QB pressures, Orgeron said. When given time, Etling sometimes threw wild of receivers and tossed too many passes out of bounds, the quarterback admitted Monday.
Wideouts had what Orgeron called three “critical” drops, and they struggled in getting open against man-to-man coverage – a bugaboo from years past.
“It’s, again, 11 guys,” Etling said. “Could be a receiver running a wrong route causing miscommunication so then I’m having to scramble and we had a good pocket. When you look at it as a collective group, there would be spurts of one group would do something well but the other one wouldn’t do their job. Offensive line would protect, but I made a wrong read.
“We couldn’t get it all together at the same time like we wanted to,” he said. “We had a good plan, but shot ourselves in the foot.”
Welcome to Film Room, our weekly analysis of LSU’s last football game.
NOT SO DEFENSIVE
LSU’s defense allowed three touchdowns in the first three quarters of Saturday’s game at Mississippi State, the most against a Dave Aranda-led Tigers defense through the first three-fourths of a game. In his first 14 games as coordinator, Aranda’s unit gave up no more than two TDs in the first three quarters of games.
In first three quarters, scored…
BYU (2017), Chattanooga (2017), Louisville (2016), Alabama (2016), Missouri (2016), Auburn (2016), Mississippi State (2016)
Florida (2016), Arkansas (2016), Southern Miss (2016), JacksonvilleState (2016), Wisconsin (2016)
Ole Miss (2016), Texas A&M (2016)
Mississippi State (2017)
LSU’s defensive averages under Aranda plummeted after what the Bulldogs did.
Yards a game
First downs a game
Rush yards a carry
Third down conversions
First 14 games