How LSU 'got beat down' on both sides of the ball by UCLA in season opener
PASADENA, Calif. - There was one UCLA fan who apparently saw the Bruins' 38-27 whipping of No. 13 LSU coming before it happened Saturday.
"Hey, coach Orgeron," he said to Ed Orgeron as the LSU coach walked toward Rose Bowl Stadium from the team bus before the game. "We're going to beat you down."
And he was not yelling, which makes it even more poignant. He said it very matter of factly on Baton Rouge's WAFB Channel 9, which caught the encounter on video. And that's exactly what happened.
"Hey, bring your (expletive) on in your little sissy, blue shirt," Orgeron answered.
But his team did not.
UCLA (2-0) systematically beat LSU down as the game wore on, pummeling the Tigers on both lines of scrimmage for 470 total yards to 379. The Bruins looked like an old school SEC team behind tailback Zach Charbonnet, a Camarillo, California, native whose name would fit well in Lafourche Parish with Orgeron's. He gashed the Tigers for 117 yards on just 11 carries. Tailback Brittain Brown gained another 96 yards on 17 carries.
The Tigers' leading rusher? Tyrion-Davis Price gained 31 on 13 carries as the Tigers totaled 49 yards on 25 rushes. Quarterback Max Johnson put up good numbers on the surface - 26 of 46 for 330 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. He was under constant pressure and sacked twice, but he also missed several open receivers and just looked off too often.
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LSU did take a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, but UCLA did the answering with a 75-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson to tight end Greg Dulcich.
"He was so wide open, I was just making sure I didn’t overthrow the ball," said Thompson-Robinson, who saw the same wide open spaces on LSU film from last season. "I’m glad I could get it to him.”
LSU's Major Burns was in position for the tackle, but the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Dulcich undressed the 6-3, 178-pound defensive back with an excellent move.
Every time LSU made a move, UCLA answered - and not with childish name calling.
After the Tigers closed to within 24-20 on a 33-yard Cade York field goal with 1:07 left in the third quarter, UCLA drove 73 yards in eight plays for a 31-20 lead early in the fourth quarter. Then the Bruins put the game away with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Thompson-Robinson to wide receiver Kyle Phillips, who shredded LSU's secondary like it was in the Pac-12, for a 38-20 lead with 6:31 to go.
LSU All-American cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. was right in front of Phillips, but he just grabbed at him like someone who doesn't know how to tackle.
"All of us bouncing off tackles," Phillips said. "Can’t tackle Zach, can’t tackle Brittain. Can’t tackle Kyle."
New defensive coordinator Daronte Jones and the remnants of former defensive coordinator Bo Pelini's unit was no match for UCLA coach Chip Kelly.
LSU (0-1) suffered its worst defeat in a season opener since it lost 26-8 at No. 16 Virginia Tech in 2002.
"We didn’t perform like we’re supposed to at LSU," Orgeron said. "It’s my responsibility. Obviously, we’re going to look at it schematically – where we’ve got to get better."
UCLA continually surged LSU backwards on both sides.
"There were a lot of areas - physicality, the point of attack," Orgeron said as if it was still 2020. "We need to be more physical. "We didn't stop the run. We didn't eliminate the explosive plays. Crossing routes, missed assignments. Those things continue to haunt us and hurt us. Have to get them fixed."
Orgeron is 5-6 since winning the national championship at 15-0 in 2019-20.
He had talent last year, and he has it this year. His recent hires, though, did not look very talented on this night. His team looked unprepared and out of it. His two new coordinators - Jones and Jake Peetz on offense - looked like they were calling their first major college game, which they were.
"We were slow getting into the rhythm of the offense," said LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, who did catch nine passes for 148 yards and three touchdowns. "We got beat up front. We got beat all around."
There was no tempo on offense and too many wide open spaces on defense.
"We have to get better really quickly," Orgeron said. "One game does not define a season, but we do understand that was a letdown for our fans, and I take responsibility for it. We’ve got to get better."
If not LSU is looking like 7-5 this season for 12-10 in two seasons, which would not bode well for Orgeron's future.