OXFORD, Miss. — Quincy Adeboyejo sprinted down the seam, uncovered on the first play from scrimmage. But LSU’s defense tracked the junior receiver down and ultimately held Ole Miss to a field goal, a moral victory in light of yet another busted coverage.
Then disaster struck. Again.
The Tigers got off to a slow start for the third straight game, spotting the Rebels a three-score, first-half lead en route to a 38-17 loss Saturday. Penalties, poor execution and miscommunication — demons LSU (7-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) can’t shake — doomed the team to its third consecutive loss, a slide the program hasn’t experienced in 16 years.
“That seemed to plague us in the first half, the number of penalties that followed big plays,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I’m not an expert on those penalties right now. I will be sometime Sunday. But it’ll be very interesting to see how those penalties were called.”
The Tigers committed 10 infractions, one of which was declined, in the first half alone. The first one was perhaps the most costly.
On LSU’s first offensive play after the Rebels’ field goal, sophomore running back Leonard Fournette took a toss around left tackle and weaved through defenders for a 59-yard gain. A holding penalty, however, brought the Tigers all the way back to their own 11-yard line.
Later in the drive, sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris attempted to call a timeout on third-and-6. Officials instead whistled him for a delay of game, putting LSU in a third-and-long it couldn’t convert. The Tigers lined up to punt but were flagged for another false start.
No offensive players were made available to reporters.
Fournette carried LSU into the red zone on the ensuing possession, wrangling a dumpoff pass from Harris and racing 46 yards to the 15-yard line. Trent Domingue jogged out to attempt a 27-yard field goal once the drive stalled, but the sure-footed junior kicker missed wide left. Domingue had nailed all 10 previous field goals this season.
“Our responsibility offensively is to start fast,” Miles said. “I thought defensively, minus a really good throw, I thought they did.”
LSU’s defense held Ole Miss (7-3, 5-2) in check until the second quarter, when junior quarterback Chad Kelly made throws of 27 and 20 yards to lead the Rebels into the red zone.
The Tigers took care of the rest.
An offside infraction by senior linebacker Lamar Louis negated a dropped pass, and junior cornerback Tre’Davious White committed pass interference in the end zone. Senior running back Jaylen Walton scored from 2 yards out on the next play.
A false start derailed LSU’s next drive, a three-and-out that put its defense back on the field. Kelly then scored on a 5-yard counter play, extending Ole Miss’ lead to 17-0.
“We came out juiced up. In a hostile environment like this, it could go either way,” sophomore defensive tackle Davon Godchaux said. “I think in the first half, we had a lot of penalties on offense. False starts and things like that. We’ve just got to keep sticking together as a team and grind it out.”
When the Tigers weren’t committing penalties, they were still making mistakes.
Late in the second quarter, Harris threw a crossing pattern that was deflected, intercepted and returned to the 11-yard line. Kelly then found junior receiver Laquon Treadwell, who frequently burned White, for a score on the Rebels’ first play.
The 24-point deficit was too much for the Tigers to overcome. They almost did, though.
LSU answered Treadwell’s score with one of its own and had possession near midfield in the final minute of the first half. But a false start and a holding infraction ruined the Tigers’ chances of shrinking the lead.
LSU finished the game with 13 penalties, two of which resulted in Ole Miss first downs, for 95 yards.
The Tigers opened the second half with two scoring drives to make it 24-17 before Ole Miss answered right back with two touchdowns. LSU was on the move late in the third quarter, but Harris’ second interception of the day sealed the loss.
“We can’t put ourselves in a hole like that,” junior defensive tackle Christian LaCouture said. “We’ve got to make sure we come out strong and finish even stronger.”