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.”

Texas State hires Incarnate Word coach Kinne to lead Bobcats

Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
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Texas State hired Incarnate Word coach G.J. Kinne on Friday to lead a Sun Belt program that has had only one winning season since moving up to the Bowl Subdivision in 2012.

The 34-year-old former Tulsa quarterback has made a fast rise in coaching since ending his professional career in 2017.

After three years as an offensive analyst at SMU, Arkansas and the Philadelphia Eagles, Kinne became offensive coordinator at Hawaii in 2020. He held the same role for UCF in 2021 before landing the head coaching job at FCS Incarnate Word this season.

Incarnate Word is 10-1 and averaging 53 points and 8.3 yards per play, both FCS highs, heading into its playoff game Saturday against Furman. Kinne will remain with Incarnate Word through their playoff run.

“It’s with great honor that I’m accepting the call to be next head football coach of the Texas State Bobcats,” Kinne said. “We are going to play fast, have relentless energy, and when the going gets tough, have the mental confidence to win tight games in the second half and represent the state of Texas. Eat ‘Em Up!”

Texas State fired Jake Spavital last week after the Bobcats won just 13 games in his four seasons.

Kinne signed a five-year contract, the school said. Terms were not immediately released.

“My goal was to hire someone with demonstrated leadership experience, success as a head coach, established relationships with Texas football coaches, and success with recruiting and developing players,” said Texas State President Kelly Damphousse. “I sought a leader with a plan to capitalize on our location in the heart of the best high school football in the country.”

Florida Atlantic hires Tom Herman as football coach

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BOCA RATON, Fla. – Former Texas and Houston head coach Tom Herman will take over at Florida Atlantic as it heads into its first season in the American Athletic Conference.

The hire comes just days after FAU fired Willie Taggart, who went 15-18 in his three seasons with the Owls. Details of the contract with Herman were not immediately available.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome Tom Herman to Paradise,” FAU Director of Athletics Brian White said Thursday. “Throughout the process and the more we talked with Coach Herman, the more it became apparent to me that he was the right person to lead our football program. Beyond his knowledge of the game, which is obvious by his success over the years, he also truly cares about the young people in his program.”

FAU’s final season in Conference USA ended with a 5-7 record and an overtime loss to Western Kentucky. The Owls will be in the American next season.

Herman returns to college football after spending the 2021 season with the Chicago Bears as an offensive analyst.

Herman was 22-4 at Houston, a mark that helped him land the head coaching job at Texas where he went 32-18 with four straight bowl trips in 2017-2020. He also was an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ohio State during the Buckeyes’ 2014 national championship season, as well as stops at Iowa State, Rice and Texas State.

“All the pieces are in place at FAU for us to be successful,” Herman said. “There are already great young men on this team, great facilities, a great location, a great recruiting base and great leadership, all of which are important to building a successful program.”