LSU found its offense before it was too late
LSU found its offense.
It might have stumbled upon it, but it found it nonetheless.
The discovery triggered a 31-16 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday night at Tiger Stadium that was far more difficult than the final score might suggest.
The Tigers were sputtering as they fell behind 13-0 late in the 2nd quarter.
Their first 3 possessions had ended with punts. Then the defense set the offense up at the Bulldogs’ 29 with a turnover on downs, but it blew the opportunity when Jayden Daniels lost a fumble. Then came 2 more punts.
The 7th possession of the half began at the LSU 25 with just 1:45 left.
If the Tigers were going to drive to any points and avoid a discouraging 1st-half shutout, they had no choice but to go their hurry-up offense.
So they did.
Daniels ran 3 times for 48 yards. He completed 3 passes for 19 yards. Then he threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jaray Jenkins.
Suddenly, LSU had life.
It stayed in the hurry-up and drove to a field goal on its 1st possession of the 3rd quarter. It reached midfield on its next possession before turning the ball over on downs.
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Then the Tigers had their only punt of the 2nd half, but State muffed it, and LSU was 9 yards from the end zone.
Daniels ran 3 yards for a touchdown that gave LSU its 1st lead of the game and the only one it would need.
Josh Williams ran 7 yards for a touchdown on his only carry of the game, then Armoni Goodwin ran 47 for another score.
Daniels led the way with 93 yards, John Emery II added 32 in his season debut and the Tigers finished with 206 yards on the ground.
Along the way, Daniels completed 22 passes, connecting with 8 receivers.
In the end, the offense did a lot of good stuff. Nearly all of it came during and after that rush to the end zone late in the 2nd quarter.
Then everything fell into place.
Daniels got into a rhythm both passing and running. The Tigers started getting into better down-and-distance situations. The work-in-progress offensive line settled in. Emery’s presence created additional depth among the running backs.
And the Bulldogs wilted.
The scenario had a lot of similarities to LSU’s season-opening 24-23 loss to Florida State.
In that game, like Saturday night’s, the offensive line had issues, and most of the limited offense that came in the early going resulted from Daniels ad-libbing productive runs out of doomed pass calls.
In that game, like Saturday night’s, the offense came to life when circumstances forced LSU to hurry up.
Against Florida State, it happened in the 4th quarter, when 2 scoring passes from Daniels to Jenkins nearly pulled the Tigers even. The 2nd score came at the end of a 99-yard drive in the final 80 seconds of the game.
But this was different. This was better.
It wasn’t better just because this game ended as a win and the other as a loss — though that’s clearly what was most important.
It was also better because this time, it happened early enough to have a trickle-down effect on the running backs.
This time, it didn’t just produce 2 desperate touchdown drives in what turned out to be a lost cause. This time, it produced a balanced attack over a longer period of time, something that might serve as a blueprint for offensive success going forward.
The 14 minutes of success against Florida State nearly turned a defeat into what would have been an improbable victory.
The 32 minutes of success against Mississippi State turned a potential defeat into a much-needed and perhaps confidence-boosting victory.
The next step would be to extend the period of success into something approaching a 60-minute duration.
And that’s going to require a conscious decision to build a game plan around the approach that has been most successful — and not just turn to it because desperate circumstances require it.