BATON ROUGE, La. – Hangovers can be harsh, no matter how expected they are or how used you get to them.
It can be argued that LSU walked out of Bryant-Denny Stadium with a heavy dose of moral victory last Saturday after a 24-10 loss. Most of what the Tigers did was sound; if not for a break or two, they might have put the Crimson Tide in a much less comfortable situation.
Bottom line, though, LSU lost to Alabama for a seventh straight time. No matter if the gap has narrowed, the gap is still there.
So yeah, an emotional recovery was required for the Tigers this week.
What the loss to Alabama shouldn’t do is provide the permanent storyline to LSU’s 2017 season — not with a fourth of the season still remaining and myriad young players entering the final phases of their learning curve.
Something the Tigers have gotten better at the last several seasons is bouncing back from the Alabama game and not allowing one loss to lead to a second or third. That seems exceptionally vital this season considering the circumstances – Ed Orgeron’s initial season, the looming transition to one if not two promising young quarterbacks, a pass-the-torch need at the running back spot, etc.
“We didn’t make this last game all or nothing, although we know how big it is in the state of Louisiana,” Orgeron said Monday. “So, I think we’ll be able to bounce back well. We’ll be able to bounce back with some confidence. We have to bring extra energy this week. But I think this year is a little bit different because our guys are feeling good about themselves right now, though they lost.”
Coaches love to recycle clichés from season-to-season and week-to-week. A big one: Take one game at a time.
In this situation, though, maybe it makes more sense for the Tigers to go against the grain and take the final three regular season games as a group and attack them that way.
LSU’s three remaining foes – Arkansas on Saturday, at Tennessee and then Texas A&M at Tiger Stadium on the Saturday after Thanksgiving – are all struggling. They are a combined 13-14 and share only four SEC wins among them.
Gannett Louisiana’s Glenn Gulibeau crunched some numbers earlier this week and reported that those three have the worst aggregate record of LSU’s final three foes since 1984.
Does that guarantee anything for the Tigers? Heck no. They are a 6-3 football team that had made a lot of progress, but there are still some blemishes that can’t be glossed over.
Mix in the fact that the head coaches of LSU’s final opponents are clinging to their jobs and need wins, and there are plenty of intangible motivations on both sides of the field.
For the Tigers to make the 2017 season a successful segue to the future, they need to finish with a 9-3 record and an effective performance in whatever mid-level bowl game they are headed for. That would alleviate some of the sting of a blowout loss to Mississippi State and the stunning upset by Troy at Tiger Stadium, not to mention the latest chapter in the story of Alabama disappointment.
Now is a time for LSU to hit the reset button on this season, look at the last three games as a season in itself, and charge ahead trying to be 3-0 by the time November winds down.
Accomplish that, and the moral victory aspect of losing to Alabama becomes much more valuable.