Rapid Reaction: Jayden Daniels rallies LSU past Mississippi State
LSU started slowly – just like it did against Florida State in its season-opener.
It had trouble blocking – just like it did against Florida State.
Jayden Daniels had to run around and run around to keep the Tigers in the game – just like he had to against Florida State.
But unlike the 1-point loss to Florida State, this time Daniels and the Tigers came out on top, pulling away late for a 31-16 win over Mississippi State in the SEC opener for both teams on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
LSU’s frantic but failed comeback against Florida State started in the fourth quarter.
Not Saturday. LSU scored 21 points in the fourth quarter.
This turnaround began late in the third quarter when MSU’s Austin Williams fumbled while trying to fair catch a punt and Slade Roy recovered for the Tigers at the State 9.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Daniels ran 3 yards for a touchdown on third down to give LSU its first lead, 17-16.
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Daniels was even better later in the 4th, repeatedly finding Malik Nabers on 3rd- and 4th-down plays to set up a bruising 7-yard TD run from Josh Williams to make it 24-16. Armoni Goodwin sealed the victory with a 47-yard run.
MSU led 13-7 at the half. On its first possession of the third quarter, LSU drove to the MSU 18 before stalling and Damian Ramos kicked a 35-yard field goal to get the Tigers within 13-10.
The Bulldogs answered with a drive that reached the LSU 21 before Ben Raybon kicked a 45-yard field goal that extended the lead to 16-10.
The Tigers went for 4th-and-4 at the MSU 49 on the next possession and Daniels’ pass went incomplete.
Four plays later the Bulldogs went for 4th-and-1 at the LSU 42 and Rogers’ pass fell incomplete.
Then came the game-turning special-teams play in a game that mostly featured solid defense and shaky to poor offense by both teams.
State and LSU entered the game tied for 2nd in the SEC in scoring with an average of 44 points per game, but the first half featured very little offense success.
LSU coach Brian Kelly shuffled his offensive line after the opening loss against Florida State in the opener.
He said he planned to stick with the unit that started the 65-17 rout of FCS opponent Southern last week. But right guard Anthony Bradford, 1 of just 2 linemen to start at the same spot in each of the 1st 2 games, did not dress.
Freshman Emory Jones, who Kelly praised for his performance in a reserve role a week earlier, started at right tackle and Miles Frazier moved from right tackle to right guard.
LSU had 3 false starts early in the first quarter.
On State’s first possession, Jo’quavious Marks ran 39 yards for a touchdown to complete an 89-yard drive. Ben Raybon, who replaced Massimo Biscardi after Biscardi missed the first 2 PAT attempts against Arizona a week earlier, missed this one.
Dillon Johnson ran 35 yards and after an incompletion Rogers threw 13 yards to Rara Thomas for a 13-0 lead with 2:14 left in the half.
LSU went to its hurry-up and quickly put together its best possession of the half.
Daniels ran for 13, 15 and 20 yards and then zipped an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jaray Jenkins – who had both touchdown catches in the Tigers’ comeback against Florida State – with 46 seconds left.
Suddenly the Tigers were within 13-7 at halftime and the offense seemed viable.
In the end, thanks to Daniels and the LSU ground game, it was enough.