LSU shows progress under Kelly in his first SEC win

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Jayden Daniels and Will Campbell
(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

Any way you cut it, LSU enjoyed an impressive outing Saturday night.

Down 13-0 early, the Tigers dominated late with three fourth quarter touchdowns in a 31-16 victory over Mississippi State.

Now about that special teams play…

LSU coverage teams were bad. Something must be done about it quickly.

State punter returner Zavion Thomas had two returns for 48 yards. Lideatrick Griffin had two kickoff returns for 64 yards. Another long Bulldogs kickoff return was nullified by a holding penalty; the 10-yard mark off on the play doesn’t tell the story on a crucial penalty that cost Mississippi State 71 yards in field position.

In SEC games against quality teams, LSU simply has to better.

Does that mean playing more starters on special teams? Regardless of the solutions, it’s an area head coach Brian Kelly must address in a hurry

In the meantime, quarterback Jayden Daniels has quickly established himself as the one player the Tigers cannot live without. The Arizona State transfer accounted for 210 passing yards and 93 rushing yards.

LSU had 416 yards of offense and Daniels was responsible for the bluk of it.

Wide receiver Malik Nabers plays bigger than his 6-foot frame. He grabbed a 50/50 ball for 27 yards on fourth down, keeping a Tigers touchdown drive alive. In the slot, he is a tough cover. Right now, it’s Nabers – and not All-American junior Kayshon Boutte – who appears to be Daniels’ go-to receiver.

There’s a place in NFL for LSU defensive back Jay Ward. After the game, Kelly said it was critical to move Ward down near the box. His fourth quarter interception sealed the win

Ward’s biggest attribute his desire to be a striker. His ability and will to tackle violently is something every outstanding defense must have.

Number 40 also stands out for the LSU defense. Harold Perkins will, before he leaves, be one of the best defensive players in the history of LSU football. Yep, that’s correct.

Perkins is a dominant edge rusher with a combination of size, speed and desire. At times, it looked like LSU was bringing extra rushers. The reality was, its front was able to get sacks and hits on the quarterback with four rushers, sometimes rushing against as many as six or seven State offensive players in pass protection.

Perkins was the only five-star recruit in LSU’s class of 2022. Sometimes those stars don’t pan out in the college game, but Perkins is already doing so in a major way.

So, how much have the Tigers improved in 13 days? Quite a bit.

What’s promising is LSU is starting two true freshman offensive tackles, Will Campbell and Emery Jones. Getting his first start against a strong SEC defense, Jones at right tackle played well. He gave up a sack when he was confused on a zone pressure, but his stock is rising.

Kelly as a coach has always been motivated to have a quarterback who can move, playing behind an offensive line that can maul. The second part isn’t happening yet in Baton Rouge, but it won’t be long before the Tigers are dominant up front. That’s how you win, every year, in the Southeastern Conference.

Now about that special teams…

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Ed Daniels

WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM

Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…

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