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LSU Football Running On Empty Entering Stretch Of 5 Games Vs. Top 20

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The radio show talk and fan discussion have already started.

Could Baylor coach Dave Aranda, a former very successful LSU defensive coordinator off to a 4-1 start in his second season, be the next LSU coach?

LSU coach Ed Orgeron still has a winning record at 3-2 overall, but he is 1-1 in the SEC after a 24-19 loss to Auburn on Saturday after the Tigers led 13-0 in the second quarter and 19-10 entering the fourth.

The Tigers are coming off a 5-5 season, though, that has Orgeron 8-7 and 6-6 over two seasons following the 15-0 national championship in 2019-20. That LSU team garnered some “greatest of all time” discussion two years ago because it defeated a record seven top 10 opponents on the way to the title, including four in the top five to close – No. 2 Alabama, No. 4 Georgia, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 3 Clemson.

Orgeron’s Tigers now face a similar murderers’ row of five straight top 20 teams, but from an angle of likely more dread than chutzpah, considering how LSU has played.

LSU travels to Kentucky (5-0, 3-0 SEC) Saturday for a 6:30 p.m. game on the SEC Network. Then it hosts No. 20 Florida (3-2, 1-2) on Oct. 16 at 11 a.m. on CBS or ESPN before a trip to No. 17 Ole Miss (3-1, 0-1) on Oct. 23, an open date, No. 1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0) on the road on Nov. 6 and No. 13 Arkansas (4-1, 1-1) at home on Nov. 13.

The Tigers’ losses were to No. 18 Auburn (4-1, 1-0) and to unranked UCLA (3-2) with a 28-25 win at Mississippi State (3-2, 1-1). LSU is a 3.5-point underdog at Kentucky by FanDuel and will likely be an underdog in the next four as well.

“It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us,” Orgeron said Monday of Kentucky, which knocked off then-No. 10 Florida, 20-13, at home on Saturday for the first time in Lexington since 1986.

“They have a great run game,” he said. “On defense, they’re very stout.”

Kentucky is No. 10 in the nation and third in the SEC in total defense with 284.4 yards allowed. It is 36th nationally in rushing with 191 yards a game as tailback Christopher Rodriguez leads the league and is No. 6 nationally with 124.2 yards a game with 621 yards on 104 carries.

Orgeron wishes he had such a running game. The Tigers are No. 128 of 130 FBS schools in rushing and second to last in the SEC with 70.6 yards a game.

“First of all, we need to be committed to it,” Orgeron said of new offensive coordinator Jake Peetz. “I think that we need to make a re-commitment to calling the run plays that we’re practicing. Sometimes we are. Sometimes we’re not.”

The passing game with sophomore quarterback Max Johnson has been very good, considering the lack of a running game and the fact that LSU is No. 11 in the SEC and 76th nationally in fewest sacks allowed with 11. Johnson is fourth in the SEC and 17th nationally in passing yards a game with 293.8.

At times, Auburn dropped eight or nine in pass coverage, and LSU still could not or would not run.

“That’s a situation where we must and will run the football,” Orgeron said. “We’re going to need to make a couple of adjustments on the things that we’re doing and maybe some different sets, some different formations to help us be more aggressive and attack at the line of scrimmage. We’re not doing that well. Hopefully, we can get that done this week.”

Orgeron criticized the run game the night of the Auburn loss, too, but he went out of his way to say Monday that that and everything else is his responsibility. He also cut his teleconference short after just 10 minutes with several questions still on the board.

“I want to say this first,” he began. “Ultimately, I’m responsible for the performance of this team. I’ve always been responsible, and I always will be. First and foremost, I wanted to get that point across today.”

Orgeron then a form of the word responsible four more times throughout the press conference, and was even asked why he kept saying that.

“When things don’t go right, obviously I get asked questions, and maybe it sounds like I’m trying to point the finger or something like that,” he said. “And as you know me and everybody knows me, that is not me. I’m going to take full responsibility for everything that happens in this program, and that’s just the way it’s going to be.”

Meanwhile, Orgeron said he may ask former offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger to come out of his semi-retirement and help Peetz from the pressbox. Ensminger left the coordinator post after last season but remains an offensive analyst.

“Good idea,” Orgeron said to a writer who asked if he might consider such a move. “Yeah, that’s a thought, and that has been considered. Maybe he will come in the box. Might be something to talk to him about.”

In addition to the poor run game, LSU has struggled to get plays off on time, which has been partly Johnson’s fault, but also that of Peetz.

“Just call the play, and let it go,” Orgeron said. “And don’t try to change the play. I think that’s where we’re getting into most of our problems. With the play clock, we need to give him (Johnson) enough time. The times we had to call timeout, there wasn’t enough time. We need to simplify those things. Either quit doing it (changing plays) or do a better job of doing it.”

Orgeron tried to take up for Peetz.

“Hey, Jake’s trying to do a tremendous job,” he said. “I believe in him. There are just a couple of things that we’ve got to get fixed.”

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

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