LSU's Steve Ensminger will be an offensive coordinator for 2 straight years in 2019 for the first time since 1997-98 at Clemson

Oct 6, 2018; Gainesville, FL, USA; LSU Tigers offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger prior to the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.  Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

GLENDALE, Arizona - Last year, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron somewhat blamed quarterback Danny Etling for a 24-10 loss at No. 1 Alabama. There were open receivers. There were missed throws. A few weeks later, offensive coordinator Matt Canada was fired, but was allowed to finish up in a 21-17 Citrus Bowl loss to Notre Dame.

This year, LSU was not close enough to No. 1 Alabama to talk about any misses or any transfer of blame after a 29-0 loss. 

Instead, offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger blamed himself for that game at a coordinators press conference at the Fiesta Bowl, where No. 11 LSU (9-3) will play No. 8 Central Florida (12-0) at noon on Tuesday. His game plan resulted in all of 12 yards rushing and 196 yards overall.

"I'll put that one on me," Ensminger said. "I'll be honest with you."

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Ensminger is all too familiar with a zero against Alabama. It was the third bad end of a shutout he has been on at LSU either as an offensive coordinator or a quarterback against the Tide. The Tigers lost, 10-0, to No. 1 Alabama in 2016 when Ensminger was interim offensive coordinator. With Ensminger as a senior quarterback in 1979, LSU fell, 3-0, to No. 1 and eventual national champion Alabama.

"We weren't very good inside the 30-yard line," Ensminger said of the 29-0 loss, though he could have been talking about the other two, too.

LSU has rarely got to the Alabama 30-yard line in the last three meetings for starters.

"I put that one one me," Ensminger said.

LSU hasn't gotten into the 20s on the scoreboard against Alabama since a 24-21 win on Nov. 6, 2010 - the last time the Tide lost in Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers have had six offensive coordinators since that game kicked off - Gary Crowton in his last year in 2010, Greg Studrawa from 2011-12, Cam Cameron from 2013-15 (and part of '16), Ensminger for part of '16, Canada in 2017 and Ensminger again in 2018.

And despite two shutouts in three years to an Alabama team that has allowed 21 points or more six times this season and allowed 30 or more three times in '16, Ensminger will return as offensive coordinator in 2019.

Funny, many LSU fans were expecting another offensive coordinator change like they expect Christmas every year.   

Yes, LSU's passing numbers have again been embarrassing in 2018 as they have been every year after quarterback Zach Mettenberger and receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry had out of LSU-body seasons in 2013. The Tigers are No. 9 in the Southeastern Conference and No. 80 nationally at the moment with 214.7 passing yards a game. Five SEC teams finished in the top 35.

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But Ensminger's aerial attack with Ohio State transfer quarterback Joe Burrow was at least better than Canada's last year. That one gained 203 yards a game for eighth in the SEC and 84th nationally.

Burrow's passing numbers have been nothing to write home to Athens, Ohio, about as he finished No. 14 in the SEC and No. 76 in the nation in passing efficiency at 127.4 (198 of 345, 2,500 yards, 12 TDs, 4 INTS). Etling finished No. 5 in the SEC and No. 13 in the nation at 153.0 (165 of 275, 2,463 yards, 16 TDs, 2 INTS).

But Burrow developed into a true dual threat as he rushed 119 times for 375 yards, which is the best rushing season for an LSU quarterback since Jordan Jefferson gained 450 in 2010. He is expected to keep running against UCF and in 2019 as a senior.

"It's amazing what he's done, you know, coming in during the summer and learning the offense and everything else and taking it over," Ensminger said of Burrow, who did not get on campus until June. "Obviously, our quarterback had a good season for us right there. And to be honest with you, we expanded some. We're looking forward to expanding even more, putting more on him."

And not just running more. Burrow is another LSU rarity in that he audibles more at the line.

"We'll be letting him make more checks at the line," Ensminger said. "He's done a good job with that."

The question is can the rest of the team catch up with Burrow?

"It's just, can the offense handle it? He can. Some of the other positions can't," Ensminger said. "So we wouldn't always do it every game."

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Ensminger has big plans for 2019, which will mark the first time he has been an offensive coordinator in back-to-back seasons since he was at Clemson in 1997 and '98. LSU also returns the same offensive coordinator and starting quarterback combination in Ensminger and Burrow since Crowton and Jefferson in 2009 and '10.

"It wasn't as versatile this season as I would like it to have been," Ensminger said.

Going into 2019, Ensminger will have a full spring practice session with Burrow and he will have much more experience on the offensive line and at wide receiver and more depth at tight end.

"I'm looking forward to the off season to get better and have a full year with him,," Burrow said. "A full spring and a full summer with these guys."

Considering the rash of injuries LSU had to starters on the offensive line and at tight end as well as the loss of starting right guard Ed Ingram because of an arrest and other questions, Ensminger feels like he did well.

"I'm pleased what we were able to accomplish," he said. "We didn't know who our starting running back (Nick Brossette) was going to be. We didn't know who our right guard (junior Damien Lewis) was going to be. We didn't know who our go-to receiver (sophomore Justin Jefferson) was going to be. We didn't know who our quarterback (Burrow) was going to be. About the only thing we knew was a couple of offensive linemen and a tight end. So, we answered a lot of questions."

Including who the offensive coordinator is for now.

"He did a great job getting us through the season,” Burrow said. “It’s always hard when you don’t know what kind offense you’re going to be. Now we know, and we’ll be able to build on that in the off-season.”