Updated: Sep 19, 2022
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
On a night where LSU veterans and young bloods stood up equally in an orgy of all-encompassing asskickery, beating highly favored Mississippi State By 15 points, LSU Odyssey now have our work cut out for us to decide which 5 competitors are worthy of inclusion in our Best 5 performers of Week 3:
5. EMERY JONES / HAROLD PERKINS
49 Protection Snaps
0 Pressures Allowed
0 Sacks Allowed
1 Solo Tackle
-Directly Prevented TD
6 Tackles (4 Solo)
Yes, I know we cheated, but both freshmen belong on this list, announcing themselves as grand court masters of LSU's very bright future.
First off, offensive tackle Emery Jones made his debut start against one of the SEC's top ranked fronts and more than impressed.....he appears to have arrived on campus as a bona fide starter, much like his bookend partner Will Campbell who could easily slot here on this list.
We didn't include Will because of the fact he's been starting for 3 games and was groomed to start since he arrived back in January.
On the other hand, Emery Jones showed up in June, had no expectations attached as an expected starter, plus Saturday was his first collegiate start or massive helping of playing time.....he belongs on this list.
Shutting down opposition pressures to zero over 49 snaps, ranked as the 4th overall offensive tackle in the SEC, Jones played light years ahead of his age.
You wouldn't blame a freshman tackle for allowing 2 or even 3 sacks....yet, neither Jones nor Campbell would surrender a single pressure against Jayden Daniels for 98 straight snaps together.
But the play that defines Emery's grit, athleticism and absolute footballing pedigree didn't come in the trenches...it happened as he pulled off a stunning, touchdown-preventing solo tackle against Louisiana-born Zavion Thomas' endzone-bound punt return.
After Saturday's scary display of maturity or robust physical tools ahead of his age by miles, I marvel at the prospects of Emery Jones starting for LSU these next three years.
Records are meant to be broken....and it appears as if LSU's 2022 freshman class are hellbent on shattering them all.
Second, linebacker Harold Perkins follows up his starting debut in Week 2 with an even better outing.
Leading the team with 7 tackles vs Southern, Perkins went one better on Saturday, blowing up plays left, right or center, dethroning Will Rogers for a sack and a half, grabbing 2 TFLs on top of 6 total stops, it is now impossible for Matt House to bench the New Orleans native.
Easily looking like the most NFL-ready freshman Tiger defender since Derek Stingley Jr, throughout his first 3 appearances, Perkins has now registered more sacks, stops for loss and half as many tackles as Devin White produced as a freshman across 8 games (2016).
4. ARMONI GOODWIN / MALIK NABERS
-4 on 3rd or 4th down
For the second straight week, sophomore running back Armoni Goodwin opened the floodgates, swiping Mississippi State away with a tackle-breaking, calf-churning 47 yard outburst, scoring his 3rd touchdown of the season in the process.
Adding a catch for 14 yards, Goodwin has been increasingly effective, wearing down Zach Arnett's front seven like a speedy battering ram, averaging over 7.1 yards per touch for the second consecutive week.
Could he become LSU's #1 running back???
At least until Emery Jr gains full fitness after New Mexico, Goodwin is playing like this is his job.....and he may not be in a sharing mood.
On the penultimate drive, LSU's Lafayette-native sophomore picked up 51 of his 76 yards on four critical downs, setting up Josh Williams' crucial touchdown before handing the Tigers an 8 point lead with only minutes remaining.
Leading Cortez Hankton's receiving corps in yards for the second game running, Nabers showcased his dazzling athletic ability: hops, speed & strength in the air, after the catch or when battling for each yard.
Quite simply, without Malik's gritty receptions against tight coverage on the second to last offensive drive, LSU may be at 1-2.
Coming back from the criticism and social media uproar directed the teenager's way, Nabers continues to respond with the heart of a champion, refusing to be defeated or defined by past mistakes.....only present and future reality.
The reality of the reality?
It's outrageous how mentally tough and athletically sound Nabers is......No Ceilings.
3. JAYDEN DANIELS
210 Passing Yards
1 TD Pass
93 Rushing Yards
1 TD Run
For 3 quarters, neither LSU's offense nor Jayden Daniels were playing well, leaving big plays on the field, missing open receivers and frustrating every single man, woman, child or dog wearing purple & gold.
Daniels flagrantly missed throws to the point Head Coach Brian Kelly appeared as if he were about to rip his hair out.
Due to this poor execution, LSU were extremely wasteful on offense for 3 full quarters, starting 0/8 on 3rd down.
But suddenly, Daniels reprised his Florida State heroics:
First, LSU simply had to score before the end of halftime. Down 13-0 despite a remarkable showing from Matt House's defense, Daniels had no choice but to end the half with points.
Finally after 7 fruitless drives (with no series producing over 26 yards), Daniels & the offense began operating urgently and drove 75 yards down the field in 1 minute and 28 seconds (48 yards from Daniels' legs alone).
Another woeful first half ended in hope when Jaray Jenkins caught his 3rd touchdown of the season, bringing the score to a more realistic 13-7.
Jayden's passing struggles continued in the second half, the former ASU quarterback missing an open touchdown to Malik Nabers, a large gain over the middle to Jack Bech, continuous outside shots for Boutte....it went from bad to worse.
However, when long snapper Slade Roy recovered a Miss State fumble inside their own 10 yard line, Daniels let his feet guide the way for a game-tying score, accepting & running through two violent hits followed by a lead-taking PAT.
Then, regardless of his 93 rushing yards or propensity to run the ball, something changed....
With only a slim lead in crunch time, Head Coach Brian Kelly had enough of Jayden's errant passing and demanded the best from his quarterback on national television, refusing to listen to excuses as his lips shouted "throw the fucking ball".
Getting the ball back with roughly 13 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Mike Denbrock's offense expertly chewed up over 6 minutes of clock. On a lengthy drive where Daniels rose above his prior errors, this struggling unit drove 85 yards to make it 24-16 after a touchdown rush by Josh Williams.
Amid the 85 yard charge, WR Malik Nabers flipped LSU's 0/8 record on 3rd down to respectability, finishing 6/15.
Showing improvement and renewed trust in the clutch, Jayden completed three 3rd down completions to Nabers, as well as a 27 yard high rising aerial fade on 4th down.
Without question, the LSU starter possesses an innate ability to improve during a live game...responding from pitiful plays only minutes prior with gold dust.
Yes....Daniels killed our gameplan by putting our defense in one disadvantaged position after another, only for Matt House's unit to allow just 4 conversions out of 18 3rd or 4th down attempts...mostly with field position working against them.
But once Daniels got the ball back late in the game, understanding the stakes and expectations from Coach Kelly, he started throwing the ball with less hesitation & more trust in his receivers.
And what do you know?
When you throw this receiving corps the football, they make great things happen.
Yes, Daniels also defied the odds for the second time in three games:
Leading his 2nd double digit comeback in three games, taking LSU on 8 scoring drives of 65 yards or more, as well as throwing or rushing for half of his touchdowns on crucial downs, Jayden isn't just Brian Kelly's best hope for success in year one, he's a potential dual threat superstar, even if he's only an average passer at best.
Truth be told, even an average quarterback nails many of the throws Daniels is missing.
Whether you want him starting or not, the legs of the Southern California native are winning games, while the young man remains chiller than Kobe at the free throw line in crunch time.
This weekend, New Mexico will be a great game for Daniels and Boutte to get their chemistry figured out....because if not, LSU will be stuck at .500 again.
I don't want to see Kelly pulling Jayden after a few scoring drives.
We must see this offense improve through the air or Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and even Florida could all beat us handily.
2. BJ OJULARI
4 QB Hits
2 QB Hurries
Named the SEC's defensive lineman of the week, LSU defensive end #18 BJ Ojulari played his best game wearing purple and gold.
Mike Leach and Miss State's quick strike Air Raid offense has long been the thorn in the side for defensive linemen of all stripes, persuasions and technical abilities, the game almost bypassing the front four.
But on Saturday night, LSU's defensive front were able to get home time and time again, savagely attacking Will Rogers from all angles; Most impressive, LSU's front were able to break protections while only rushing three, with Mekhi Wingo and Jaquelin Roy's underrated interior work blowing up a pair of early 4th down tries.....clearing a path for their edge rushing teammates Ali Gaye, Saivion Jones and Ojulari.
From the immediate start of the game, thanks to an overwhelming defensive scheme as well as his boundless athleticism, BJ Ojulari took over proceedings.
Earning a 90.1 Pro Football Focus rating as he chased, smashed, harassed and even buried Miss St QB Will Rogers, Ojulari registered the most pressure in the SEC this weekend, recording 6 pressures, 4 QB Hits, 4 tackles, finished off Rogers for 1.5 sacks, while busting up plays in the backfield for 2.5 tackles for loss.
Those numbers still don't seem to quantify his brilliance on the night.
Affecting Miss State's quick passing game with one pressure, hit, sack or play in the backfield after another, Ojulari eased the coverage burden on his defensive backs, ruined plays on critical downs and helped stuff the running game from ever having an impact past the initial drive.
In all, BJ Ojulari disrupted both phases of Miss State's offense, proving to be one of the true deciding factors of the game, more than playing up to the iconic number on his back or the NFL-legacy name above it.
1. JAY WARD
0 Missed Tackles
One of the most overlooked defensive backs in America just introduced himself....
Proving he is firmly among the most elite secondary players in the country, after Saturday's eruption of pure footballing greatness, I doubt many commentators will forget his name from here on out.
Heading into week 3, Jay Ward switched from safety to nickel after Saturday's 65-17 win over Southern, making nickel Jay's third starting position move in as many seasons.
And what did he do??
Not only has Jay now intercepted a pass at cornerback, safety and now nickel, all in three different seasons under a trio of defensive coordinators, Ward is doing it while contributing heavily in the tackling and line of scrimmage game.
Recording a co-career high 11 total stops with 0 missed tackles, Ward tacked on 1.5 tackles for loss, another batted pass (more than any Tiger since 2019), and picked off his 6th career pass (more than any Tiger since 2019).
Ward was everywhere....making stops left, right and center, attacking or affecting Rogers via pressures off the edge (using his length), blasting receivers the second they touched the ball, organizing his teammates pre-snap, bending his body around opponents in order to make stops, helping teammates finish off plays, Jay had his greatest outing as an LSU Tiger.....
.....yes, even better than his 2 interception (1 pick six) game vs Ole Miss in 2020.....
......yes, even stronger than his last 2 appearances vs Florida (1 INT in each victory), #5 simply deserves all the love or plaudits that have evaded him thus far.
And to start off this new era of acceptance and acknowledgment, Ward was named the SEC Defensive Player of The Week, capping an overall breathtaking defensive performance by Matt House's Tigers.......but outside of Ojulari, only Jay Ward can lay claim to this level of impact.
For all the other names you hear ahead of Jay Ward, I could see the Georgia-born Tiger outlast many at the next level.
Not only has he really clocked the miles when you look back at a career that began with the legendary 2019 team, followed by two exhausting seasons where Ward had to pick up the pieces (3/4 of LSU's starting defense either transferred or were out injured, the Kansas State or Alabama games capture this perfectly), Jay is also one of the only DBs I can remember who started significant lengths of time at each main defensive back slot and wasn't just successful doing it, he thrived at each spot with no adjustment period.
In 2022, under former mentor Matt House, the man who recruited Ward clear back in 2014, things are coming full circle for Jay:
If he continues at this pace, expect him to be named an All-American and at least a Thorpe Award nominee before the calendar turns.
All I know?
He won't stay satisfied....not even for a moment.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
©️ 2022 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
DEDICATED TO JAMER, NIKKISCUFFLES, GAMMIE, STEVE-O and RICHARD "DON'T FUCKING SWEAR" MANNING