LSU needs to stop turning the ball over.
LSU needs to commit fewer penalties.
LSU needs to be more consistent.
LSU needs to start playing like a contender for the Southeastern Conference and BCS championships if it’s to be taken seriously as either.
Perhaps you’ve heard this stuff before.
All of that is true on the first day of October, and most of it was true for most of September, as well.
Certainly there is a sense of urgency for LSU to do all of those things as it prepares to take on its biggest challenge yet with a trip to No. 10 Florida looming next Saturday.
But there should have been a sense of urgency to do all those things before the SEC opener at Auburn two weeks ago.
Instead, the Tigers turned the ball over twice, committed nine penalties and trailed well into the third quarter before escaping with a 12-10 victory.
There should have been a sense of urgency to hang on to the football, cut down on the penalties and play consistently well going into the nonconference finale against Towson on Saturday night.
It was the last tuneup before a stretch of seven consecutive league games that begins against the 4-0 and seemingly much improved Gators.
So LSU went out and committed more turnovers (three) and more penalties (10) and played with less consistency (trailing the FCS Tigers 9-7 late in the second quarter before winning 38-22).
You can rationalize that performance by saying LSU wasn’t focused for a game against an opponent most of the players hadn’t even heard of before it popped up on the schedule. But that’s all it would be — a rationalization.
Sure, LSU wasn’t focused. When you are penalized 10 times, obviously your focus needs some work. But LSU has 42 penalties in five games. That’s a lot of penalties and a lot of games with little focus.
Teams that belong in the top five nationally — the Tigers have dropped from No. 2 to No. 4 in two weeks — and are capable of winning the most competitive conference in the country tend not to lack that much focus, regardless of the opponent.
The near-loss at Auburn should have been a wake-up call, but obviously, the Tigers hit the snooze button.
The emphasis at practice last week was on reducing turnovers and penalties. Obviously, that didn’t work.
Coach Les Miles says he puts ball security at the top of his practice schedule every week, every day. He said it after the two turnovers at Auburn. Then LSU committed three against Towson.
He repeated it after the game Saturday night. He’ll no doubt repeat it at practice every day this week.
He’s probably been harping on it since the first day of preseason camp, yet LSU has yet to play a turnover-free game.
Now it shouldn’t be overlooked that LSU is 5-0, and that the Auburn game is the only one Miles’ team was in danger of losing.
But it also shouldn’t be overlooked that the Auburn game was the only road game, and another is coming up this week. It also shouldn’t be overlooked that Florida appears to be much better than Auburn.
Perahps the light switch will come on sometime between now and 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Gainesville.
But generally, football teams aren’t able to just flip a switch and suddenly go from a team that isn’t focused, isn’t consistent, turns the ball over with regularity and gets penalized with even greater regularity to one that’s capable of winning the SEC and the BCS.
That’s especially true with teams that start only a handful of seniors, as the Tigers do.
LSU will complete the first half of its season when it plays the Gators. It has had a month and five games to break in a new starting quarterback and roughly a dozen other new starters, to sharpen its game against five seemingly inferior opponents, to identify and shore up weaknesses.
But as October and the most challenging part of the schedule arrives, there’s no evidence that this team is any better than it was when September showed up.
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