LSU has not had a losing season since 1999. In every season of football played this century, LSU has managed to at least post a .500 record. Prior to last season, LSU had won at least eight games in all of those years.
So as far as stakes go, it wasn’t the absolutely biggest, but if you wee an LSU player on this team, would you be the one to let that streak go the way of the dodo? Particularly against Texas A&M.
Yeah, LSU was playing for pride. At the end of the day, I’m not going to pretend I care if LSU goes to some minor bowl that I am almost certainly not going to attend. But at the same time, I have nothing but respect for the effort of the players who wanted to keep that winning season streak alive. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. But when you’re the one who breaks the chain, its all that matters.
Also, there’s been a tad bit of bad blood in the Texas A&M series of which you may be aware. LSU didn’t exactly come out like gangbusters, but at the same time, they came out well. LSU put together a good, methodical drive which took 8:38 off of the clock and resulted in a 50-yard Cade York field goal.
The tone was set, LSU was not going to lie down for this one.
But LSU has had nice starts before, only to fizzle out into disinterested efforts as the game wore on. That changed early in the second quarter when on 3rd and one, LSU decided not to go for the standard call, a run up the middle to get the near sure first down, but instead called Max Johnson’s number on a deep ball. He found Jaray Jenkins for a 45 yard bomb and a touchdown, staking LSU to a 10-7 lead.
A&M climbed their way back into the game with a touchdown of their won, as Zach Calzada stared down the rush and found Moose Muhammad III for a touchdown to make the game 10-7. LSU’s early dominance evaporated and seemed destined to go the half in a dogfight.
With 32 seconds left in the first half, Johnson found Trey Palmer on a short completion, only for Palmer to find space and break down the field. 61 yards later, it was another LSU touchdown and a 17-7 halftime lead. And the game took on a new shape, that of the desperate comeback while LSU tried to hang on.
For the third quarter, the teams largely fought to a stalemate. The teams traded field goals, but on the flip side, you could see control of the game start to slip. A&M, who only gained 118 yards in the first half, gained 123 in the third quarter alone. And on the second play of the fourth quarter, the dam broke, as Jalen Preston found the end zone to make it a three-point game.
After an exchange of punts, Texas A&M slowly improved their field position. Max Johnson fell to consecutive sacks, granting A&M the ball back in terrific field position. With the LSU offense doing nothing, it was time for the defense to respond. Daronte Jones has been the hero of the second half of the season, coaxing a top tier effort out of a makeshift unit of whoever was left standing,
LSU forced consecutive 3rd and 8, in and of itself a bad sign. The first conversion was simply a great pass and catch, but the second was the sort of disastrous defensive plays which will keep you up at night. LSU missed two shots at the quarterback, only to miss both and have Calzada roll out and find Preston in space. He made a few players missed and by the end of the paly, what looked like a sure sack had instead turned into a 32-yard touchdown and A&M’s first lead of the game, at 24-20 with just over seven minutes to play.
On fourth down, out of timeouts, and eighty yards away from the end zone and about a minute to play, it looked like this was going to end in tears. Nearly every close game this season has ended with LSIU simply finding a way to lose. But this time, Johnson found Jack Bech for the first down. He would find Jaray Jenkins for a big gain on the next play.
And on third down and under a half minute left, Johnson simply chucked it down the field in the face of a huge Aggie blitz. The ball found the arms of Jaray Jenkins again, who finished the game with 8 catches, 169 yards, and 2 touchdowns. The second being one of the biggest of the season.
A&M tried to respond, but Damone Clark did Damone Clark things to seal the win. The game ended on two consecutive sacks, both by Clark. One of the few stars to stick around, Clark cemented his legacy as one of the great LSU Tigers in history. While others looked for a way out, he looked for a way to make plays and put his name in the record books.
If anyone has ever deserved the #18 jersey, it was him. Damone Clark is everything that an LSU Tiger should be.
Come gut check time, this team passed. The talent may not have been there, and the talent which was there has long since made a business decision to take no part in the slow misery of this season, but the players who stayed gave everything to this team. They are the truest of Tigers. Guys who bled purple and gold and salvaged this season on pure heart.
Yeah, it’s just preserving the streak of non-losing seasons, but when that’s all that’s left, it meant everything. Thanks for this season, y’all. I love every player on this team for giving it all, and leaving every bit of themselves on the field.