LSU Texas A M Football

Texas A&M linebacker Buddy Johnson (1) sacks LSU quarterback Max Johnson (14) Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. in College Station, Texas.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — In the final seconds of the first half of Saturday night's game at Kyle Field, Texas A&M was tentatively probing for yards to try to sneak in a late field goal between the raindrops.

The Aggies lined up for a 45-yarder, but LSU was flagged for a 5-yard penalty.

The call? Delay of game on Glen Logan for making “disconcerting signals.”

No, really.

Three thoughts:

1. In my rapidly advancing years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen delay of game on the defense.

2. What, in the name of legendary NFL referee Ben “He’s giving him the business!” Dreith, are disconcerting signals?

3. When you get down to it, this entire LSU football season has been a series of disconcerting signals.

Last week’s 27-24 win at Arkansas was but a brief respite through the weary nonstop drizzle the 2020 Tigers find themselves in. LSU bested an Arkansas, but Texas A&M is billed as a College Football Playoff contender, or whatever that means in 2020 for teams not named Alabama and Clemson (provided it has Trevor Lawrence playing quarterback).

Whatever the Aggies are in 2020, to me they are no true national title contender with Kellen Mond (11 of 34, 105 yards passing) at quarterback. Of course, LSU is not that, either, and 2019 is becoming more and more of a distant memory — or something approximating a frolic across a field of dreams.

This was a dismal evening on the Texas prairie, with a drenching rain making all open to the elements miserable. No one was more miserable than the Tigers themselves, who squandered a truly solid effort from an improved defense (except for a couple of big-play busts, naturally) by paring it with a mostly inert offensive effort in a 20-7 loss.

“I was very disappointed with the offense,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron, whose obvious frustration at the game and the season boiled over for all to see in the second half.

Orgeron and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger tried booting and rebooting the offense with the two freshmen quarterbacks at their disposal: TJ Finley and Max Johnson.

Bless their young hearts, they’re not what the Tigers need. Myles Brennan is what the Tigers need, but he’s only marginally closer to returning to the field than Joe Burrow is. You could have envisioned Brennan outdueling the mediocre Mond, but you play with who you’ve got and make of it what you can. Just ask the quarterback-less Denver Broncos as they prepare to take on the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

That said, one has to wonder how effective Brennan truly might have been behind an offensive line that melted like a sand castle at high tide against the Aggies' headhunting defense, which was credited with three sacks and nine quarterback hurries.

The LSU running game was similarly suffocated, netting just 36 yards on 25 carries. That’s gaining ground by the eye dropper, 1.4 yards per carry, while the firm of TJ/Max passed for a respectable 231. It’s not impossible to keep a defense out of your backfield with that kind of imbalance (it worked pretty well for Mississippi State against LSU), but it’s often not a winning play.

With Brennan stubbornly not galloping over the hill to rescue the Tigers, the question for the coming week will be whether Johnson or Finley — who got an earhole-ful from Orgeron after throwing a third-quarter pick-six that made it 20-0, basically ending the game with 19½ minutes left — should start against No. 1-ranked Alabama.

Here’s a better plan: When the Crimson Tide knocks on the door Saturday, the entire state of Louisiana should pretend no one is home. Bama might believe it. It knows in normal times most of us usually are in Orange Beach or Destin, anyway.

Even the Tigers’ previously praiseworthy special teams let them down. Cade York bladed a 34-yard field goal try low and left of the mark in the second quarter. Then when LSU had the Aggies on the run, forcing a punt after a third-and-32 from their 9, said punt bounced up and bit Arik Gilbert on the leg as he was trying to run away from the ball.

Alas, young Arik, sometimes the ball finds you. Especially in a season like this one.

LSU’s biggest problem, though, was the offensive line. The Tigers’ issues there put the offense in a downward spiral just when the justly criticized defense is showing signs of life. However you slice it, it is hardly a pretty picture as the Tigers next face probably the two best teams on their schedule: Alabama at home (what’s a home game?) and Florida on the road.

As of Saturday night, by the way, LSU had just one committed offensive lineman for the 2020-21 signing class. The Tigers have three slots left in that class. More offensive linemen, good ones, need to be recruited.

Line play on both sides of the ball (the Tigers dropped Mond for just his third sack this season) is a big reason why Texas A&M is 6-1 and in the thick of the College Football Playoff hunt at No. 5 in last week’s initial rankings. But the Aggies, who lost 52-24 to Bama on Oct. 3, really aren’t all that. They have a contender’s defense but don’t have enough playmakers on offense.

Difficulty making plays on offense is something LSU can now relate to.

“We couldn’t get any rhythm,” Orgeron said. “We went with Max to do some quarterback runs, but we couldn’t block.

“We have a lot of young players out there who have got to learn how to play. We’ve got to keep fighting.”

Unlike in the 48-11 loss at Auburn last month, the Tigers have shown fight.

But the disconcerting signals, whatever those are, are outweighing that fight, just when the season is rising to its toughest level.

Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com