It wasn’t pretty, but it doesn’t have to be in the SEC. Brian Kelly and his LSU Tigers turned it up a notch to close out the first half and never looked back, coming out on top 31-16 over the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Kelly and his coaching staff went with a few changes in this one, starting with the offensive line. Electing to go with two true freshmen up front, the Tiger started Will Campbell at left tackle and Emery Jones at right tackle.
Though it started off sluggish, with three false starts across the first two drives, protections were there and they ultimately made it work throughout the second half.
The major takeaway in this one was the LSU defense. After a Major Burns whiffed tackle in the first quarter that gave the Bulldogs a 37-yard touchdown run, this unit looked virtually flawless the rest of the night.
Led by defensive back Jay Ward and true freshman linebacker Harold Perkins, defensive coordinator Matt House’s group was clicking on all cylinders.
Ending the first quarter trailing 6-0, it looked as though this LSU offense couldn’t get anything going their way, specifically in the run game. With under 10 rushing yards in the first quarter and a half, Kelly and his staff adjusted accordingly and began running up-tempo and getting the short-pass game working.
Trailing 13-0 with under two minutes left in the half, the “two minute Jayden Daniels show” took over. It was a masterful drive by the Arizona State transfer to end the half, using his wheels effectively to move the chains and capping it off with a dart across the middle to Jaray Jenkins.
Going into the half trailing 13-7, the momentum was clearly shifting the Tigers’ way and they took advantage of every opportunity. Settling for a field goal to make it a three-point game, this defense continued to hold it down and keep this squad within striking distance.
The playmaking ability of Daniels was a sight to see, giving the Mississippi State defense fits all night, but it wasn’t perfect by any means. The gunslinger certainly missed his fair share of throws, but would come back immediately with an explosive play to redeem himself.
Consistency will be key come the rest of SEC play and this program understands that, especially Daniels.
A muffed punt by the Bulldogs to end the third quarter set up the Tigers in great field position. With long snapper Slade Roy putting on the jets and getting down the field to recover, LSU entered the fourth quarter with all the momentum their way.
Daniels opened the quarter with a keeper up the middle, punching in the score to give LSU a 17-16 lead. The LSU signal-caller finished the night going 22-of-37 for 210 yards and two total touchdowns. His go-to guy Saturday night? Malik Nabers.
Nabers erupted in the fourth quarter, specifically on the Tigers touchdown drive to put LSU up 24-16. The sophomore wide receiver caught four passes for 51 yards on one drive, but the most important play came as a result of his 27-yard reception to get the Tigers within scoring range.
After his score, it was all LSU, specifically the defense. Limiting any explosive plays from the Bulldogs and holding Will Rogers in check. Despite starting the night hot, Rogers ultimately finished going 24-of-42 for 214 yards and one touchdown.
For both squads, the run-game was relatively nonexistent. Quiet for the first three quarters, it was sluggish, but late in the fourth quarter Armoni Goodwin found a hole and punched in a 47-yard touchdown run.
On the other side, Mississippi State finished with just 75 yards on 22 rushing attempts.
The second half LSU put together was something special. Seemingly unable to move the chains at any point early, the in-game adjustments by Kelly and his coaching staff made all the difference to seal the deal in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t the prettiest showing for LSU, starting a young group who couldn’t get things rolling early, but this squad dug deep and pulled out a gritty SEC victory. Coach Kelly now gets his first SEC win in dramatic fashion as LSU goes to 2-1 on the season. The Tigers will host New Mexico State next Saturday in Tiger Stadium.