The offensive approach for the Tigers started off clicking on all cylinders, but it didn’t last quite as long as they had hoped. Controlling the tempo against a sound Ole Miss defense to start, Max Johnson looked as poised as ever in the pocket.
Mixing it up with the RPO and chewing clock, the game plan went accordingly for coach Ed Orgeron’s group. A flawless first drive where Johnson made every necessary read, it looked as though this unit made the needed adjustments coming into Oxford.
Johnson started the game firing, going 5-of-5 on his first five passes and driving down the field for an easy opening drive score, but that’s just about the only thing that went right. The next drive, the Tigers drove into the red zone and completely lost their mojo. On fourth down, Orgeron elected to test their luck and go for it, rather than kick a field goal, which ended in a Johnson interception.
“We knew we had to score points,” Orgeron said. “Last year we went for it on 4th down, paid off for us. We knew we had to score points to beat this team so anytime we had an opportunity to score the most points, we did. That's why we went for it on 4th down, that's why we went for the field goal [later]. We thought we could make it and get some points on the board."
The protection for Johnson began to crumble after the first quarter, giving no time to make plays down the field or open up the run game. Despite this, Johnson continued to test his luck and make plays with his legs, just not being able to find anything open down the field.
The pressure in the backfield slowed down every offensive aspect of the game. Though the offensive line has been banged up significantly, their struggles changed the trajectory of this game, causing Johnson to get sacked numerous times resulting in fumbles.
“They [Ole Miss] had too much pressure on the quarterback,” Orgeron said. “Then we had some miscues, we had a couple of missed assignments that made the quarterback fumble the ball, it was a big deal. We couldn't run the ball like we wanted to and we couldn't get the ball down field. The protection wasn't good enough for us to get the ball down field."
Tyrion Davis-Price had just 53 yards on 17 carries as the LSU rushing attack was also non-existent for the critical stretch of Saturday's game, totaling 77 yards on the ground.
It’s easy to put blame on the offensive line, they’ve struggled all season, but the poor decision making of Johnson plays a huge factor in the strip sacks that occurred. Holding onto the ball too long in the pocket and making poor reads resulted in a myriad of turnovers which hurt the Tigers significantly.
After the score became too much to overcome, Orgeron turned to freshman quarterback Garrett Nussmeier to get some snaps under his belt. The former four-star recruit showed Tiger fans why he was so highly touted coming out of high school in his limited time on the field, throwing for his first touchdown pass.
"I thought he gave us a little spark,” Orgeron said. “Garrett's like that. Garrett's a high energy guy. He went out there and gave us a little spark. We're going to have to look at it. I'm not saying that Max was doing poorly. I think he didn't have enough time. We just wanted to give Garrett a chance. We needed a little change of pace on offense and we got it."
The Tigers showed fight, but the struggles and miscommunication within the offense became too much to recover from. With a week to rest before facing off against Alabama, Orgeron’s group has a chance to recover and prepare for the biggest task of the season.