LSU kicks off potential bowl push vs. UL Monroe

Field Level Media

November 19, 2021 at 7:18 am.

LSU is nearing the end of a very disappointing season.

The Tigers (4-6, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) were ranked No. 16 in the AP preseason poll, but they are finishing the year with head coach Ed Orgeron already having been bought out, effective at the end of the season.

Even so, LSU can still avoid a losing record, become bowl-eligible and extend Orgeron’s tenure by one game.

In order to do that, it must win its last two games, starting with a nonconference game against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.

“We play to win the game,” Orgeron said in describing what’s left for the Tigers to accomplish.

Orgeron said Max Johnson remains the team’s starting quarterback after Garrett Nussmeier relieved him after two series and finished a 16-13 overtime loss to Arkansas last week.

“I don’t think Garrett beat him out. I don’t think Max deserves to be benched,” Orgeron said. “Max is still our starter.”

LSU’s defense has played much better the past two games, starting with a 20-14 loss at No. 2 Alabama two weeks ago. The Tigers have been much more aggressive at the line of scrimmage in those contests.

Louisiana-Monroe is in its first season of rebuilding under Terry Bowden. The Warhawks (4-6, 2-5 Sun Belt Conference) are much improved after going 0-10 last season.

But they still have a lot of growing to do.

They could have gotten to .500 by winning their home finale last week, but Arkansas State, which entered the game winless in the Sun Belt, kicked a tiebreaking field goal with 1:17 left to beat ULM for a 12th consecutive time.

“This is what you get when you’re building a program,” Bowden said.

One of the keys to the project is junior quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, who returned from a six-game absence caused by a chest injury to start against Arkansas State.

“It was weird because my whole life I never missed a practice, I never missed a game or anything so it was tough to sit on the sidelines,” Rodriguez said.

He completed 12 of 29 for 160 yards, and Malik Jackson rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, his first career 100-yard game.

“I think moving forward we’re going to have a new focus,” Rodriguez said.