by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Dawning their illustrious all white pants, jerseys and helmets combo, LSU's 2021 squad went out to finish a disappointing regular season on a high, taking down arch rivals Texas A&M, a lukewarm group coming into the game with a bloated #15 ranking, 8 wins and a headline win over Alabama.
In dramatic, come from behind fashion, LSU did just that, beating #15 A&M 27-24 by way of a beautifully placed TD pass from Max Johnson to Jaray Jenkins inside the final 20 seconds, just beating Aggie defenders in glorious, hard earned redemption.
These LSU Tigers, many being veterans of the 2019 title team, gave everything and the massive Death Valley crowd responded in kind, creating an otherworldly atmosphere which scoffed at the prospects of defeat.
Death Valley, an arena of opposition humiliation, was in blistering voice all game....but at that moment, the place truly exploded.
Over 4 quarters and numerous mishaps, a path to victory wasn't always clear for the Tigers:
Even though the purple, white & gold cruised to an early 17-7 first half lead thanks to lengthy touchdowns from Jaray Jenkins and Trey Palmer, LSU's offense sputtered and looked disjointed, leading to 6 brutal sacks on QB Max Johnson.
Regardless of their miscues, LSU's offense made crucial plays during the first half & final drive to secure victory.
Coming from behind down 24-20 with under a minute left, Max Johnson unleashed his 3rd score of the night to Jaray Jenkins, hitting the junior once again with a carbon copy of their first TD, a teardrop pass down the sidelines, right over coverage and into Jenkins' waiting hands....
Though he crashed into the pylon for his first TD, Jaray ran like a madman around the end zone untouched after the game winner, celebrating with Andre Anthony and the rest of the team.
When the chips were down, LSU faced a loss of a second consecutive bowl game and a sub .500 season, Max Johnson and Jaray Jenkins saved LSU once again for the 2nd consecutive season (2020 vs Florida); Although Johnson rose above 3rd down inconsistency or brutal hits to toss a clutch 306 yards & 3 TDs, as Jenkins notched a career high 169 yards & 2 scores, they weren't alone:
On the ground, Ty Davis-Price blasted Aggie defenders mercilessly for 84 yards, averaging 4.4 per carry and also became just the 21st Tiger ever to rush for a 1,000 yard season and the first since Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2019.
TDP's big time running was aided by a stand out performance from OG Kardell Thomas, a highly recruited / highly touted local who's had to ride major injuries & time on the sidelines for his chance. He took it against A&M, releasing Ty on big runs through the gaps.
Once again, another powerful display from TDP....could this be his last game in Tigers Stadium??? Could TDP be headed to the NFL Draft?
Elsewhere, WR Trey Palmer made it rain with his speedy brilliance on the back breaking touchdown before halftime, taking a shuttle screen, following blockers led by Austin Deculus, and, sensing maximum space in front, LSU's versatile junior torched the Aggies raw, committing yet another huge career moment to tape.
The Tigers' defense were unbelievable again, giving up a few plays due to their overly aggressive blitzing, however....if we GEAUX down, we GEAUX down swingin'....
LSU LB Damone Clark had yet another savage night, dining on braised Calzado for a career-high 2.5 sacks, alongside 3.5 TFL, 10 total tackles, and 3 venomous pressures.
The Butkus Award finalist has proven why he should win the award, recording yet another dominant SEC display, while leading the conference in tackles, he trails only Northwestern's Chris Bergin for the national lead.
He likely played his final LSU game at Death Valley tonight, and if so, the 2019 National Champion has enjoyed and endured an incredible Tiger career.
From being Devin White's understudy to smashing every top 10 QB on his way to a 49 tackle, 3.5 sack breakout 2019 campaign, before going through 2020 as one of LSU's most criticized players, and then arriving to this juncture....make it or break it heading into 2021 and #18 even stumbled out of the gates at UCLA.... ...Suddenly, after that game, Damone made himself a 1st Round pick, displaying all the traits many knew he had and shocking a plethora of others with his evolving elite profile...becoming the #1 LB in college football and he should also be the first LB taken during this next Spring's NFL Draft.
Alongside Damone, seniors Micah Baskerville and Cam Lewis were brilliant for the 5th game running, both racking up tackles, combining for 5 pressures & 3 hits on the QB, the pair were strong throughout the night, ending their LSU careers as valiant champions and keepers of the flame.
While it is likely DBU's extremely talented CB Cordale Flott is headed to the NFL, surrendering his first TD all season tonight, sophomore corner Dwight "Nudie" McGlothern shined brightly as a current / future DBU star.
Tasked with filling in for injured Derek Stingley Jr, Nudie has become the next reliable starting corner for Corey Raymond, shutting down A&M and allowing just a single catch all night, adding to his INT TD return vs Florida, forced fumble vs Alabama, and solid solo tackling on the outside for 3/4 of 2021.
On the DL, celebrated seniors Neil Farrell Jr and Glen Logan provided pressures (2), a batted pass, and blew up plays at the line or in the backfield, enjoying their final night inside Death Valley.
Despite his Senior Bowl snub, Neil Farrell Jr caps an elite, All-American level season in which he lit up the SEC and took no prisoners. Finishing a wondrous Tigers career & a 6 year long journey must be an emotional moment for both Neil and Glen, but this is not the last we'll hear from them.
Milestones were reached, alongside TDP's 1,000 yard season, Austin Deculus became the first Tiger ever to reach 60 appearances, starting his 45th game on the LSU line.
And yes...it was the final game for Coach Ed Orgeron, revealing after the game that no, he won't be in charge for LSU's upcoming bowl game, already expected to pack his office and leave campus for good early tomorrow morning....but this was the perfect way to send off LSU's Orgeron era.
Over 5 years, we witnessed Coach O take the Tigers to the mountaintop, with a ton of help from his friends, regardless...he was the motivating force. Then, we watched the sudden, dramatic disintegration of his abilities over 2 years....
What could be more fitting to end the Orgeron era than a wild 27-24 win at the death by a quarterback he benched for a freshman, saving LSU for a 6-6 record....an even Steven mixed bag to define the era from whence it came.
Coach O reveled in the atmosphere, pumping his fists, raising his arms after the final TD and celebrating with assistant Jorge Munoz and DL Andre Anthony, his face beaming and red....staggered with emotion.
For all that's gone down over the past 2 seasons, on this night, Coach O will stand at the doorstep of the field goal posts and look out at a darkened Death Valley, perhaps light a cigar and think about everything that's happened...the great, the bad, the ugly, the historic, all of it.........
Who will be LSU's coach now??
Impressive, Grade A OL Coach Brad Davis will be LSU's interim head coach for the bowl game ahead, a wise decision by Scott Woodward, though it does make me wonder about the future of elite Assistant Head Coach / WRs Coach Mickey Joseph, the man who would've naturally been given the interim spot.
We'll worry about all of that later...right now, let's enjoy this cold hearted thrill of victory over A&M, throttling their season into the basement of failure, taking their gloating and reveling from their mouths at the final moment, securing our own triumphant glory at the cost of their humiliating end.
At the end of the day, LSU needed a win to save face, they needed victory to send off the seniors & NFL guys in the best way possible, they needed to take this night for one another, for the purple & gold....and whether for themselves, their departing coach, or their always loyal fan base, they did just that.
Not in our house...not tonight.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc