The LSU Tigers are limping to the finish line at 4-6 this season, one year after being 5-5.
By Matt Zemek
The campaign can’t end soon enough for LSU fans, who are now mostly interested in the coaching search, not in the progress of this team on the field. That said, the dreary conclusion to the season should not obscure the fact that the team has made progress in one particular component of competition. That forms part of the backdrop to this game against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, who are coached by former Auburn coach Terry Bowden. LSU can still earn a bowl bid by winning its last two games. Part of the significance of this game lies in preparing for the Texas A&M Aggies the week after. SEC teams playing weaker opponents this week are – as usual – gearing up for big season-ending games on Thanksgiving weekend.
1 – Take ULM seriously
The big thing to remember about Louisiana-Monroe within the context of the 2021 season is that the Warhawks are capable of springing a huge upset. Monroe beat Hugh Freeze (like Terry Bowden, another former SEC West head coach) and the Liberty Flames earlier this season as a 33-point underdog. Louisiana-Monroe has its moments of brilliance, though those moments haven’t been sustained over the course of the full season. LSU needs to be ready to take Louisiana-Monroe’s best punch. Bowden will definitely have his team ready for this game. LSU needs to be alert and aware, able to identify the bag of tricks Bobby Bowden’s son will certainly unleash against the Bayou Bengals.
2 – Give Max Johnson plays he can work with
The LSU offense is a disaster. Merely average performances the past two weeks would have been good enough to beat Alabama and Arkansas. The LSU defense stood on its head, but the offense couldn’t take advantage. It’s a brutal turn of events for the same program which had Joe Burrow just two years ago, and which has allowed the offense to completely crater at the worst possible moments this season. Max Johnson has not received great coaching. The LSU staff has adjusted well on defense, but not on offense. This game, leading into the Texas A&M game, needs to be a time when Max Johnson finds something he can do well and can cultivate a comfort zone. He will need to find a good comfort level against Texas A&M if the Tigers are to have any real shot in that game. This Monroe matchup must set up Johnson to succeed versus the Aggies one week later.
3 – Keep the D train rolling
The Daronte Jones story has been wild. A defensive coordinator who looked out of his depth in the early stages of the season has suddenly found a formula which works. LSU has found an outstanding run defense after floundering in September and October. The elite performance against Alabama and the similarly strong showing against Arkansas has given LSU fans the belief that Jones deserves at least a chance to be retained as defensive coordinator. Whether you agree with that or not, Jones has certainly proved capable of making adjustments. This game is all about maintaining that standard and carrying it into the Texas A&M game.