Jayden Daniels fought through injury to dominate with his arm and his legs.

And the beleaguered LSU defense was much improved in the second half.

In the end, the 23rd-ranked Tigers escaped with a wild 49-39 victory over Missouri in Columbia on Saturday afternoon.

Daniels left the game briefly with a rib injury, but returned and finished with 3 touchdown passes, 130 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.

Safety Major Burns chipped in a game-clinching pick-6 to climax a 2nd half in which LSU allowed just 14 points after allowing 25 on 5 1st-half possessions.

Logan Diggs added 134 rushing yards and a touchdown, and Harold Perkins had an interception that produced the only 1st-half stop by the defense and led to a touchdown, in addition to blocking a field goal.

LSU (4-2, 3-1 SEC) allowed 527 yards, but that was 179 fewer than it allowed in a 55-49 loss at Ole Miss a week earlier.

The persistent Tigers overcame 3 deficits, including a 22-7 second-quarter hole.

Player of the Week: QB Jayden Daniels

Diggs was important. So was Perkins. So was Malik Nabers (6 catches, 146 yards, 1 touchdown). And touchdown catches by Brian Thomas Jr. and Mason Taylor were helpful.

But Daniels was indispensable.

He left the game briefly in the 3rd quarter with the rib injury, but when he returned he was just as effective as he had been before the injury even though he was obviously feeling discomfort.

Freshman of the Week: LB Whit Weeks

Weeks has been 1 of the most significant playmakers on the defense – in good times and bad – since moving into the starting lineup 3 weeks ago.

On Saturday he was 4th on the team with 5 tackles including a tackle for loss.

Biggest surprise: The defense in the 2nd half

It’s not that LSU was smothering in the 2nd half; it allowed 256 yards, just 15 fewer than it allowed in the 1st half. And it’s not like allowing 14 points should be that notable for an LSU defense.

But given how terribly the defense has played of late, including the 1st half Saturday, the turnaround from the 1st half to the 2nd, primarily from allowing 25 points to 14 while producing a touchdown, was surprising.

After allowing Luther Burden III to catch 9 passes for 110 yards in the 1st half, LSU held him to 2 catches for 39 yards in the 2nd half.

In addition to Burns’ clinching pick-6, another of the biggest plays of the game was produced by the defense in the 4th quarter. LSU was clinging to a 42-39 lead when Missouri crossed midfield with less than 2 minutes remaining, but Bradyn Swinson sacked Brady Cook, causing a fumble that turned a 3rd-and-6 at the LSU 46 into a 4th-and-32 at the Missouri 28.

Biggest concern: The defense – still

Despite the improvement in the 2nd half and doing just enough to help the team win, the defense is far from fixed. Far.

Missouri drove into field-goal range on its 1st and last possessions of the 2nd half. Perkins saved the 1st by blocking the kick and Missouri missed on the last 1. In between Missouri had 2 easy touchdowns drives (6 plays, 75 yards and 5 plays, 70 yards) and was marching again before Swinson’s big play.

The defense is less of a concern than it was coming out of the Ole Miss game, but only slightly.

Developing trend: Logan Diggs is really important

LSU was struggling on offense and defense as it fell behind 22-7 in the 2nd quarter, but Diggs’ rushing success helped stabilize the offense and give the defense a rest. He rushed for 19 yards on a drive to a Damian Ramos field goal, then he rushed for 49 yards on a drive to Daniels’ 3-yard touchdown pass to Mason Taylor.

From that point on, the offense was clicking. Diggs has emerged from a crowded field as the clear-cut most-productive running back. He takes some of the rushing burden away from Daniels and helps keep the chains and clock moving, which is significant because it limits the number of defensive snaps.

Key stat: Turnover margin

The math is pretty simple. LSU took the ball away twice and didn’t turn it over.

Perkins’ interception led to a touchdown and Burns’ interception was returned for a touchdown. Those 2 plays made the difference in a 10-point margin and were significant equalizers for a defense that largely was ineffective otherwise.

First impression about Week 7 (vs. Auburn)

Auburn is well positioned to give LSU quite a fight.

Auburn (3-2) is 0-2 in the SEC, but it played Texas A&M on the road and hosted Georgia, playing very well in a 27-20 loss that wasn’t settled until the final moments.

It has had 2 weeks to rest, build on that performance and study ways to attack LSU’s porous defense. LSU and Auburn are known for close battles featuring wacky elements, and this match-up could produce more of that.