I ended up watching a replay of the Tulane game, intent on trying to figure out what went wrong. To that end, I made a few observations.
With right at 5:00 to go in the first quarter, on LSU's third possession (we had a touchdown and a missed field goal on the first two), the Tiger offense faced second and long on our side of the field. Demetrius Byrd broke open deep on the Tulane secondary. He had a step on his man, and Flynn heaved it out to him. A completion would have gone for a touchdown or put us inside the 10 yard line. The ball was overthrown and fell harmlessly to the ground. On the next play, Carnell Stewart's man stunted inside and beat him, getting a sack on Flynn.
We punted away, and Tulane got some yards on its ensuing possession, ultimately punting the ball back to us, but pinning us deep in our own territory. We wouldn't get out of that bad field position until Tulane took the lead.
Think about that. It's two plays. One play, really. If Flynn gives Byrd a catchable ball, it's probably 14-0 with time remaining in the first quarter. Instead, Flynn missed the receiver, and then the blocking collapsed. If we hit those plays, we have great confidence, Tulane is demoralized, and we probably pour on the points. Instead, we missed those plays, gave Tulane the ball and a surge of confidence, and we struggled for most of the rest of the half.
It's also a microcosm of what went wrong in that game. The whole game, the passing game was simply out of sync. There was no one reason for it.
Sometimes the blocking broke down. Sometimes Flynn held onto the ball too long and/or the receivers failed to get open. Sometimes Flynn missed receivers. Sometimes the receivers failed to catch a well-thrown ball.
I've seen a lot of blame thrown around on this game, and a lot of has fallen on the designated offensive lineman whipping boy, Carnell Stewart. I think it's undeserved to focus criticism on him. Given, he did not play very well, but he played at least as well as Lyle Hitt played, and probably better than Herman Johnson played. Stewart beat his man most of the time. He gave up a couple sacks, but at least one of those was on a play where he gave Flynn plenty of time and he never got rid of the ball. The safety occurred when a man beat a Stewart/Hitt double-team. He went inside on Stewart, and Hitt whiffed on his attempt to block him. Hitt then grabbed him and pulled him down in the end zone.
Most of the pressure on Flynn seemed to come from the interior line rather than from the outside. Stewart gave up a couple sacks, but most of the hits and hurries came other spots on the line. Most of it seemed to come from Herman Johnson's spot. Johnson also picked up a couple penalties. I'm not saying Stewart was great, or even that he was particularly good, but people seem to be putting an awful lot of the blame for the offensive woes on him.
The offensive line failed as a group (except for Ciron Black, who was definitely the best of the group), with no one person taking the blame for most of it.
On defense, let me just say that Kirston Pittman was GREAT. What a tremendous surprise he has been this season. His career was DEAD before the fall, and now he's one of our most dangerous defensive players. He was getting pressure on the QB, running down ball carriers from behind, and basically doing everything. I hope he comes back for a 6th season, but I have a feeling he'll get love from the NFL and move on.