COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Jayden Daniels shredded the Missouri defense with his arm and legs Saturday, rallying LSU from a big early deficit, and none of that should have been surprising given the way the quarterback has played this season.
The fact that No. 23 LSU’s defense made two crucial stands in the final minutes? That certainly raised some eyebrows.
Yet after watching Daniels throw for 259 yards and three touchdowns, and run for 139 yards and a score, it was that same battered bunch that allowed more than 700 yards to Mississippi last week that stepped up to preserve the 49-39 victory over No. 21 Missouri.
“We were battling,” said LSU coach Brian Kelly, whose team trailed 22-7 early. “All I know is when we got down, I just felt like the way the game was going, if we just got one more score, we could get back into it. I knew we were settling in defensively. Felt like we had a chance to get back in the game and win it. I didn’t lose that confidence.”
Still, LSU was down 39-35 before Daniels threw a touchdown pass to wide-open Malik Nabers with 2:58 to go. That sent its defense onto the field, and it proceeded to force Missouri into a failed fourth-down on its first opportunity with the ball, then got a pick-six from safety Major Burns on its next chance that ultimately clinched the win.
Logan Diggs added 134 yards rushing and a touchdown for LSU (4-2, 3-1 SEC). Nabers caught six balls for 146 yards.
“We knew it was a long game. We’ve been down before,” said Daniels, who played much of the second half with a nagging injury. “As long as we can get rolling, and that momentum, we can score with any team in the nation.”
The teams combined for 46 first downs, 1,061 yards of total offense — and 22 penalties for 145 yards.
Brady Cook threw for 411 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for Missouri (5-1, 1-1). Luther Burden III caught 11 passes for 149 yards, and Cody Schrader ran for 114 yards and three scores.
“Obviously the two turnovers were critical,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said, “and our inability to force turnovers. We weren’t able to force any turnovers to even up that matchup and that’s ultimately what led to the loss.”
Kelly admitted this week that his defense had been embarrassed by Mississippi in a 55-49 loss. And he tried to help matters by hiring Pete Jenkins, the 82-year-old coaching legend, though it appears it will take more than a week to fix all the problems.
That was clear by the way Cook led Missouri to touchdowns on each of its first three drives, slicing up an LSU defense that was perpetually on its heels. And when Daniels finally answered the 22-7 deficit by getting LSU into the end zone late in the first half, Missouri had enough time for Harrison Mevis to drill a 50-yard field goal as time expired.
Cook’s only blip in helping Missouri build its 25-17 lead was an underthrown ball picked off by LSU linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. It ended the junior quarterback’s SEC-record streak of 366 passes without an interception.
The wild momentum swings really began in the second half.
After partially blocking Mevis’ field-goal attempt, LSU marched downfield for a field goal of its own. And when its defense forced a rare three-and-out, Daniels hit Brian Thomas Jr. with a 42-yard strike to give LSU its first lead at 27-25.
Missouri followed with another TD drive, and LSU looked as if it would answer when Daniels hurtled into the end zone. But not only did he appear to hurt his ribs on the play, the score was erased by a penalty. LSU failed to get back into the end zone when backup Garrett Nussmeier entered the game and Damian Ramos missed the field-goal try.
Daniels was back on the field soon, though, terrorizing the Missouri defense once again. He capped a swift drive with a 35-yard touchdown run, and when Missouri got Schrader’s third touchdown run to retake the lead with 5:40 to go, Daniels made a little more magic by finding Nabers all alone for the go-ahead score in the closing minutes.
“Proud of my football team,” Kelly said. “They fixed a lot of things and it starts with them. It starts with the players and their ability to go out on the field and really affect the change from last week.”
LSU: The defense looked entirely different after Kelly made some changes — he wouldn’t say what — after the first quarter, holding Missouri to just 24 points the rest of the way. Some personnel changes from last week also made a difference.
Missouri: The game had a similar feeling to last year’s game against top-ranked Georgia, when Missouri led most of the way and even dominated at times. Just like Saturday, the Bulldogs managed to steal the game in the fourth quarter.
LSU should move up a spot or two after beating a higher-ranked team. Missouri likely drops to the bottom of the Top 25 or falls out.
HOT MIC MOMENT
Missouri defensive end Johnny Walker Jr. was ejected in the third quarter after a second personal foul penalty. If anyone was wondering what occurred, referee Jason Autrey left his microphone on and told someone, “He spit on him.” Autrey also warned LSU right tackle Emery Jones Jr., the apparent victim, to “be cool” before shutting the mic off.
LSU returns home next Saturday to play Auburn.
Missouri heads to Kentucky next Saturday night.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll