No Running Attack, Poor Blocking, Inability To Stop The Run, Poor Tackling Equals Embarrassing 38-27 Season Opening Defeat To UCLA
Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
LOS ANGELES, CA: The UCLA Bruins (2-0) made a statement dominating the #16 LSU Tigers (0-1) in the second half of Saturday night's contest. The Bruins simply made the adjustments necessary to take control of the ball game earning a 38-27 victory.
After a scoreless 1st quarter LSU would draw first blood as they would finish off the first drive of the second quarter with Max Johnson hitting Kayshon Boutte in the end zone for a four yard touchdown. 7-0 Tigers.
The LSU momentum would only last for a few seconds as the Bruins would respond quickly. On the first play of the next possession the LSU defense would bite hard on a play action by UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who would bootleg away from the LSU pursuit and hit a wide open Greg Dulcich who would out physical a couple of LSU defenders while rumbling into the end zone for a 71 yard touchdown to tie things up 7-7.
After LSU would go three and out on their next possession, UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet would begin to put on a show. He would start the drive with a 20 yard burst, then he would then take in a pass and outrun the LSU defense for a 35 yard gain down to the Tigers 16 yard line. Charbonnet would then finish off the drive with a 12 yard touchdown run. 14-7 Bruins with 9:49 to go in the first half.
The LSU defense would come up with the first turnover of the contest as Eli Ricks would intercept a pass at the UCLA 33 yard line. The Tigers would drive to the Bruins seven yard line before having to settle for a 26 yard Cade York field goal to cut the lead to 14-10 at the 3:53 mark. The score would remain 14-10 at the halftime break.
LSU received the second half kickoff and moved the ball to mid-field. On a 1st and ten at the LSU 49 yard line, Max Johnson, while under heavy pressure, would throw an interception which was returned 34 yards down to the LSU 17 yard line. Two plays later Thompson-Robinson would find Chase Cota for a 14 yard touchdown to give the Bruins a 21-10 lead.
Max Johnson would respond, show poise on the next possession as he would quickly take the Tigers down the field to answer the UCLA score. After completing a 20 yard pass to Trey Palmer at the Bruins 44, Johnson would then hit Kayshon Boutte in stride in the middle of the field for a 44 yard touchdown, to pull within 21-17.
Over the next two possessions, both teams would drive with each settling for a field goal as we would head to the 4th quarter with UCLA up 24-20.
It was here in the 4th quarter when things for the Tigers started to get ugly. UCLA's offensive line began to wear down the LSU defense, opening up huge holes for Charbonnet to run through for massive gains. The Bruins would easily go 73 yards in eight plays, punching it in the end zone from one yard out to extend their lead to 31-20 with 12:28 to go in the contest.
After another LSU three and out, the Bruins would again move the ball at will against the exhausted Tiger defense, eating 4:34 off the clock while again driving 73 yards in eight plays. Thompson-Robinson would connect with Kyle Phillips down the near sidelines for a 44 yard touchdown as several Tiger defenders would fail to bring him down before crossing the goal line. 38-20 Bruins with 6:31 to go.
The LSU offense would continue to fight as they would drive 73 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 45 yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Boutte. 38-27 with only 4:08 left on the game clock.
The Bruins would continue to run right at the tired LSU defense, eating up clock and yardage until taking a knee to finish off the final seconds at the LSU 26 yard line...
LSU's performance was a disappointing one as they looked a lot like last season's team through most of the contest. The Tigers were unable to run the football at all, finishing the game with 48 yards on 25 carries for a dismal 1.9 yards a carry. Ty Davis-Price lead the team with 30 yards on 13 carries. while Max Johnson had 16 yards on 11 runs. LSU was one dimensional all game long.
Max Johnson performed with a lot of heart as he was under tremendous pressure most of the night. He would finish the game going 26-46 for 330 yards passing, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.
The wide receivers played well, but had a few key drops that could have helped kept the game closer at times. Kayshon Boutte lead all receivers with 148 yards on nine grabs, scoring 3 touchdowns. Trey Palmer finished with 47 yards on seven catches, while Jaray Jenkins caught 3 balls for 46 yards and Koy Moore had 3 catches for 32 yards.
The offensive line needs to get better and get better quickly. It is just puzzling to me that this unit can't run block, while their pass protection is average at best. Very discouraging. Very frightening.
For a quarter and a half the defense looked like the type of defense that we expect to see at LSU. But what I saw as the game went on was a defensive coordinator who couldn't make counter adjustments to an opponent's offense that did make adjustments as it got late into the first half. It was also shocking to see the defense get out-physicaled by the UCLA offense during the final 30 minutes of the contest. The Bruins did what they wanted offensively in the second half and made it look easy. Demone Clark finished the game with 13 tackles, while Jordan Toles and Major Burns both had six tackles each. The Tigers had four sacks in the game. Gaye, Ojulari, Anthony, and Strong each had one... UCLA finished with 210 yards rushing and 470 total yards of offense.
No problems with special teams in the contest. Avery Atkins punted the ball well, while Cade York was 2-2 on field goal attempts and 3-3 on his PATs.
It will be a long week for the Tigers as they look to regroup and refocus after returning home from their west coast trip. They say a team improves the most from their first game to their second game. Improving is what this team must do.
Next up the Tigers will host McNeese in Tiger Stadium for their home opener. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00pm and will be televised on ESPN+