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Utah State must ‘find a way to get better’ after humbling 42-6 loss to No. 5 LSU

Difficulties in third-down situations — on both sides of the ball — helped doom Aggies Saturday.

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LSU wide receiver Derrick Dillon (19) carries against Utah State linebacker David Woodward (9) in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Utah State in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. LSU won 42-6. LSU won 42-6.

AP

BATON ROUGE, La. — The response was the same from the coaches and the players: LSU is the No. 5 team in the nation for a reason and it showed Saturday morning as the Utah State Aggies were unable to get anything going on either side of the ball in a 42-6 loss to the Tigers in Tiger Stadium.

Utah State coach Gary Andersen said he saw his team’s fight, but the Tigers just caused the Aggies too many problems.

“We didn’t play well,” Andersen said. “That’s a good football team, a well-coached football team. The story of the game was basically third downs on both sides. You’ve got to win third downs if you want to have a chance, whether it’s offense or defense.”

Utah State converted on only 1 of 12 third-down situations, while LSU was 11 of 17, clearly illustrating the Aggies’ struggles.

“We didn’t play well. That’s a good football team, a well-coached football team. The story of the game was basically third downs on both sides. You’ve got to win third downs if you want to have a chance, whether it’s offense or defense.” — Utah State coach Gary Andersen

The Utah State offense was rendered ineffective against LSU, which Andersen said was doing “everything” to limit it.

“Our MO was to get some mojo going and get some plays stacked on each other to wear them out,” Andersen said. “It didn’t happen today. We didn’t get that one play. You’ve got to find a way to get a couple of first downs. It was very frustrating to see where we were on offense today against a very talented defense. I’m not taking away from LSU.”

Quarterback Jordan Love went 15 for 30 for 130 yards through the air and threw three interceptions and no touchdowns, by far his worst performance of the season.

Utah State wide receiver Jordan Nathan said the Aggies didn’t get anywhere near what they wanted to production-wise.

“Those DBs, they’re going to make plays,” Nathan said. “We have to put ourselves in a better (place) to make Jordan (Love) look good. As a receiver, that’s our job. They played us man a lot today and we just have to win those one-on-one coverages.”

Nathan said it was frustrating for the offense when the defense was making plays on the other side of the ball, despite some struggles of their own. Junior linebacker Kevin Meitzenheimer had a career high in tackles with 14 and forced two fumbles, one of which was recovered by the Aggies.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron said the Tigers planned to be more “methodical” on offense, slowing the tempo to affect Utah State’s defense. The Tigers finished with 601 yards of total offense — 248 yards rushing and 353 yards passing — and were more balanced than they have been in previous games.

“I thought Kevin (Meitzenheimer) led the defensive battle through some very difficult times,” Andersen said. “The defense didn’t bat an eye. I don’t know how many three-and-outs and first downs (the offense had), but it wasn’t many. When you’re playing LSU, you have to find a way to get some of those. Those guys kept battling, it was great to see.”

The Aggie defense did have one interception, by Cameron Haney, and the two forced fumbles by Meitzenheimer, but the offense was unable to convert either of those into touchdowns, settling instead for field goals in the red zone. Nathan said at least one of those should have been seven points instead of three and it was frustrating for them to not be able to execute.

“Anytime you get a turnover, you want to capitalize on those turnovers,” Meitzenheimer said. “I’m just trying to make plays for my teammates.”

While the loss to LSU was disappointing for the Aggies, both Andersen and Nathan viewed the game as a learning experience and a way for the Aggies to reach their ultimate goal of winning a Mountain West championship.

The bottom line is that the Aggies (3-2) need better play on both sides of the ball, especially when it returns to conference play in two weeks Andersen told his team after the game.

“We have to challenge ourselves and everybody in the program to find a way to get better,” Andersen said. “Sit on that plane for three and a half hours to find a way to get better. Look at yourself and your teammates in the eye and deal with it and move on and get ready for the next game.”