LSU football manhandled in loss at Kentucky, allows 318 rushing yards
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Do you believe in miracles?
LSU needed another one, almost two decades since the “Bluegrass Miracle” victory at Kentucky, with the season at an undeniable crossroads.
But nostalgia didn’t matter to Kentucky.
The 14th-ranked Wildcats (6-0, 4-0 SEC) dominated the Tigers (3-3, 1-2) up front in a 42-21 win on Saturday at Kroger Field. LSU surrendered 318 yards rushing to Kentucky, its worst performance since the opener at UCLA.
Here are five observations from LSU’s second consecutive loss.
Tigers torched on defense
Kentucky feasted on an LSU defense missing four starters, averaging 7.7 yards per play and 7.3 yards per rush.
Quarterback Will Levis threw three touchdowns and ran for two more. The Penn State transfer finished 14-of-17 for 145 yards. Chris Rodriguez Jr. ran for 147 yards, one touchdown and caught another.
LSU lost coverage on Rodriguez, who lined up in a bunch formation, and fourth-and-3 for Kentucky's first score.
Safety Major Burns and defensive tackle Joseph Evans did not play. Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., who had foot surgery this week, is out indefinitely with no timetable for his return. LSU lost defensive end Andre Anthony to a season-ending injury against Central Michigan.
One step forward, then two back
Following LSU coach Ed Orgeron’s lead, offensive coordinator Jake Peetz stuck with the running game. He didn’t count on quarterback Max Johnson struggling or the Tigers playing from behind.
It was all downhill for Johnson after an 8-of-8 start passing. Johnson was sacked four times and his fumble on LSU's opening drive set up Kentucky's first touchdown. On a critical drive in the second quarter, Johnson overthrew open targets in Trey Palmer and Jack Bech for sure first downs.
Johnson completed 22-of-38 attempts for 261 yards and a 41-yard touchdown to Malik Nabers.
Tyrion Davis-Price breaks through
It may have taken six games, but LSU produced a 100-yard rusher for the first time in 2021.
Davis-Price ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. His one-yard score cut Kentucky’s lead to 21-7 with 6:43 left in the third quarter. The play was an homage to the past. LSU lined up in the I-formation — a rarity since Orgeron transitioned the Tigers to the spread — with three tight ends on the line of scrimmage.
LSU rotated Davis-Price, Armoni Goodwin and Corey Kiner at running back.
Kayshon Boutte slowed with ankle injury
Kayshon Boutte missed a series after injuring his ankle in the first quarter. He still managed to make eight receptions for 73 yards.
The SEC's second-leading receiver, Boutte trails only Kentucky's Wan'Dale Robinson in that category. Robinson caught eight passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Ed Orgeron's seat is scorching
Orgeron accepted responsibility for the loss to Auburn and promised improvement.
He'll have a new another set of problems to own this week. Many of them familiar.
LSU's pass rush was nonexistent for the second consecutive game. The offensive line struggled to create a pocket for Johnson to throw from. Nor has the defense consistently covered running backs and tight ends all season.
The Tigers are 8-8 since winning the 2019 national championship.
Adam Hunsucker covers LSU for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @adam_hunsucker. Enjoy Adam’s work? Consider a digital subscription for unlimited access.