By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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With talk of Heisman Trophies, Biletnikoff Awards, program & collegiate records swirling around Brian Kelly's LSU program over the last few weeks, plenty of fans forgot about an old opponent that needed to be conquered first.....a revenge date against A&M.
And, for Daniels, Nabers or any other Tiger hoping to achieve any individual honors, LSU needed victory over A&M to boost their pedigree, not only as a group of offensive machines heading into awards season, but as a program preparing for some changes on the defensive side of the ball....moves most fans would've called unthinkable during the prior off-season.
But once again, LSU's defense nearly let the team down, allowing A&M infinite possession, keeping their Heisman-worthy QB off the field, and giving up repeated big plays...most on critical downs.
In consequence, the Tigers needed to respond from a double digit second half deficit in order to ensure victory, Daniels pulling off his 6th comeback win down 10+ points over 26 starts wearing purple & gold;
Only scoring a single touchdown across each of the first 3 quarters before exploding for 21 points in the 4th, Kelly's Tigers outlasted A&M 42-30 behind 355 total yards & 4 passing scores from Jayden Daniels (including 100+ yards on the ground), 122 yards, 2 TDs & another LSU record snapped by Biletnikoff frontrunner Malik Nabers, as Brian Thomas Jr contributed with 58 yards and his nation-leading 15th TD of 2023, while Greg Penn III's one handed interception and an uncharacteristic 3 straight defensive stops by Matt House's defense greatly assisted in clinching victory over the Aggies.
Letting Texas A&M's 3rd string QB outgain our offense in yards & 1st Downs, keeping LSU's Heisman candidate off the field for over 13 more minutes of possession, while the Tigers' porous defense allowed the Aggies to finish 9/18 on 3rd down (9/13 before the consecutive 4th quarter stops, 8 conversions through the air) and 3/5 on 4th Down....LSU's defense were pisspoor once again for nearly 4 quarters, until suddenly, the Tigers flipped a switch with minutes to go.
Beginning with a stop in the Tigers' own territory, followed by a missed Aggie field goal, backed by Greg Penn III's interception and another 2 further stops, Matt House's defense gave their Heisman-worthy QB just enough juice to supply the kill shots: JD5 hit Thomas Jr, Nabers and Lacy each for majestic touchdown catches over 20+ yards, settling his final game in Tiger Stadium with swagger and charisma.
In doing so, Jayden Daniels became just the 5th SEC player to rack up 50 total TDs in a single season, joining 4 other QBs...all of whom won the Heisman following their 50+ TD exploits (Burrow 2019, Tebow 2007, Newton 2010, Young 2021).
Daniels pulled off repeat Heisman moments, including his 49 yard gassing run on 4th & 4, helping the Tigers cut a 10 point deficit right before halftime, but he wasn't the only Tiger clinching or aiming for records en route to victory on Saturday:
Within touching distance of several receiving records, Malik Nabers reeled in 122 yards and 2 TDs from 6 catches, just 22 yards shy of Josh Reed's program-leading receiving record (one more game remaining to clinch), but the Biletnikoff frontrunner was able to pass Wendell Davis' all time receptions mark, now at 186 and standing out in front as the new catches record-holder.
Nabers also passed up Ja'Marr Chase's single season receptions record of 84 (2019), now at 86 for the campaign.
This was a game where LSU simply had to survive and get through the Aggies; suffering a 1st half where nearly everything went against them, combined with a continued rough defensive showing deep into the 3rd and 4th quarter, the Tigers had their backs against the wall...
But due to the playmaking of Harold Perkins (8 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 0.5 sack), Greg Penn III (8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL and 1 INT), a defense that registered 7 tackles for loss, 4 sacks & 4 second half stops, plus the dominance of Brad Davis' offensive line throughout the 2nd half (affording JD5 a chance to find his receivers), alongside the reliability of Nabers & Thomas Jr (3rd WR Kyren Lacy also atoned for a drop & holding penalty with his 7th TD of 2023), LSU made plays on both sides of the ball for one of the first times all season, dodging a 4th defeat and keeping Jayden Daniels' Heisman pursuit alive.
OUR POSTGAME SHOW
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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