LSU addressing slew of miscues after Brian Kelly debut

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
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BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU has emerged from a disappointing season opener trying to address a slew of costly miscues in the Tigers’ one-point loss to Florida State.

The game marked an inauspicious debut for coach Brian Kelly, given his professed emphasis on organization and getting the details right.

“Coming off a difficult loss, you can imagine there’s a lot of emotion,” Kelly said as the Tigers (0-1) prepared to host Southern (1-0) in the first meeting of the two Baton Rouge institutions.

“There’s so many things that I could stand here in front of you (and say) that in Week 1, we want to do better,” Kelly said. “I could touch upon every single aspect of the game.

“But I think we have to be careful not to say that this defines anything about this football team other than what they displayed,” Kelly continued. “They displayed grit. And they displayed character. … Was it pretty football all the time? No, it was not. But they’re accountable. Our coaches are accountable. I’m accountable.”

The lowlights of the 24-23 loss included two fumbled punts by receiver Malik Nabers, a blocked field goal, a blocked extra point that could have tied the game at the end of regulation, a bad snap that went for a 14-yard loss on second-and-goal from the 5, and a third-down incomplete pass near the end zone that glanced off the torso of top receiver Kayshon Boutte, who wasn’t looking for the ball.

Boutte, a preseason Biletnikoff Award candidate, could be seen stewing on the sideline while quarterback Jayden Daniels tried to speak with him, a potentially troubling sign that Kelly said he has addressed.

“His standard is so high. And, obviously, it was a difficult day for him. It wasn’t his best. But he’s going to have great games,” Kelly said, describing Boutte as the “least” of the offense’s concerns.

Boutte had just two catches for 20 yards. He also was unable to maintain control of a contested pass near the back of the end zone. And it’s not often that Boutte’s lack of production becomes a story line, Kelly noted.

“He’s a young man who hasn’t been in this situation before and he needs some guidance,” Kelly said. “We worked on some things that will help him handle the scrutiny. And quite frankly, the scrutiny was strong.”

Meanwhile, Kelly blamed himself for Nabers’ second muffed punt, which could have cost the Tigers their last chance to tie the game had the Seminoles not subsequently fumbled themselves, setting up a dramatic, 99-yard LSU TD drive in the final 1:20.

“It was my decision to stick with Malik,” Kelly said. “I felt like he’s an elite athlete, he’s confident and I wanted to show that confidence in him.”

Protection up front was an issue, not only on the blocked kicks, but also in the running and passing games.

The Tigers entered the game lacking experience across the line. No current LSU offensive lineman has more starts for the Tigers than Cam Wire, who had four prior to the opener. Garrett Dellinger was starting at center for the first time in his career after switching positions in the offseason.

While Daniels rushed for 114 yards, most of that came on scrambles. The rest of the team combined for just 39 yards rushing.

“Obviously, the run game has to continue to grow,” Kelly said, noting how the running backs reads have to be in synch with the blocking of linemen, tight ends and receivers. “We’ve got to get all those pieces working together.”

Daniels, who was sacked four times, had little time to throw until the latter part of the fourth quarter, when the Seminoles dropped into a conservative, “prevent” defense.

Kelly said that pass blockers are still developing an “awareness” of where and when they can and should help one another.

That improves “when you get a group of guys that are playing together for a while,” Kelly said. “Certainly, we lack a little bit of that right now.”

Defensively, LSU will have to adjust to the loss of defensive end Maason Smith, who tore his left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) when his knee buckled as he came down from a celebratory hop following a teammate’s tackle.

“Obviously, we’re crushed for him because he was celebrating for a teammate,” Kelly said. “He’s a great player. You’re going to miss great players.”

On the whole, Kelly said, the Tigers deserved criticism for their opening showing.

“It’s a high-profile program,” Kelly said. “I’m not up here to make excuses for our guys. … We should be critical of our coaching and of our play. Critical analysis is going to get us better.”

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.