If LSU football struggles against McNeese State, what will happen when SEC play starts?
BATON ROUGE - It's a good thing LSU has another exhibition game before Southeastern Conference play starts.
The Tigers (1-1) beat McNeese State, 34-7, Saturday night and collected eight sacks and 16 tackles for losses with a turnover, but they are far from SEC ready. Maybe not as far away as Texas, but they have miles to go before they will be ready to win in two weeks even at Mississippi State, which beat North Carolina State to go to 2-0.
LSU fortunately gets to host Central Michigan (1-1) on Saturday (6:30 p.m., SEC Network).
LSU's offensive line continues to look like something out of the Curley Hallman era. Yes, the Tigers were missing starting tackles Austin Deculus and Cameron Wire and right guard Chasen Hines because of injuries, but still this was FCS McNeese State (0-2), which lost to West Florida last week.
And there were the Tigers sputtering around with 34 rushing yards on 10 carries at halftime and just 103 on 36 carries for the game. The leading rusher? Tyrion Davis-Price with 37 yards on eight carries.
LSU also allowed three sacks.
"Hopefully with our offensive line getting back, we'll have better protecting and then better schemes," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said.
Deculus, Wire and Hines are expected to play either next week or at Mississippi State.
"We tried to get the run game going outside," Orgeron said.
Is it that hard against an FCS school? "We had a variety of runs," Orgeron said defensively.
OK, so LSU's running game failed in a variety of ways this week instead of with a limited scope of runs a week ago. That is not improvement.
"We need to look at it whether it's personnel or scheme," Orgeron said. "We need to fix it."
After Mississippi State, the schedule builds in difficulty with Auburn and Florida at home with Kentucky in between before trips to Ole Miss and Alabama.
"Obviously, we're going to face stiffer opponents down the road," Orgeron said. "People are going to come after us, but overall we're pleased with the win. We improved in a lot of areas. Now we need to jump next week in a lot of areas again."
A more explosive tailback would help. Freshman Armoni Goodwin broke a 21-yard run in the first quarter, but he came up limping and had just one more rush. Freshman Corey Kiner flashed late in the game with 33 yards on 11 carries. He could help.
LSU has plenty of talented receivers, but quarterback Max Johnson is not making big plays. The offense is not explosive. It was 4 of 16 on third down against McNeese.
"That's not good enough," Orgeron said. "That starts with protection. We've been trying several things. We want to get our athletes in space, but it's just not working."
And it won't work in the SEC for LSU, which is running out of directional schools fast.
"We're going to look at it again," he said. "We'll slide the line. We'll keep the tight end in. Whatever it takes. People are going to be coming after us. But overall, I'm pleased with the win."
He was one of the few.
"I feel like we could've done more," said wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, who caught a mere five passes for 31 yards. "It shouldn't have been a close game at all. We really should've put up 60. It is frustrating a little bit. I feel like as an offense, we just start slow every game. When we get into SEC play, we have to start fast."
Or LSU could die quick.