BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU quarterback Danny Etling is challenging the 19th-ranked Tigers to get some perspective and control over their emotions.
Any type of hangover from a deflating 10-0 loss to top-ranked Alabama this past weekend will damage interim coach Ed Orgeron’s chances of keeping his job long-term and put bowl eligibility at risk for LSU (5-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference). The Tigers still need at least one more victory out of three remaining conference games to qualify for the postseason.
“It’s time to move on and get ready for Arkansas,” Etling said, referring to this Saturday night’s opponent. “What’s more fun than playing college football? There’s only so much time to put into it. I realize football is a game, but I love this game.
“Maybe if you don’t love the game like you should, you shouldn’t be on the team,” Etling added sternly. “If you’re the right kind of person, you’re competitive. I’m very competitive.”
Only days ago, LSU was realistically in position to take control of the SEC West Division. Now, for the fifth consecutive year, there will be no appearance in the Southeastern Conference championship game for LSU, which has dropped six straight to the Crimson Tide, starting with the January 2012 BCS national championship game.
But in its previous five losses to Alabama, LSU already had reached the six victory threshold for bowl eligibility. If the Tigers can’t win at least one of their final three games, they’ll fail to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 1999 — the year before current Alabama coach Nick Saban began his previous college coaching job at LSU.
LSU’s remaining schedule is challenging, with road games against Arkansas and No. 10 Texas A&M sandwiched around a home game against No. 22 Florida.
“Getting to a bowl is a motivation,” junior fullback John David Moore said. “But, that may not be the first thing. The first thing we say may not be ‘we have to win to be bowl eligible.’ We need to win for the brothers on our team, for ‘coach O’ and for our fans.”
LSU has struggled the past two seasons when facing Arkansas the week after being beaten by Alabama. The Razorbacks have posted back-to-back 17-point victories against the Tigers — 17-0 in 2014 and 31-14 in 2015. Last season, LSU dropped games to Arkansas and Ole Miss after losing to Alabama.
Orgeron asserted that he bears primary responsibility for getting his players in the proper frame of mind for Saturday’s game against the Hogs in Fayetteville.
“My job as the football coach is to have the players put (the Alabama loss) away,” said Orgeron, who coached LSU to lopsided victories in its first three games following Les Miles firing in late September. “All of us felt the loss (Sunday). You have to deal with the emotional letdown. We were all sick to our belly. We must respond to the first loss in our new season.”
Tigers senior center Ethan Pocic expects a different mindset from his teammates this week than in the past two years following losses to Alabama.
“There will be a lot of energy this week,” Pocic said. “In the past, it was not as alive. It was a little bit mopey. Coach O is big on energy, going fast and having fun. It was a hard loss, but we still have a lot to play for and he has a lot to coach for.”
The LSU offense gained just 125 yards and picked up six first downs while getting blanked by Alabama, which did not allow the Tigers one offensive snap inside the Crimson Tide 30-yard line. Etling remains confident that his unit will rebound in Arkansas in what is also LSU’s first road game under Orgeron.
“I thought we were going to go in there and move the ball” against Alabama, Etling said. “It was a mixture of them being really talented and us not executing the game plan. We don’t need to freak out. It was one game where we didn’t execute. We just have to grind away and get better.”
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