After Tiger Stadium emptied, after the field had cleared, after the hopes of another undefeated LSU football season crumbled under a 44-34 loss to Mississippi State and its Air Raid passing attack, Myles Brennan could find the appropriate words to describe what he was feeling.
"Losing sucks," the quarterback said, simply.
"You could sit here and point fingers all across," Brennan added, "but that's not going to do anything."
The list of LSU mistakes in Saturday's upset is lengthy.
Ed Orgeron said it started with him: "I've got to coach them better."
The fifth-year head coach — fresh off a national championship run in which he won nearly every national coach of the year award — suffered one of his most stunning losses since 2017, when Mississippi State gashed the Tigers with 285 yards rushing in a 37-7 upset.
The mistakes and frustrations in that loss three years ago boiled over in a 24-21 loss to Troy, simmered in rebound wins over Florida and Auburn, and eventually led to a staff overhaul to right the program.
To anticipate such a tumultuous season this time around may be a stark overreaction after one game, but there were enough issues to question whether this is a team that will compete for another Southeastern Conference title.
The issues start with a glaring statistic: The Tigers defense surrendered 623 yards passing, the most ever given up in school history.
"It's embarrassing," safety JaCoby Stevens said. "It's like going into a boxing ring and getting knocked out. It's not a good feeling. Yeah, we do pride ourselves on being DBU, but DBU didn't show up today."
The new scheme in Bo Pelini's return to the program as defensive coordinator flopped in its debut. Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello set a single-game SEC record with the yardage total, and his five touchdown passes often exploited young and inexperienced LSU defensive backs that couldn't keep up in man coverage.
"We couldn't stay with their guys," Orgeron said.
Yes, LSU played without its All-American cornerback, Derek Stingley, who spent Friday night in a hospital with a non-coronavirus related illness. Yes, Stingley was initially replaced by Nicholls State graduate transfer Darren Evans, who joined the program less than a month ago. Yes, sophomore Jay Ward didn't practice in camp for two weeks after a "minor operation," Orgeron said, and "was a little behind."
But Stevens said the excuses wear out as the points and the yardage start to pile on.
The conversation on the sideline started with "keep your head up, go to the next play," Stevens said. "But as the game goes on, you've got to tell those guys, 'Hey, it's time to step up. You're not a young guy anymore. You've got to represent Louisiana. You're playing for LSU."
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach's offense overmatched LSU with its scheme, Orgeron added. When the Bulldogs staff caught the Tigers playing man coverage, they repeatedly drew up crossing routes and threw deep sideline passes when they found a favorable one-on-one matchup.
Three Mississippi State receivers — Osirus Mitchell (183), Kylin Hill (158) and JaVonta Payton (122) — finished the game with over 100 yards receiving, and Hill, a running back, scored on a 75-yard swing pass in a busted LSU coverage where no defender covered him.
"We had too many missed assignments," Orgeron said, "and we've got to look at why we're having the missed assignments, what's causing them. Too many guys are running free. Too many guys are getting beat one-on-one. We've just got to go back to looking at if we can cover man-to-man. If we can't, we've got to make a decision to play some zone."
Orgeron was also surprised at how out-of-sync the LSU offense looked at the start of the game. Nine new starters, including Brennan, made their debut with new passing game coordinator Scott Linehan, who Orgeron has said aids offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger on third downs and in the red zone.
The Tigers punted on their first four drives. Brennan was sacked seven times in the game. Orgeron attributed the sacks to both poor pass protection and instances where Brennan held the ball too long — a problem former quarterback Joe Burrow struggled with in his first season in 2018.
Trailing 27-24 in the third quarter, Brennan was late throwing what appeared to be a likely touchdown pass to an open Racey McMath, but Brennan's arm was hit by Mississippi State linebacker Jordan Davis, and the errant pass ended up getting intercepted.
The costly turnover led to a Bulldogs touchdown that created a two-score lead that LSU couldn't overcome.
Brennan said Mississippi State often dropped its linebackers in specific spots on the field, anticipating correctly where his throwing lanes would be.
"So certain play calls, there were guys directly in my throw lane," said Brennan, who completed 27 of 46 passes for 345 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. "And I'm not going to force the ball with a guy standing right in front of my receiver."
Both Brennan and Stevens expect the team will be brutally honest with each other in the upcoming week, as the Tigers prepare for its road game against Vanderbilt (0-1) on Saturday.
The Commodores nearly provided the college football weekend with another Top 10 upset, hanging with No. 10 Texas A&M in a 17-12 loss in College Station, Texas.
"We’ve got a long journey ahead of us and we’re not going to crumble and quit now," Brennan said. "We’ve got a long, long road ahead."