LSU needed its passing game to bail out its defense Saturday night.

It’s been a long, long time since that has been the case. If, in fact, it ever has.

The Tigers’ defense and running game have been the staples of their success for a long time.

But this is a different team, a different season.

LSU’s passing game is nothing like we’ve seen from it in a long, long time.

And on Saturday night in Austin, Texas, not only were Joe Burrow and the passing game remarkably productive, but LSU’s defense was uncharacteristically defenseless against the Longhorns for much of the night.

But Burrow and wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall Jr. and Justin Jefferson managed to make up for the defense’s struggles as No. 6 LSU outlasted No. 9 Texas 45-38.

No play symbolized the philosophical change more dramatically than Burrow’s 4th and final TD pass — a 3rd-and-17 dagger that Justin Jefferson turned into a 61-yard touchdown. Burrow finished 31-for-39 for 471 yards passing against a Texas unit that billed itself as DBU. LSU needed every bit of it, too, because Sam Ehlinger carved up LSU for 401 yards and 4 TDs.

LSU came out of halftime with a 20-7 lead and lots of momentum from the latter stages of the 2nd quarter, but a quick 3-and-out after the kickoff stunted the momentum.

Then came the drip, drip, drip of a 19-play, 86-yard touchdown drive that pulled Texas within 20-14 and changed the outlook of the game.

After Cade York’s 40-yard field goal, the Longhorns marched down the field a lot faster. This time they needed just 7 plays to go 70 yards as Sam Ehlinger took advantage of the absence of a pass rush to drill a 20-yard touchdown to Jake Smith.

Burrow took the Tigers 75 yards in 6 plays, the last of which was a 26-yard touchdown to Marshall.

That put LSU in position to seize control early in the 4th quarter, but on 4th down Ehlinger connected with Devin Duvernay on a 3-yard pass and Duvernay split 2 defenders for a 43-yard touchdown.

Burrow carved up the Texas defense, setting up Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s 12-yard touchdown run and a 37-28 lead with 9:58 left.

LSU struggled on both lines of scrimmage in the early going, but Texas couldn’t take advantage.

Twice in the 1st quarter the Longhorns chose to go for 4th down and twice they failed. On the first opportunity, Keaontay Ingram dropped a sure touchdown, but Texas got another chance moments later when a Burrow pass was tipped and interception.

The Longhorns had a 1st-and-goal from the 4 but couldn’t cross the goal line, though Ehlinger’s apparent touchdown on 2nd down was reversed on replay.

Patrick Queen made consecutive stops with an assist from Glen Logan on 4th down.

Ehlinger had more time to pass than Burrow did for most of the half as Tigers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda chose mostly to stick with a 4-man pass rush while spying Ehlinger.

On Texas’ first possession after the goal-line failures, it drove 78 yards, getting the last 55 and a go-ahead touchdown on a pass from Ehlinger to Brennan Eagles when Kristian Fulton gambled on a 3rd-and-10 pass.

Then LSU, trailing 7-3, responded.

Burrow went to work with Jefferson in what was reminiscent of their successful partnership last season. They sandwiched completions of 17 and 12 yards around a 24-yard run by Edwards-Helaire before teaming again for a 6-yard touchdown.

On their next possession the Tigers drove 75 yards to a 33-yard field goal by York, who had started the scoring with a 36-yarder.

When the Longhorns got the 3rd-down stop before the kick, coach Tom Herman ran on the field to call timeout because Texas could have more than a minute after the kickoff to try and get into scoring range.

But Aranda changed things up on the next possession, bringing five pass rushers on second down and forcing an incompletion. Then he brought K’Lavon Chaisson up the middle on a stunt to avoid left tackle Sam Cosmi, who had handled Chaisson to that point, and the linebacker came free for a 12-yard sack.

Burrow went back to work with a 19-yard completion to Chase and 18 and 21 yards to Jefferson, the second one producing a touchdown.

Suddenly LSU had a 20-7 lead as it went into halftime.

Burrow was nearly perfect after the interception and finished the half with 220 passing yard.

He was even better after intermission. And so are these Tigers.