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What Went Wrong With LSU's Rush Defense and How Can it be Fixed?

Despite all of LSU’s talent and coaching experience, the Tigers are being run over on defense. Something must change.

The trend was building and building. The Tigers struggled to stop the run this season against any decent football team. It began with UCLA, and it’s continued against any Power Five team. Even against Kentucky, a team that LSU out recruits every single year, the Tigers were whipped up front and gave up huge chunks of rushing yardage.

Is it a scheme issue? Is there a lack of coaching? What’s the reason for this downturn by the LSU defense? Here are the LSU rushing defensive statistics this year:

At UCLA, the Tigers allowed 47 rushes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. It’s a major reason why LSU lost to UCLA by the score of 38-27.

McNeese State came to LSU, and the Tigers manhandled a team it should, holding them to 42 carries for 51 yards.

When Central Michigan visited LSU, the Chippewas only mustered 31 carries for 56 yards. Like McNeese State, that’s a total physical mismatch for the Tigers.

The game at Mississippi State is a bit of an anomaly. The Bulldogs just do not run the football much. With that said, Mississippi State’s 26 carries for 115 yards almost allowed the Bulldogs to upset the Tigers. LSU escaped with a 28-25 victory in Starkville, Miss.

Auburn did what it wanted on the ground for much of the game, rushing 29 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns. That rushing performance allowed Auburn to head home with a 24-19 victory over LSU. It became the first win for Auburn over LSU in Death Valley since Sep. 18, 1999.

The game this past Saturday at Kentucky was just a travesty for LSU’s so-called “run defense,” as the Tigers allowed the Wildcats to rush 45 times for 330 yards and three touchdowns. Those are the types of numbers that Vanderbilt gives up, not LSU. The last loss to Kentucky was the overtime loss on Oct. 13, 2007, when Kentucky prevailed 43-37.

Who’s to Blame?

There’s plenty of blame to go around. LSU fans want this staff gone, by and large. A big part of that desire stems from the above statistics. With that being said, the players are not holding up their end of the bargain either. LSU players are simply not filling gaps and holding to their assignments. Anyone that watched even five minutes of Kentucky’s offense against the LSU defense could see LSU front seven defenders being beaten with technique and effort. That’s just awful to watch, but it’s still true.

One could run through all the recruiting rankings, but there’s no need. Kentucky does not come close to LSU in recruiting at any position, let alone their offensive line against all the players that earned four and five star status before heading to Baton Rouge. Watching the game leaves an important question to be asked.

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Are the LSU Players Just Over Playing for Ed Orgeron and His Staff?

The talent gap favored LSU, by a wide margin, yet Kentucky pushed LSU around. The Tigers have several experienced coaches, including LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron himself, that understand defensive football.

This could be more than a coaching and talent issue; there might be players just ready for change.

If that’s truly the case, then this season will get even uglier. Moving forward without eight starters on the defensive side of the ball only adds to the difficult stretch this team faces. There’s no way to sugarcoat getting beat down by a team of blue collar players like Kentucky has. The Wildcats have some talent, yes, but should never win 42-21 over LSU. That’s just reality.

Will LSU Defensive Players Step Up?

At some point, there needs to be pride. Coach Orgeron and his staff will likely be fired. That’s obvious. That does not mean that LSU players should lay down the rest of the 2021 season. There needs to be a few players who place the purple and gold on their heads and be ready to set an example for the rest of the 2021 season and beyond.

Who’s it going to be? How soon?

The Tigers will have to move forward without the services of their two starting edge rushers Ali Gaye and Andre Anthony, who will both be out the rest of the season with injuries.

LSU players need to make a better effort. Coaching aside, it starts with the young men actually on the gridiron. No more can the players afford to be out physicaled, pushed out of their gaps with such ease, allowing gaping holes to open.

After that, perhaps LSU’s coaching staff can help them finish out this disastrous 2021 season much better than originally thought.

Up next will be Florida. Time to go out and show everyone that LSU still plays run defense. The Tigers have no place to go but up.