LSU won ugly over Louisiana-Monroe. Will that be enough to beat Texas A&M?
BATON ROUGE — LSU quarterback Max Johnson tried to sell it. Instant replay wouldn’t let him. There was still an outside chance if the PAT team was on the field a splitsecond faster.
On a third-and-10, Johnson mishandled a shotgun snap from center Liam Shanahan. Louisiana-Monroe defenders clapped at the line of scrimmage to throw off Shanahan’s timing. It worked this time. Shanahan sent the snap between his legs before Johnson was ready.
Johnson was down when he scooped up the fumble. Without thinking, he threw downfield to Jaray Jenkins for a touchdown. The play was overturned after review.
“I thought we were going to get the field goal off, just run it out there and kick it quick,” Johnson said. “That’s not what happened.”
Underwhelming: LSU beats ULM with big plays
The outcome was never in doubt on Saturday night at Tiger Stadium. LSU (5-6) slogged out a 27-14 win over ULM (4-7). Outgoing coach Ed Orgeron’s 50th victory will be remembered more for what happens next week than anything that against the Warhawks.
LSU must beat Texas A&M in Orgeron’s last game in Death Valley to clinch bowl eligibility. The last time the Tigers failed to accomplish this modest task — at least modest for this program — was 1999.
“We’ve already set our sights on them,” Orgeron said. “We’re going to do the best to win the game, whatever that may entail. How I feel? I’ll probably be a little animated and excited.”
Somber was the best descriptor for the postgame locker room. LSU’s players were happy to win. Those can’t be taken for granted — not after the past month. But this performance left much to be desired.
LSU couldn’t sustain drives offensively. ULM took advantage and hung around. Had the Tigers not held the Warhawks scoreless twice in the red zone, including one drive that stalled at the 2-yard line, maybe the final score goes the other way.
“You have to give ULM credit, but that ain’t the standard around here,” linebacker Damone Clark said. “All around, we have to be better than that. Next week is a big game for us and we have to get back to the drawing board to have a chance next week.”
Orgeron called a fake punt in the second quarter that gifted ULM its first touchdown. The fake ended in an Avery Adkins interception. Jontre Kirklin slipped and Josh Newton made the interception. Rhett Rodriguez and Boogie Knight connected for a 28-yard touchdown.
To put the score into context, ULM had only scored a single touchdown in three prior meetings at Tiger Stadium. The Warhawks went into halftime trailing 17-7.
“I wish I could have called it back,” Orgeron said. “It was fourth-and-3 and ULM’s cornerback was playing off. All we had to do was catch the ball and throw it 4 yards. It was wide open.”
Johnson played his best game since Florida, finishing 22-of-33 for 319 yards with two passing touchdowns and a rushing score. His top targets should make LSU fans feel good about the future.
Freshman Malik Nabers made four receptions for a career-best 143 yards and a touchdown. Brian Thomas Jr., another freshman, made four grabs for 61 yards and a touchdown.
“I’m glad we were able to go out there and throw it around,” Johnson said. “The receivers were able to make plays and the offensive line did a good job pass protecting, so it was a lot of fun.”
Orgeron admitted LSU was sloppy against ULM. This game fell on a wide spot in the schedule, sandwiched between SEC West matchups against Arkansas and Texas A&M. He wouldn’t apologize for the result.
LSU won a game it was supposed to. But the effort must improve for the Tigers to go bowling.
“We’re going to enjoy it.” Orgeron said. “We’re going to play better next week. I know we will.”
Adam Hunsucker covers LSU for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @adam_hunsucker. Enjoy Adam’s work? Consider a digital subscription for unlimited access.