Well, that was exactly what the doctor ordered.
After a tough loss, its always nice to thoroughly dominate an outmatched foe, but this took things to a new level. Brian Kelly was able to start emptying his bench in the second quarter, as LSU jumped out to a 37-0 lead in the first.
It’s not often you get to bring in the backup quarterback with ten minutes left in the second quarter, but there was really no point to risk any injury to the starter after twenty minutes. The game was already over.
Heck, the biggest drama left after the first quarter was how the bands would perform at halftime. (Score that one for Southern, the Human Jukebox remains undefeated… seriously, coming out of the box with a score update was amazing).
The game opened inauspiciously for Southern, as they fumbled the opening kickoff. It would quickly get worse from there. By the time the smoke cleared, LSU was up huge and the game was essentially over. The damage was impressive.
In the first quarter alone, LSU outgained Southern 204-19. LSU ran 19 plays and scored 5 touchdowns (ok, one was a defensive score) for a near 20% touchdown rate. On the other hand, Southern ran 15 plays and turned the ball over 3 times, or 15% of their snaps. (Again, the caveat that SU fumbled the kickoff, but the blocked punt doesn’t count as a turnover, so it evens out).
More importantly, everyone got in the fun. Daniels got his own TD, then tossed scores to three different receivers. About the only blemish is that former walkon Evan Francioni being unable to pick up the blocked punt and instead kicking the ball out the back of the end zone for a safety.
But the Tigers didn’t just need this for confidence, they needed this because… well, LSU never really does this. LSU, like true cats, have always played with their food. These bodybag games have often been a collection of errors and false starts, before talent eventually wins out.
Not so tonight. This was a professional performance by a team not interest in leaving any doubt. If perfect practice makes perfect, then… this was a perfect practice. On a day when some SEC powers farted around, LSU left no doubt.
Kayshon Boutte caught 5 balls on 5 targets, including a nice ball through traffic which would set up a Malik Nabers touchdown on the next play.
The defense got stops, and third down was never an issue. Even the offensive line looked good. Exactly what the doctor ordered.
Jayden Daniels went 10 of 11 for 137 yards, adding 18 yards on the ground. He looked every bit the starting quarterback. Garrett Nussmeier got his reps and… well, he looked like the backup. LSU was unable to light up the Jaguars to the same extent with Nuss under center, and his biggest play of the night was losing the shutout by throwing a truly egregious pick six.
The game would come to its merciful end with one of the saddest field goals in history. But, it meant Southern actually outscored LSU in the second half.
It is hard to draw any conclusions from playing a dramatically overpowered foe, but this was the first sign that the Brian Kelly era is bearing some fruit. This looked like a team that knew what it was doing, and there was no hangover from last week’s disappointment.
This is what good teams do.
Then again, it’s only Southern. And the starters spent the bulk of the next 45 minutes watching the game from the bench. At least they had a good view of the bands who, again, did not disappoint.