The LSU football team found itself in an unfamiliar situation Monday as it tried to move on from the loss at Florida on Saturday and prepare for a game against South Carolina this Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
Junior linebacker Kevin Minter was asked if he remembered the last time he was in such a situation.
“It was a long time ago,” Minter said.
It certainly wasn’t last year as the Tigers’ only loss in a 14-game schedule came in the BCS National Championship Game. The team didn’t return to game-week mode for 33 weeks.
The 2010 team lost only twice. A loss at Auburn in the eighth game of the season was followed by an open date. A loss to Arkansas in the regular-season finale was followed by the Cotton Bowl game six weeks later.
The 2009 team lost to Ole Miss in the penultimate regular-season game and had to come back to play Arkansas seven days later. That’s the last time LSU was in the precise position it’s in after the 14-6 defeat to the Gators. For whatever it’s worth, the 2009 Tigers bounced back to beat the Razorbacks 33-30 in overtime in Tiger Stadium.
“It’s strange,” Minter said. “We have such great tradition of winning with this program, it feels kind of funny to be on other end of that. We’ve got to improve. Hopefully it left a bad enough taste in our mouths that we don’t want to get it again the rest of the season.”
A second dose of losing is a very real possibility as No. 9 LSU prepares to play No. 3 South Carolina. The last time the Tigers had a regular-season loss and played a ranked team the next week was in 2007, when they lost in three overtimes at Kentucky 43-37 and bounced back a week later to defeat Auburn 30-24.
That team went on to lose another game, dropping a second three-overtime game in the regular-season finale to Arkansas before beating Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference Championship and then defeating Ohio State to win the BCS title.
But this team knows a second consecutive loss would make its primary goals — SEC and BCS titles — virtually unreachable.
“We’ve got to win,” Minter said. “We can’t lose any more games, or our national championship hopes are gone. We’ve got to buckle down and get to it. If we win this game, it gives us a little momentum going into the rest of the season.”
If LSU wants to win Saturday, it will have to play better than it did not only in the loss to Florida, but also in the five wins that preceded that. Even as the Tigers were winning, they admitted to a need to cut down on penalties, turnovers and other mental and physical mistakes before reaching the most challenging part of the schedule.
The most challenging part began last week, and LSU failed its first test, getting shut out in the second half, failing to score a touchdown, turning the ball over three times and being penalized eight times.
Now the Gamecocks will roll into town having won their first six games, including four SEC games, and coming off a 35-7 thrashing of then-No. 6 Georgia.
“We know we started the season off slow; that’s obvious,” safety Eric Reid said. “But we’re always looking to improve. That’s something we’ve always prided ourselves on. Every week we look at the mistakes we had and we try and eliminate those mistakes. It’s no different this week.
“We’re going to use this loss as motivation to practice hard this week. We need an awesome week of practice. Guys have to learn the game plan and get it down to a T. I think it’s a prefect situation. We had a tough loss, but at the same time we can have a big win this Saturday.”
The Tigers are 10-1 in coach Les Miles’ eight seasons when they have lost a regular-season game and played a week later. They are 5-0 in such situations when the loss has come on the road and the subsequent game has been in Tiger Stadium.
“The good news is that our football team has always really responded personally,” Miles said. “They recognize that it’s not the feeling we’re used to having. They recognize that we work too hard to finish second.
“They’re going to look forward to preparing for this opponent that’s certainly a quality opponent and one that our team will be challenged to prepare for. I think they’ll look forward to preparing for it as well.”
Sophomore wide receiver Jarvis Landry was reminded that this is his first time as a Tiger having to prepare for a game in the immediate aftermath of a defeat.
“I actually haven’t lost many in my lifetime,” said Landry, who played on teams with a combined record of 45-7 during his career at Lutcher High School. “I think for any team or for any person individually, when you care about the game, it’s hard to cope with that loss.
“But sometimes you have to swallow that pride and realize, ‘OK, we lost, but it’s not about that. It’s about how we come back. It’s about how we recover from that loss.’ I think this week we’re going up against a great team and we’ve got a great opportunity to show the world how we respond.”
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