By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Thanks to a number of factors, mostly quarterback Jayden Daniels' historic performance, LSU's resurgent passing game led by Kayshon Boutte's 115 yards, big plays from running back duo Josh Williams & John Emery Jr, an impressive offensive line outing, strong showings from key freshmen (Campbell & Perkins), and Brian Kelly's best coaching job since his LSU arrival, the Tigers left Gainesville with a monumental 45-35 victory.
Behind Jayden Daniels' masterpiece, LSU's offense led the way with over 500 total yards and an automatic presence inside the red zone.
Racking up 393 total yards & a trio of scores on the ground as well as with his arm, the So Cal native quarterback became just the second Tiger ever to account for 6 touchdowns, joining Joe Burrow at the top of the esteemed list.
Alongside Daniels, running back Josh Williams and receiver Kayshon Boutte became LSU's first 100 yard rusher & receiver of 2022, tacking on 106 and 115 yards respectively, leading an endless offensive rhythm up and down the field against Napier's Florida.
As LSU Odyssey suggested this week, LSU vs Florida ended up as a dual threat quarterback duel between Jayden Daniels & Florida QB Anthony Richardson, the pair combining for 687 total yards and 8 TDs. Still, Daniels won out as the clear winner due in large part to an overwhelming aerial onslaught by LSU's offense.
But plenty of credit must land at the feet of Coach Brian Kelly.
Becoming the first Tiger Head Coach to win road games against Auburn and Florida in the same season, Brian Kelly now solidifies his position atop college football's coaching pyramid, simultaneously silencing his legion of sniveling critics.
In doing so, Kelly erased any lingering narratives concerning his Florida counterpart & the LSU gig, surviving early scares or continued special teams folly, LSU's staff made the necessary adjustments in order to out-coach young Billy Napier, while their receivers torched former DBU master Corey Raymond's Florida corners.
Holding a playcall sheet in his hand, Kelly also seemed to be more involved in Mike Denbrock's offensive setup than before....an interesting change after 5 poor showings.
The Tigers' passing offense struggled at frightening lows throughout their first 6 games, Daniels missing open receivers or top wide outs dropping easy grabs, all as rhythm or explosive plays eluded Denbrock's unit.
On Saturday night, everything aligned offensively for LSU, Daniels erupting for 349 yards through the air & 3 passing touchdowns to running back John Emery Jr, Jaray Jenkins and Brian Thomas Jr:
Daniels trusted his receivers, throwing accurate passes to Kayshon Boutte early and often, the Tigers' #7 generating 83 yards through the first half....nearly doubling his season high. In the end, Boutte would supply his best game since his injury vs Kentucky 2021, catching 6 passes for 115 yards.
Sophomore receivers Brian Thomas Jr and Malik Nabers both contributed with contested catches or hard earned yards to keep the chains moving, combining for 79 and a score, Thomas Jr hauling in his 3rd touchdown of the year & 5th as a Tiger with an unbelievable skyscraping catch.
At one point in the 2nd half, Brian announced himself as yet another specimen athlete for LSU, flying high once again to grab a posterizing, high wire act reception (later overturned as a narrow incompletion).
Once again vs Florida, veteran wideout Jaray Jenkins supplied a scoring touch, recording his 5th TD in 3 appearances vs Florida when Daniels and the senior connected on a 54 yard long ball down the sidelines (taking full advantage of a free play due to a Gators offside).
Though Daniels spread the ball around and jettisoned his receivers, Arizona State's wanderlust transfer dominated Florida with his legs, breaking tackles, juking defenders out of their socks, stiff-arming Gators senseless, blurring around the edge just ahead of tacklers....Florida couldn't touch Jayden Daniels as he evaded one pressure or tackling attempt after another, scoring 3 rushing touchdowns in profound style.
After weeks of mountainous criticism aimed at his insistence on running the ball, Jayden Daniels' playmaking with his feet was simply astounding, defiant and beautiful in its graceful abandon....a renegade showcase reminding each of us about the true depth of his talent when firing on all cylinders.
Daniels' economical 44 yards earned space for Josh Williams and John Emery Jr, Denbrock & Frank Wilson's trio rushing for 179 yards altogether behind a brutish offensive line display, Emery Jr chipping in with LSU's opening touchdown catch.
Although LSU vs Florida became a shootout, Matt House's defense were able to accomplish a couple key points against Anthony Richardson's offense.
House attacked Richardson with a variety of pressure from a litany of locations, rushing Ojulari, Perkins, Baskerville, Saivion Jones and specifically Jay Ward at the quarterback, destabilizing the pocket or smacking Richardson around.
Sure, Richardson may have tossed an opening 51 yard touchdown bomb to open the game and a 29 yard pass to Ricky Pearsall, but Steeples & Cooks' DBU clamped down from then on, allowing just 185 yards overall, the single touchdown & locked Pearsall down (2 catches for 49 yards).
It may bother some that LSU's defense surrendered 200+ rushing yards for the second straight game, giving up an 81 yard touchdown run to Anthony Richardson thanks to a number of hideous blown tackles.....
It may have come as a surprise when LSU gave up 21 points during the first half, 35 total on the night, however House's defense never broke, forcing Florida to keep chugging away clock on the ground while holding a two score lead, complete with an iron clad secondary.
No matter how you look at it, Saturday night was a major win for both LSU's 2022 season as well as the program Kelly continues to build.
Following an absolute drubbing at home to Josh Heupel's Tennessee, replete with constant criticism aimed toward Daniels, Kelly, Denbrock and Boutte, Kelly's Tigers flipped the script, improving at their biggest deficiency (the passing game) and taking control of the occasion and opponent early.
With those most under fire responding while facing an eternal rival on the road, during their quarterback, offensive coordinator and head coach's first season within the SEC, LSU pulled off a statement win inside the Swamp.
NOTE: Following Saturday, the Tigers scored 40+ points on the Gators for the fourth time in a row, earned their second consecutive win in the Swamp and fourth straight victory against Florida since 2018.
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By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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