Tigers Roar in SEC Opener
September 19, 2023 at 8:30:00 PM
It was the type of performance Mike Leach would’ve approved.
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels had one of the program’s all-time performances at the position in the Tigers’ surprisingly dominant 41-14 victory at Mississippi State.
Daniels accounted for as many touchdowns as incompletions. He was 30 of 34 for 361 yards and two passing touchdowns, while rushing 15 times for 64 yards and two more scores. His 88.2 completion percentage set a school record.
“There won’t be a better performance in the country, and if there is, that would be amazing,” said LSU coach Brian Kelly.
Amazing is a good description of what transpired in Starkville. It also describes Malik Nabers’ day against the Bulldogs. Nabers caught 13 of Daniels’ passes for 239 yards and both touchdowns.
LSU entered its third contest of the season already at a crossroad. A season-opening 45-24 loss to Florida State was followed by a 72-10 blowout of FCS Grambling State.
The SEC opener would provide at least an answer if LSU was the team that appeared to quit in the second half against FSU, or the team that was a trendy pick to win the SEC West and make the College Football Playoffs.
Mississippi State entered its SEC opener 2-0 with a lopsided win over Southeastern Louisiana and a 31-24 win over Arizona.
This is a season of transition for the Bulldogs following the death of Leach last December. Leach had just completed his third season at State, and the Air Raid pioneer had appeared to turn the corner with back-to-back 7-6 and 8-4 seasons.
Defensive coordinator Zach Arnett has replaced Leach and his Air Raid offense. The LSU game is one which would’ve left Leach befuddled.
The Tigers held State to 201 yards offense. Bulldog quarterback Will Rogers, who holds school records for career passing yards, completions and touchdowns, was 11 of 28 for 103 yards. LSU also held State under 100 yards rushing.
“We needed this game,” said Kelly. “But it wasn’t the need for confidence. It was the need to go and validate who we were and make our guys feel really good about themselves.”
It came at a good time because up next for the Tigers are Arkansas and Ole Miss.
Provided LSU gets past Arkansas, the Ole Miss game Sept 30 in Oxford could be for the SEC West.
Ole Miss visits Alabama this week, and one could easily make the case the Rebels have been the second best, if not the best, team in the league thus far behind two-time national champion Georgia. A week after its loss to visiting Texas, Alabama struggled to win at South Florida. As of Monday, tickets for the LSU-Ole Miss contest were in higher demand than the Ole Miss-Alabama tilt.
All the preseason goals and expectations for the Tigers are still there, even though there is no margin for error left after the loss to Florida State and the SEC’s dismal non-conference performance thus far.
As seen against Mississippi State, when LSU puts everything together, the Tigers show they can be the best team in the conference.
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