NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football was a topic of discussion on Monday even though it wasn’t the Volunteers’ day for interviews. Representatives from LSU were asked several times about Tennessee, and the blowout the Vols handed the Tigers in Death Valley.
Turns out, that beatdown turned the Tigers’ season around.
“We started off wrong in the Tennessee game,” LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels said. “Obviously opened the kick, fumbled. With a high-power offense like that with a great team on their high horse, they got on us early, and we just didn’t score enough to keep up with them.”
A 40-13 loss to anyone, especially to an SEC foe on your home field can easily tear apart a team. But for the Tigers, it did the opposite. The loss brought the team together and kept them marching toward the chance to play in a championship.
“The real crossroads for us was when we got beat bad by Tennessee because a lot of that trust can go right out the window in year one when you get beat that bad,” LSU head coach Brian Kelly said. “But our kids hung in there and they gave us the trust necessary to work through that, and they went back and they worked harder and they worked to the details that we told them we needed to, and then once we got past that Tennessee game, I think we had those guys bought in.
“You’re going to need some of those moments in year one where those young men go, we’re in, we’re going to stick with you. Sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. In this instance, it did.”
Especially under a first-year head coach, a loss like that to Tennessee can easily hinder a program. LSU turned around after the loss to Tennessee and won the SEC West.
And a reminder, the Vols were the underdogs rolling into Baton Rouge.
“After the Tennessee game, we all came together,” LSU defensive lineman Mekhi Wingo said. “Just let everybody know that the season is not going in the trash, that’s just one game. That doesn’t define who we are or what type of team we are. After that game I felt like we really turned it on and we still had a shot at the national championship, and we picked up the plate.”