The 2017 gridiron season began with great promise for the LSU Tiger football team. Initial rankings placed them as high as 14th in the country, and a contender for the SEC title. While the consensus felt eventual BCS champion Alabama was the best team, LSU and Auburn were both deemed talented enough to unseat the Crimson Tide.
A Start that Didn’t Live up to Expectations
Most experts had the Tigers primed to roll into The Swamp on the University of Florida’s campus on October 7th, finishing the first five weeks of 2017 unbeaten. However, after plowing over BYU and Chattanooga, LSU ventured up to Starkville, Mississippi during week three for their first conference game.
The only way to describe the Tigers performance that evening was ugly. Penalties and shoddy play helped Mississippi State dismantle LSU for their most lopsided win in the 111-year history of the rivalry. The loss had Coach Ed Orgeron’s staff scratching their heads for answers.
Things seemed to improve slightly when LSU returned home to face Syracuse. However, the defense was shredded for over 300 passing yards and untimely mistakes still plagued the team. The Tigers escaped with a precarious 9 point win against a far less talented team.
The Tiger faithful seemed to sense something wasn’t right. It became boldly evident on the final Saturday in September. LSU welcomed upstart Troy University. With a history of upsetting bigger schools, looking one week ahead to a meeting with the Gators could prove disastrous.
A sullen gloom enveloped Death Valley as LSU fumbled on their first play of the game. Without their leading rusher Derrius Guice, LSU couldn’t develop any offensive consistency. Troy’s offense was efficient, taking full advantage of the Tigers’ ineptitude to take leads of 17-0 and 24-7 in the 4th quarter.
LSU made a valiant comeback in front of their home crowd, but Blace Brown picked off Miles Brennan’s pass and Troy became the first non-SEC team to win in Death Valley in over 17 years.
With 2 losses in the first five weeks of the season, LSU needed to find themselves. They needed to do it quickly, as they were headed for one of the toughest places to play in all college football.
A Finish that Turned Things Around
The LSU Tiger football team arrived in Gainesville, Florida searching for their identity. They had plummeted in the rankings, falling out of the top 25, looking like a team high on talent, but weak on ambition.
While it wasn’t a pretty game by efficiency standards, LSU didn’t turn the ball over once. They reduced the number of untimely, drive-killing penalties. A missed PAT in the last two-minutes handed LSU a critical victory.
That identity would be tested the following week when the Tigers hosted Auburn at Death Valley. Auburn was climbing the NCAA rankings ladder and was clearly in the BCS playoff discussions. LSU fell 16 points behind as the 3rd quarter clock wound down, but an 8-play drive in less than two minutes closed the gap. Clark atoned for an early fumble by racing 75 yards with an Auburn punt. The Tiger defense would rise to each challenge, giving the ball back to the offense. Conner Culp would punch a pair of field goals through the uprights helping LSU secure a huge upset.
LSU then headed for Tuscaloosa, Alabama for a date with the current number one team in the nation. Alabama would play a nearly flawless game, flagged only once for interference. Timely plays and an impenetrable defense earned The Tide a hard-fought two-touchdown victory.
While LSU lost to a strong Alabama team, the Tigers seemed to find themselves in Tuscaloosa. They would finish off their SEC schedule with three demonstrative victories over Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
The solid finish earned the Tigers a date with Notre Dame at The Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day. As the box score would indicate, it was a thrilling game. Four LSU special teams’ mistakes would keep the Irish in the game. Notre Dame actually led for a slim 2½ minutes until the end.
LSU was clinging to a 3-point lead after a methodical 12-play drive gave them the lead with 2-minutes left to play. However, heartbreak would be how the 2017 Tiger season would end. With under a minute to play, Myles Boykin made a miraculous one-handed catch and side-stepped John Battle to race 55 yards with the winning touchdown.
Even after a four-loss season, there is hope in Baton Rouge. LSU had 54 freshmen on their roster, and although his playing time was limited, returning quarterback Myles Brennan showed promise. Home state product Terrace Marshall Jr. will bring his pass catching talents and provide a legitimate target for the Tigers passing game.
Four of the freshman class finished the season starting on the defensive side of the ball and only two senior linemen are expected to leave. Wide receivers D.J. Clark and Russell Gase will be missed, but Marshall is primed to fill those shoes. Most importantly, Orgeron will begin his second full season and a second of his highly regarded recruiting classes will suit up for the purple and gold.
2017 was full of ups and downs for the LSU Tigers, but they will certainly be back in both the national and SEC discussions in 2018.