by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Our Top 5 Tiger Performers vs Ole Miss was tough to gauge after LSU's arresting assault upon Kiffin's Rebels provided so many strong candidates for inclusion.
For instance, Jay Ward didn't have his best game, but his knockout hit on Jaxson Dart was the first domino to fall in LSU's pressure demonstration, rattling the young quarterback.
Micah Baskerville not only led the team in tackles (8), he added 2 pass breakups, 1 TFL and a crunching hit on Jaxson Dart which pressured the Rebel starter into a red zone interception, constantly battering & battling Kiffin's offense.
Ali Gaye rose up and enjoyed his best game of 2022, rarely breaking contain on the edge and contributing a tackle for loss alongside 4 tackles.
Freshman tight end Mason Taylor was a constant beast in run blocking, tacking on his first LSU touchdown as well as 3 total catches, highlighted by a 38 yard scamper that forced Gary Danielson to utter "that's a future pro tight end right there..."
There's not even room for BJ Ojulari's 2nd most pressures (5), issuing 2 QB hits and sharing a sack with Mekhi Wingo; the junior edge rusher had an amazing game, flustering Jaxson Dart from the interior or outside....
These were all painful decisions, though we always place an emphasis on consistency, play-making and what the film shows us.....
Let's Dig In:
5. JOE FOUCHA (Safety)
-#1 PFF Graded Defender
-#1 PFF Grade in Coverage
Rated as the #1 Tiger defender overall and in coverage according to Pro Football Focus, safety Joe Foucha had his best game since his transfer from Arkansas:
Stuffing the run, hitting the quarterback in the running game and supplying a menacing edge in coverage, culminating in his epic one handed interception inside LSU's own end zone, Foucha was explosive throughout LSU's Saturday afternoon humiliation of Ole Miss.
His INT arrived when the game still hung in the balance, Matt House's defense with their backs against the wall, Ole Miss poised to gain points from their 3rd quarter drive....the game at 24-20 LSU.
Instead, Micah Baskerville blitzed Rebels' QB Jaxson Dart, smashed into him as he released the football, Joe Foucha tracked the ball in mid-flight and swiped the errant throw out of the sky using an outstretched left hand.
Propelling Mike Denbrock's offense to another touchdown, Foucha's game-turning interception gave LSU's wild momentum swing a mighty shot in the arm....now setting the table for Brian Kelly's Tigers to take down a top 10-ranked SEC opponent.
Foucha is a clear cut example of Brian Kelly's wise transfer pickups only 9 months ago...injecting experience and SEC physicality into Steeples & Cooks' DBU; In the end, the move for Foucha paid off during a critical point in an SEC West showdown.
4. ANTHONY BRADFORD
& MILES FRAZIER (OL)
-#1 PFF Graded Pass Blockers
We had to give love to LSU's incredible dominance along the line of scrimmage, with both Tiger veteran Anthony Bradford and 2022 offseason transfer Miles Frazier each placing at the top of the Tigers' pass blocking ranking & constantly standing out as strong performers...bullying the Rebels' front for much of the afternoon.
Not only were these two superb in maintaining a clean pocket for QB Jayden Daniels, Bradford and Frazier held up & improvised when their quarterback scrambled, shifting Ole Miss defensive linemen out of their gaps and allowing Daniels plenty of next level space to run into.
Long tapped to become a major Tiger performer, Bradford is experiencing his best season in Baton Rouge, growing from game to game, yet his strongest outings arrived over the past two weeks, battling in the Swamp and at home over top 10 Ole Miss...both ending in victories, fantastic rushing production, next to a rare rhythm in the passing game.
As for Frazier, the 2022 winter transfer struggled early in the season, falling to the bench as he shuffled around Coach Brad Davis' offensive line.
Now, his original Week 1 position at left guard is where we've witnessed him improve week to week.
Previously a tackle, Frazier first played at left guard against Florida State while Garrett Dellinger was stationed at center. Now that Dellinger broke his hand soon after shifting to left guard, Frazier came into the picture and has excelled at that spot against Florida and Ole Miss.
Another example of Brian Kelly's excellent transfer business this past winter & spring, securing Frazier from the clutches of Ohio State, Alabama & Florida (among others) turned out to be a shrewd move by the Tigers' hard-working staff.
3. MEKHI WINGO (DT)
Now the SEC's highest graded DT on Pro Football Focus & named the conference's Defensive Lineman of the Week, former Missouri transfer Mekhi Wingo delivered his best performance yet.
Frequently finding his name among our top 5 lists with an incredible first year at LSU, Mekhi topped all of his prior displays with an unassailable, relentlessly majestic display of power against Ole Miss.
Posting the team's 2nd most tackles & 3rd regarding pressures (7 and 4 respectively) while fighting through double teams, "the Wingolian Prince" led Matt House's defense in sacks (1.5), pass break ups (2), tackles for loss (1.5) while also forcing a fumble and even hurling linemen into quarterback Jaxson Dart's torso....
Simply put, rewatch all 79 of his snaps vs Ole Miss....you don't even need your eyes trained on #92 to notice & feel his impact.
Wingo has played with such consistency, his brilliance softened the blow following Maason Smith's season ending ACL tear, performing on the same elite level expected from Smith.
Wingo didn't merely replace Maason Smith when he entered the Superdome turf against Florida State to a shell-shocked crowd....he went out to prove he could start right alongside LSU's heralded DT.
Next year, with Wingo and Smith as a tandem, LSU's defensive interior will be nastier than a Bill Hicks comedy set....more potent than a twelve gauge loaded with pineapple express.
On most weeks, Wingo's performance would be a lock for #1.
2. HAROLD PERKINS (LB)
3 QB HITS
Another game without Harold Perkins in the lineup early on....
Another game where LSU's defense surrendered double digit points in the first half....
However, once Harold Perkins began playing every snap in sight, LSU's freshman linebacker changed the game with his relentless attacking of Ole Miss QB Jaxson Dart, racking up 6 QB Pressures, 3 QB Hits and 1 Sack.
Also collecting 5 tackles and 1 pass break up, Harold's undeniable performance even elicited this unbelievable post-game response from Rebels Head Coach Lane Kiffin:
"I don't think it was a lot of schematics. They played No. 40 more, which we eventually thought they would do, because he doesn't look like anybody else out there...."
Following the devastation of Lane Kiffin & desecration of his quarterback Jaxson Dart, week 8 stands as Perkins' strongest game wearing purple and gold....his pure, heat-seeking speed proving exactly why #40 must stay on the field.
The hilarious moment of the night arrived after his unsportsmanlike penalty later during the second half.
Responding to some cheap shot antics by an Ole Miss offensive lineman, ramming Harold's head into the ground while poking at his face, Harold wasn't having it.
Out came the flag after a mere exchange of words and a coming together....
As his Head Coach ordered him to keep his head, Harold Perkins turned & walked away, possessed by a wild demeanor. In that moment, Kelly wasn't merely defied: he found out he couldn't tame Perkins & neither could Ole Miss.
Reminding us of Burrow's ruthless intensity, #40 is showing the savage intangibles of a true great....get your popcorn, ready.
1. JAYDEN DANIELS (QB)
5 Total TDs
248 Passing Yards
121 Rushing Yards
7 Missed Tackles Forced
10 First Downs Gained by Run
On Saturday, the dual threat quarterback asserted his next level athleticism on the ground to silence Ole Miss, racking up 40+ points for the second game in a row, remaining just 5 yards short of eclipsing his career rushing high.
Daniels still pulled off big time throws, showing strong passing continuity from the Florida game with beautiful passes to Kayshon Boutte, a nice 38 yard play & touchdown to Mason Taylor, a few first down strikes for Malik Nabers, a couple shots to Brian Thomas Jr which earned pass interference penalties & limited yardage, even a duck downfield in which Jaray Jenkins bailed him out.
But looking from a wide-screen view, the tale of the tape is all about Jayden's ruthless RPO execution.
Somewhere, Ole Miss defenders are still sliding past Daniels' bristling pace, biting hard on LSU's brilliant RPO action time after time, with Daniels manipulating space and his own protections to make Ole Miss pay....one large chunk of yards at a time.
Generating 82 yards after contact, the LSU starter maintained a poised toughness, finessing and snaking his way through hits or flailing limbs, banishing dodging tacklers using nasty spin moves, stiff arms, or just out-running all comers in sight; Indeed, Saturday's high octane show was a footballing feast.
Now at 11 TDs and 762 total yards over his last two appearances, Daniels is coming into his own, putting the entire repertoire together, growing as a passer, starting to see the field, anticipating coverages and displaying every tool in his athletic arsenal.
Under Daniels' escape-act dynamism, LSU are now looking at a showdown date at home vs Alabama for all the marbles....a chance for an SEC Championship Game appearance....and possibly even more...
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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