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Pigskin Picture: Growing Pains

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Improvement is needed by all, but at least effort is there.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

This game left me with a weird feeling. Yes it’s a year zero, maybe the mother of all year zeros, but having two weeks to prepare for LSU and then not hitting 100 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter is inexcusable. On the other hand, does two drives in the fourth quarter that ended in touchdowns cancel out all of that miserableness in the first 45 minutes of the game?

I mean, we all laughed our asses off at this play.

And right fully so, it was the perfect encapsulation of this season in general. But the team didn’t quit, and played out the whole 60 minutes. That’s better than what’s going on at several other programs. Just look at Louisville and our ol’ pal Bobby Petrino, that team has quit with a capital Q.

So that leads me to the conclusion that one half of the equation is definitely there, the buy in. The players definitely want to play for this staff, and they definitely are trying their asses of for them. That’s great and reason for encouragement. However there’s just the small little part of, you know, playing and coaching the game correctly. That play above shows just how much execution is lacking, and it’s lacking in all phases, offense, defense, special teams, and coaching. Everyone shares the blame in execution this weekend. The game plan was initially a bust, the offense got nothing going on the ground, and the defense got worn out.

So for the final two games and the offseason, the focus needs to be on the execution. The current players look to have bought in, the first recruiting class is there (although despite the high ranking, the lack of high quality offensive linemen should be a bigger red flag than it has been.), and the facilities are in place. Now there needs to be growth, because there’s been a distinct lack of that this season. Players and coaches both need to improve to get where fans want this program to be, and they can.

We talk about player development often, but rarely development of coaches. They’re often holed into a very black and white “good or bad” immediately. But this is an extremely young and inexperienced coaching staff, much like this group of players. And also like the players, they’re going through some real growing pains. It’s not going to be a quick realization if they successfully grow from this season, we likely won’t know for sure until a full calendar year from now. But so far they’ve made the first big step, now it’s time to make the next.