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LSU head coach Ed Orgeron leads his team onto the field for the first half at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday Oct. 23, 2021, in Oxford, Miss.

The open date probably couldn’t have come at a better time for LSU. 

The Tigers lost three of their last four games, continue to deal with injuries and have plenty of schematic issues to figure out before traveling next weekend to play Alabama, which is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation.

“This week is going to be more about teaching,” coach Ed Orgeron said Monday. “We have some things on offense and defense we want to put in, so it’s a good time to do that and a good time to self-scout.”

When it comes to self-evaluation — typically the focus of any open date — Orgeron identified multiple areas, from defenders staying in their gaps and setting the edge to the offense scoring on the goal line.

Those were some of the biggest problems in LSU’s 31-17 loss to Ole Miss last weekend. Early in the first quarter, the Tigers faced first-and-goal from the 6-yard line. Three straight running plays were stopped short of the end zone. Then sophomore quarterback Max Johnson threw an interception on fourth down.

LSU entered the game perfect on 19 trips to the red zone with 14 touchdowns and five field goals. It went 3 for 4 against Ole Miss with a short touchdown run by junior running back Tyrion Davis-Price, a field goal and a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter from freshman Garrett Nussmeier.

“When we didn't score down there,” Orgeron said, “it was a key to me in the ball game.”

Orgeron also mentioned once again how LSU didn’t protect its quarterbacks well, a recurring problem even though LSU has only allowed 24 sacks, the 12th-fewest in the country. 

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The offensive line played without left tackle Cameron Wire and right guard Chasen Hines. It gave up three sacks and six quarterback hurries as the offense looked out of sync without an effective run game. Davis-Price and freshman Corey Kiner averaged a combined 3.7 yards per carry.

“We didn't block their stunts and slants like we wanted to in the run game,” Orgeron said.

He admitted LSU’s coaches could have done a better job of adjusting during the game when their plan stopped working. Ole Miss made adjustments. LSU did not.

“I want to get those things fixed on the sideline after the series,” Orgeron said. “Sometimes it's happening. Sometimes it's not. But obviously in the third and fourth quarter when we're not playing well, we need to be better at halftime adjustments. There's no question about that.” 

Though Hines and Wire may return for the Alabama game, the offensive line will have to move forward without Bradford, who Orgeron said is unavailable the rest of the season. One of LSU’s most versatile linemen, Bradford started five games. Orgeron didn’t say the reason for his absence. Bradford gave up a sack on his final play against Ole Miss.

Down another player and with others managing “nagging injuries,” Orgeron said, the team will take a light approach to the open date. LSU won’t wear full pads during its two practices this week. The underclassmen will then participate Thursday in an annual scrimmage as the coaching staff recruits.

Perhaps the open date will give LSU a chance to fix some of those issues and regain some of its injured players before facing its most difficult opponent yet. The Tigers still have four games. They can make a bowl by winning two of them in the final stretch of Orgeron’s tenure. 

“I know there’s a lot of motivation left in our staff,” Orgeron said. “Our practices have been energized. Nothing has been going down in our practices as far as energy and the vibe our players are putting out. So I believe it's gonna be a strong finish.”

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