BATON ROUGE — LSU’s defense nearly pitched its first shutout since 2018 as the Tigers defeated the McNeese Cowboys 34-7 in Death Valley.
Starting quarterback Max Johnson completed 18 of his 27 pass attempts for 161 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Tigers to their first win of the season.
Kayshon Boutte didn’t put up big numbers, but he did collect his fourth and fifth TD receptions of the season. Wideout Trey Palmer and running back Corey Kiner both reached the end zone for the first times in their careers.
McNeese managed only 146 yards of offense against an aggressive LSU front that sacked Cody Orgeron eight times.
Orgeron did manage to break up the shutout with a 44 yard touchdown pass to Carlos Williams with 4:30 remaining in the ball game.
Unfortunately, allowing a late score was far from the biggest disappointment of the night in Baton Rouge.
The Tigers once again looked mediocre on the offensive side of the ball.
LSU’s attack amassed a grand total of 306 yards against a Cowboys defense that had surrendered 472 yards and 42 points to Western Florida a week ago.
The offensive line struggled in pass protection, allowing three sacks and several more pressures of both Johnson and backup Garrett Nussmeier.
If anything, considering the opponent, LSU’s rushing attack performed worse than it did against UCLA. Though the Tigers finished with 126 yards on the ground, it took them 36 attempts to get there (3.5 yards per rush).
Since the start of the 2020 season, LSU has averaged fewer than four yards per carry in 10 of its last 12 games. In five of those games, they failed to reach three yards per attempt.
Kiner, a freshman out of Ohio, looked the best among LSU’s options. He ran for 56 yards on 11 carries, including a 23 yard touchdown for the Tigers’ final score of the night.
More often than not, LSU backs were met at the line of scrimmage by McNeese defenders. They failed repeatedly to generate any push at the point of attack.
Even with two starters sidelined, this was another in a string of subpar performances by the offensive line.
LSU converted an abysmal 4-of-16 third down opportunities, dropping their success rate to 32 percent after two games.
Big plays were nearly non-existent for the Tigers as they failed to generate one play of more than 30 yards. McNeese had three such plays.
Neither Johnson nor Nussmeier looked anything more than adequate as the duo completed 21 of their combined 37 pass attempts for 180 yards. Those 180 yards were the fewest for LSU since they were held to 184 in a 29-0 loss to Alabama back in 2018.
The offensive creativity that was promised never materialized. LSU tried some direct snaps and end arounds, but they didn’t produce many results.
Two games into the 2021 season, the LSU Tigers have no offensive identity.
Kayshon Boutte is as good as any receiver in the country right now. In his last five games, Boutte has 41 receptions for 706 yards and nine touchdowns. His toe-tap TD in the third quarter was just another entry into a highlight reel that continues to grow and grow.
However, he can’t drag the Tigers out of their doldrums on his own. He shouldn’t have to. This team is far too talented for that. The recruiting guides said it. Coach O has said it. The Tigers look like they should be an amazing football team. Right now they are not.
In seven days, LSU returns to that same Tiger Stadium field to host the Central Michigan Chippewas (1-1). After losing 34-24 to Missouri in its opener, CMU steamrolled Robert Morris 45-0 earlier Saturday afternoon.
During those seven days LSU will have to come out of whatever amnesia that has plagued the program seemingly from the moment that confetti began to rain down after the 2020 National Championship game.
If the Tigers don’t figure out who they are pretty quickly, the rest of the teams on their schedule will be prepared to tell them.