On Monday at LSU’s football operations building, the players will gather for a weekly tradition: rewatching the previous game.
It’s a day interim coach Ed Orgeron has dubbed “Tell the Truth Monday.” So what’s the truth of LSU's 10-0 loss to top-ranked Alabama from Saturday night in Tiger Stadium?
“The truth is they didn’t do anything special,” LSU defensive end Lewis Neal said. “We've just got to execute better in certain spots.”
“We’ve got to own the mistakes,” LSU fullback J.D. Moore said. "If we try to hide them or shield them, they will just be haunting us the rest of the season. They’ll hurt for a little bit. It will hurt to watch this film.”
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Potentially more painful is what lies ahead: an Arkansas team that trounced Florida 31-10 on Saturday, has bashed LSU the past two seasons and gets home-field advantage in a night game expected to be played in chilly conditions.
The No. 19 Tigers (5-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) visit the Razorbacks (6-3, 2-3) at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN. Just like when it faced Alabama, Orgeron’s group now meets another physical squad that has a winning streak going against the Tigers.
Arkansas has outscored LSU 48-14 in back-to-back routs, asserting dominance where LSU normally thrives: at the line of scrimmage. LSU managed a combined 95 rushing yards in those losses — 31-14 last year and 17-0 in 2014 — and the Razorbacks rolled up nine sacks.
Each loss came a week after an emotionally draining and physically exhausting loss to the Crimson Tide; call it the Alabama hangover. The players are well aware that it exists, and they’re determined to stop it.
“It’s definitely not going to happen again,” guard Will Clapp said. “We have 'Tell the Truth Monday.' We’ll get over it, look at the film, learn from it and we’ll drop it.”
Alabama still has LSU’s number.
What they’ll see on film is an offensive line that struggled to open holes and pass protect against the nation’s best defensive front; a quarterback who misfired a handful of times; and a star running back stuffed for a second straight season.
They’ll also see a defense that swarmed to the ball, that pressured a rookie quarterback and that kept the Tide 33 points and 175 yards below its season average.
In a mellow postgame news conference, the one-word explanation for LSU's first home shutout since 2002 was "execution." Offensively, the players and Orgeron said, LSU did not execute. It had nothing to do with the five-star talent on the other sideline, they claimed.
“It was all about LSU tonight,” Orgeron said. “It wasn’t about anybody else. It was about execution.”
Bama did “nothing we didn’t expect,” Clapp said. “More of what we didn’t do.”
“We’ve just got to execute,” center Ethan Pocic said.
“I will say this …” Pocic added, before stopping and reverting to the theme. “Got to execute. Got to execute against those guys. Got to be on the same page.”
ArDarius Stewart took a reverse handoff and looked like he would run for a mile. But LSU’s J…
There were obvious miscommunication and substitution problems — especially in the second half, when the Tigers burned two timeouts just 9 minutes into the third quarter. Orgeron said his offensive line was “out of sync” and “struggled” with protection calls. It was beaten in some “big one-on-one” battles, he said, against a Bama front that’s one of the more athletic and talented in college football.
Danny Etling was pressured on more than half of his dropbacks, and Leonard Fournette rarely reached the line of scrimmage without being hit in the backfield first.
“They did a good job getting pressure on us,” Etling said. “We had guys who were open, and sometimes we didn’t get a chance to get them and that, again, comes down to some miscommunication between us as an offense. And that’s something we’re going to get fixed.”
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The Hogs await in what’s expected to be a lively, cold environment at Razorback Stadium. Saturday night's projected low is 37 degrees. LSU faced that same scenario two years ago — a cold and rowdy night game in northwest Arkansas — and left with a 17-0 loss.
The Tigers finished with 123 yards in that game; Fournette, then a freshman, ran for 9 yards on five carries. Through Fournette’s first two seasons, no team that he faced twice stopped him like Arkansas did: He had a combined 100 yards in the pair of losses.
Fournette did not join the six players who spoke to reporters after Saturday’s loss.
“It’s definitely going to be a rough night for him,” Clapp said Saturday when asked about Fournette. “We thought we had a great game plan. Our offensive line, we need to open up holes and execute better. We’re going to put this one on us.”
Arkansas has outscored LSU 48-14 in the past two years. Both meetings came the week after losses to Alabama. Some of LSU’s cumulative stats from those defeats, 17-0 in 2014 and 31-14 last year:
In Leonard Fournette’s first two seasons at LSU, no team that he faced twice stopped him like Arkansas did: