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LSU loss evokes memories of BCS collapse

When an LSU offense's performance evokes comparisons to the Tigers' effort against Alabama in the 2012 BCS championship, something has gone horribly awry.

LSU's 92-yard outing that night in New Orleans is like Harry Potter's Lord Voldemort among Tigers fans: the game that must not be named. One of the most pitiful performances in memory for an offense on a big stage. An absolute embarrassment. And highly similar to the Tigers' production in Saturday's 17-0 loss at Arkansas.

The difference, of course, is that the stakes were nowhere near the same.

In the Alabama disaster, a previously unbeaten LSU team crossed midfield just once and was dominated throughout with a national championship hanging in the balance. Saturday night's game in Fayetteville pitted an injury-riddled, three-loss LSU team against an Arkansas club that hadn't won a conference game in its last 17 tries. The on-field results, though, were every bit as ugly.

By missing a pair of field goals and losing a fourth-quarter fumble at the Arkansas 19-yard line on Saturday, LSU failed to score in a game for the first time since its infamous Alabama loss. The Tigers' 123 yards of total offense were also their worst performance since that Alabama defeat -- and the program's worst performance in a regular-season game in a generation.

The last time LSU produced fewer yards in a regular-season game was Sept. 20, 1975, when No. 11 Texas A&M beat Charlie McClendon's Tigers 39-8 in Baton Rouge. The Tigers ran 66 plays for 114 yards and picked up just seven first downs. LSU's only touchdown came on a blocked punt in the fourth quarter.

Saturday's performance against Arkansas sent writers scrambling for the record books, as well, to determine exactly how historic this face plant was in LSU history. Let's throw out the BCS title game against Alabama and focus solely on regular-season games. Here are some other "last times" that LSU approached on Saturday:

  • The Tigers hadn't been shut out in a regular-season game since falling 31-0 to Alabama in 2002.

  • Their 36 rushing yards on 32 carries were the fewest by an LSU offense in a regular-season game since running 31 times for 30 yards against Mississippi State in 2009.

  • Terrence Magee's team-high 24 rushing yards were the fewest by the Tigers' leading rusher in a game since Spencer Ware's 21 against Florida in 2012.

  • And their 87 passing yards were their fewest since ... the previous Saturday, when they totaled 76 in an overtime loss against Alabama.

Saturday's game featured a perfect storm of horrible circumstances for the Tigers. Two veteran offensive linemen (center Elliott Porter and left guard Vadal Alexander) missed all or most of the game with injuries, as did senior running back Kenny Hilliard. LSU's average field position was its own 24-yard line, and the Tigers couldn't stay out of their own way even when they had decent starting field position on the freezing-cold night.

Arkansas focused on stopping the LSU running game and Tigers quarterback Anthony Jennings was unable to keep the offense moving with the pass. That wasn't much of a surprise given that Jennings has been inconsistent at best this season, but it further angered fans hoping to see backup Brandon Harris get a chance when LSU coach Les Miles never put the freshman in the game in an effort to spark the offense.

Miles fell back on his well-worn line that leaving Jennings in gave LSU the best chance to win -- and perhaps that was the case -- but this open week is the time for Miles and his offensive coaches to do some soul searching about what is working and what is not.

Obviously if we're comparing the Tigers' performance to what happened against Alabama on that fateful night in New Orleans, there isn't much to be happy about these days from an offensive perspective.