Updated: Sep 19, 2022
BY LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Behind a relentless, resilient performance by Matt House's defense, cashed in with critical plays from Jayden Daniels, Malik Nabers and Jaray Jenkins, a monumental fumble recovery by Slade Roy, as a bevy of young Tigers announced themselves on the big stage, Brian Kelly's LSU Tigers mounted a 13 point come from behind victory against Mississippi State, stamping a 21 point 4th quarter en route to an incendiary 31-16 win.
Led by MVP Jay Ward's career night, 11 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 interception and another pass broken up, LSU's defense were in a savage mood from the first second to the last.
Facing Robert Steeples' DBU, Miss State QB Will Rogers was held to 214 passing yards, just a trio of 3rd down conversions and only 3 points during the second half.
This was Rogers' lowest passing output since 2020's final game vs Tulsa, with DBU's Mekhi Garner, Major Burns & Jay Ward all busting up would be scores, while Miss State's receiving corps dropped critical passes.
Saturday night became Coach Steeples' first masterclass since taking over for the much-loved Corey Raymond.
Filling Raymond's shoes and then some, Steeples' group allowed 400 less yards through the air than Raymond's 2020 unit featuring Eli Ricks, Dwight McGlothern and Cordale Flott.
Getting the best out of a "ragtag" group of wild cards, transfers and lower division talents, Steeples backed & coached his unit to perform like Tigers representing DBU's timeless, infinite standard.
Holding Mike Leach's offense to 16 points, 289 total yards, 4/18 on 3rd or 4th down opportunities, LSU Defensive Coordinator Matt House had his squad ready to let loose today, with freshman Harold Perkins showcasing his athleticism with 1.5 sacks and numerous plays in the backfield, sophomore Saivion Jones smashed Rogers to force a fumble, sophomore transfer Mekhi Wingo stuffing two key 4th and short situations, and #18 BJ Ojulari enjoyed one of his best games as a Tiger, sacking Rogers 1.5 times, adding 2 TFLs, 3 QB Hits and 5 pressures.
However, LSU's defense needed to be great...because the same issues surrounding Mike Denbrock's offense, poor chemistry in the passing game & their lack of strong offensive line cohesion or a running attack all reared their head once again.
Starting freshmen Will Campbell and Emery Jones at each tackle spot, while Anthony Bradford was out injured, Brad Davis' offensive line survived 4 ugly penalties early to catapult LSU's late game 200 yard rushing surge, both freshmen playing well.
LSU QB Jayden Daniels missed countless throws, only connecting on 3 of 8 targets to Kayshon Boutte for 31 yards, ignoring wide open passes to Boutte, Brian Thomas Jr, Jack Bech, missing a touchdown over the top to Malik Nabers inside the red zone.....LSU's starting quarterback was lukewarm in the passing game for 95% of Saturday night.
But suddenly, waking up with a sense of urgency when facing a deficit, Daniels once again led a comeback, finding Jaray Jenkins right before half for the last remaining 2019 receiver's 3rd touchdown of 2022, while Malik Nabers stole the show with 76 yards and 3 crucial third down conversions on the final drives.
Jayden also rushed for a game tying touchdown to open the fourth, rushing through pressure on 3rd down and 6, taking two hits before finishing the play in the end zone.
Tonight, much like week 1 vs Florida State, we may have seen the inconsistencies of Jayden Daniels, yet we also witnessed his heart, toughness and ability to respond in clutch moments, both with his legs or arm.
Although his cause was greatly assisted by long snapper Slade Roy's pivotal, game-turning late 3rd quarter fumble recovery, setting up the offense inside Mississippi State's 10 yard line.
After finding how cruel muffed punts or missed extra points can be, this time the tables turned away from LSU and on to Mississippi State, the Dogs missing their opening PAT before fumbling late on their own 8 yard line with East Carolina transfer Slade Roy there to recover and pull off the biggest play of the night.
It must be noted: after week 1's horrorshow, Brian Polian's special teams unit have now forced crucial turnovers in back to back games
Daniels cashed in on 3rd and 6 as we outlined above, followed by LSU's defense clamping down, forcing punts, Jay Ward picking off Rogers, and ultimately leading to a pair of rushing scores from running backs Josh Williams and Armoni Goodwin, the latter rushing for a 47 yard long score to the delight of the delirious Death Valley crowd.
This was an offense which started 0/8 on 3rd down until the 4th quarter; beginning with Daniels' rushing score, the Tigers finished 6/15, thanks to a pair of superb plays from Malik Nabers to set up the Josh Williams touchdown.
Daniels racked up 93 yards on the ground from 16 carries while tossing for 210 and 1 TD; Armoni Goodwin continues to be LSU's most in form running back, paving the way for Frank Wilson's running backs room with 75 yards off 9 carries and his 3rd touchdown of 2022;
House's defense recorded 4 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, 8 QB Hits, an interception, one forced fumble and shut down Mississippi State to just a single field goal during the final quarters of play, an offense which had scored 42 second half points over its previous two games.
Overall, it wasn't pretty.....
It wasn't 2019 LSU on offense.....
This is the Brian Kelly era figuring out their identity, trying to understand how to win together....and Saturday night's display of mental toughness, Brian Kelly coaching with intensity, overwhelming defensive athleticism, alongside late game offensive resolve will stand as building blocks for the bright future ahead.
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By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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