Cornerback Rashard Robinson dropped to his knees and dipped his head toward Pat Dye Field.
He was shocked.
Most of LSU’s defenders are these days.
Receiver Sammie Coates’ 56-yard touchdown catch against Robinson on Saturday night was another baffling play from this unit halfway through the 2014 season.
It’s one of the less severe. Robinson had step-for-step coverage, but his deflection attempt failed, and Coates made a crowd-rousing catch in LSU’s 41-7 loss.
“I was shocked, really,” Robinson said.
Two days after the program’s worst defeat in 15 years, a handful of players admitted their surprise at a season that started in such shocking fashion, especially defensively.
LSU is 4-2, the worst start in eight years, is 0-2 in the Southeastern Conference, the worst start in 13 years, and is giving up chunks of yards like never before.
Heading into Saturday night’s game at Florida (3-1, 2-1), LSU has allowed 1,136 yards in back-to-back SEC games. That hasn’t happened since at least 1965, according to school records.
Before this season, LSU had given up 500 yards or more just four times in Les Miles’ nine years. The Tigers allowed 570 against Mississippi State on Sept. 20 and 566 at Auburn — first and second in the most yards given up by a Miles team at LSU.
“Yeah, we are,” safety Ronald Martin said. “The standards we set over here to be a great defense. … We’ve been living up to some of them but not all of them.”
So what’s wrong with LSU’s defense? The answer could take awhile.
Miles suggested Monday that the offensive woes are leaking across the other side of the ball.
The Tigers went 0-for-13 on third downs against Auburn, and LSU didn’t break the 280-yard mark for offense.
“The reality of it is if we get this offense moving the football — and we’re really close, but we have to improve there — this defense has given great effort and energy, and they’re really making tackles, so if you want to see some really quality efforts, it’s there.”
Maybe it’s this fact: The Tigers have played two of the best teams in the nation. Auburn is ranked No. 2, and Mississippi State is ranked No. 3.
At least one player doesn’t believe that, though.
“Not really,” Martin said. “We were in position to make plays on defense, and we didn’t make them.”
The defense’s soft middle is an issue. Auburn and Mississippi State combined to run for more than 500 yards between the tackles, according to ESPN stats and info.
Miles said Monday that backup middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith “will play most” among the two. He declined to call Beckwith the starter.
No more defensive personnel moves are expected, according to Miles.
However, a “technical” change is being made on defense, the coach said. Miles said he met with defensive coordinator John Chavis and his defensive assistants Sunday.
The coach did not elaborate on the change.
“I looked at the effort and energy, and I kind of enjoyed parts of what I saw,” Miles said. “And I felt like that the technical change could really make a difference, especially going against these spread offensive fronts.”
LSU will face another run-heavy spread unit in Gainesville, Florida. They hope to reverse a disturbing trend: giving up the big play.
Against Mississippi State and Auburn, LSU gave up a combined 23 plays of 15 yards or more. The Tigers gave up five plays of 15 yards or more on Auburn and Mississippi State’s first four drives of each game.
Miles chalked up Auburn’s long gains to “one-time plays,” he said. The coach referenced Duke Williams’ diving catch and the one Coates made against Robinson, but there were many more.
Quarterback Nick Marshall scored on a designed 29-yard touchdown run up the middle, and running back Cameron Artis-Payne had a 34-yard dash up the gut and another for 19 yards to the right side of the line.
Coates had a 29-yard catch across the middle of the field, and Marshall had at least two more 15-plus-yard runs on LSU’s defense.
All of them made the flight back to Baton Rouge early Sunday morning tough for a shocked group of players.
“It was a horrible feeling,” Martin said. “It wasn’t something we expected.”