By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports
BATON ROUGE – There’s a logical explanation for LSU’s 24-23 season-opening loss a year ago to Florida State in the Louisiana Superdome.
It was the Tigers’ first game under new head coach Brian Kelly and his staff.
If there was ever a team that needed to play a game before facing FSU – the Seminoles had the benefit of a Week 0 47-7 opener over Duquesne – LSU could have used a shakedown cruise.
Instead, the Tigers’ shakiness was on display for the first 2½ quarters against the Seminoles.
Twenty-two players (including seven starters) saw their first action in an LSU uniform in the season-opener. The list included 14 transfers, six true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen. The remaining returning players were in their first game under a new system.
Despite two fumbled punts, two blocked kicks (a field goal and an extra point) and a new starting QB reluctant to throw the ball downfield, the Tigers still lost by a mere point. True freshman tight end Mason Taylor blew a blocking assignment and allowed FSU to block new LSU placekicker Damian Ramos’ potential game-tying extra point with no time left that would have sent the game to overtime.
Kelly expected the unexpected.
But with 17 returning starters, a handful of strategically placed transfers and an almost-intact coaching staff, Kelly foresees something drastically different in opening his second campaign Sunday vs. the Seminoles in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.
“We’re a smarter football team,” Kelly said during his first weekly presser of the regular season. “We understand the things necessary to become more consistent in everything that we do to be a championship football team right down to the smallest of details. Physically, we’re better. Mentally, we’re better. Now you got to go out and execute.”
Kelly noted his squad is relatively healthy entering the opener. Running backs Armani Goodwin and Josh Williams are doubtful and probable, respectively. Backup offensive tackle Kimo Makane’ole is questionable.
As announced previously, starting defensive tackle Maason Smith won’t play because of a one-game NCAA suspension for participating in a paid autograph show in the summer of 2021 a month before the NCAA approved players making money off their name, likeness and image.
Kelly said Smith is nursing an ankle injury, so it would have been questionable how much he would play vs. FSU if he was eligible.
“He’s still not practicing at the level that he needs to be practicing for us,” Kelly said.
While Kelly acknowledged the Tigers will miss Smith’s ability to wreck an offense, he’s comfortable with LSU’s remaining defensive tackle talent led by starters returning All-SEC first-team junior Mehki Wingo and junior Jacobian Guillory.
“We really are pleased with the growth and development of our defensive line,” Kelly said. (There are) guys that we haven’t talked a lot about. (West Virginia senior transfer Jordan) Jefferson has been outstanding. He’s physical, he plays really strong at the point of attack and he’s got a lot of experience. Guillory’s first step quickness, his ability to gain penetration. . . he’s going to be a handful. And (Florida junior transfer Jalen) Lee has been probably one of the surprises.”
KNOW THE ENEMY
No. 5 LSU vs. No. 8 Florida State, Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Sunday, 6:30 p.m. (ABC)
Series record and last LSU-FSU meeting: Florida State leads the series 8-2 after winning last season’s opener 24-23 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, FSU took a 17-3 lead late into the third quarter after LSU’s disjointed offense in its first game under new head coach Brian Kelly produced three points and 122 yards in its first five possessions. New starting QB Jayden Daniels caught fire, leading the Tigers to 256 yards and three TDs on their final three possessions. Daniels threw a 2-yard TD pass to Jaray Jenkins with no time left in the game, but the Tigers couldn’t force overtime when FSU blocked LSU’s extra point.
Florida State head coach: Mike Norvell (56-31 overall in 7 seasons, 18-16 in three years at FSU).
THIS AND THAT:
Appearance fee earned by each team: $5.1 million
Betting line: LSU is favored by 2½
Number of Louisiana natives on Florida State roster: 7
Number of Florida natives on LSU roster: 6
Number of transfers on FSU roster from 4-year schools: 27 from 23 schools including 19 players from 12 Power 5 Conference schools
FLORIDA STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Jordan Travis (226 of 353 for 3,214 yards, 24 TDs, 5 interceptions, 417 yards rushing and 7 TDs), WR Johnny Wilson (43 catches for 897 and 5 TDs, DE Jared Verse (48 tackles, 17 TFL, 9 sacks), WLB Kalen DeLoach (65 tackles, 7½ TFL, 3 sacks), CB Akeem Dent (53 tackles, 4 PBU), PK Tyler Keltner (46 of 74 career field goals for East Tennessee State).
- What LSU assistant coach under Paul Dietzel was hired as Florida State’s head coach in 1960?
A. Semme Nole
B. Bill Peterson
C. Bobby Bowden
D. Joe Gibbs
- What former Florida State star has an annual national college football award named in his honor?A. Deion Sanders
B. Charlie Ward
C. Lee Corso
D. Fred Biletnikoff
- What did LSU fans throw on the Tiger Stadium field celebrating the Tigers’ 42-14 win over FSU in 1982 that clinched a bowl berth?
A. Empty bourbon bottles
C. Underwear and panties
Answers 1. B; 2. D; 3. D.
Contact Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org