LSU’s offense had apparently saved the day, moving 99 yards in the final 1:20 of play with a touchdown with no time remaining on the clock to trail Florida State by one point.
With the Tigers on the cusp of overtime, they had to instead deal with heartache when FSU’s Shyheim Brown blocked a potential game-tying extra point from LSU placekicker Damien Ramos, sealing the Seminoles’ pulsating 24-23 victory Sunday at the Caeser’s Superdome.
“I was proud of our resolve,” LSU first-year coach Brian Kelly said. “We battled. But we just have to learn how to play the game the right way, and that is for four quarters. We didn’t play with the kind of sense of urgency that I want for four quarters, and that was evident in our play. We didn’t tackle very well. We couldn’t get off the field on third down. We didn’t execute very well offensively.”
Florida State (2-0) was on the doorstep of putting the game away, running a play from LSU’s 1-yard line when defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo recovered a fumble by Treshaun Ward on third down.
Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels made his first start at LSU a memorable one, driving the Tigers downfield in 11 plays with an eye on sending the game to overtime. His 24-yard scramble moved to the ball to FSU’s 29 and his 17-yard completion to freshman tight end Mason Taylor got the Tigers down to the 2-yard line with one second remaining.
Following a lengthy delay to review the play, LSU scored on its last offensive play when Daniels, who stood in the pocket, found senior Jaray Jenkins on a touchdown in the back of the end zone.
Holder Jay Bramblett perfectly handled the snap of Slade Roy, but Brown came from Ramos’ left side with a diving effort that thwarted the ball’s trajectory and sent the Seminoles into a state of euphoria.
“We got into a better rhythm certainly in the second half, Jayden (Daniels) did,” Kelly said. “And he’s a threat. But we don’t want to rely on him having to go back there. And when he does sit in the pocket, we saw his ability to find open receivers, show the patience and in particular on the last touchdown, he stayed in the pocket, showed great patience and found Jaray Jenkins in the back of the end zone.”
LSU (0-1) was stunned. After nearly falling behind by two scores in the final 30 minutes, the Tigers had fought their way back from second-half deficits of 24-10 and 24-17.
Daniels was a big reason why. The junior had 323 yards of total offense, accounting for all but 25 of his team’s 348 total yards. He completed 26 of 35 passes for 209 yards with two touchdowns and rushed 16 times for 114 yards.
LSU outgained FSU 174-96 in the fourth quarter alone to provide hope. Daniels was 7 of 8 on the final drive for 63 yards with his 2-yarder to Jenkins bringing everyone in the Superdome to their feet.
However, LSU suffered mightily on special teams all night. The Tigers had an earlier field goal blocked and punt returner Malik Nabers twice lost fumbles while trying to secure the ball after fair catches. Punter Jay Bramblett had one shank and freshman Harold Perkins was whistled for an unsportsmanlike penalty on the kickoff coverage team.
“We had two turnovers in our punt‑return game, which we thought would be an asset for us. And then we had a blocked field goal and a blocked extra point,” Kelly said. “Anytime you have those kinds of situations, you’re setting yourself up for a long night. And despite all of those things, I stand here in front of you with an opportunity to bring the game into an overtime situation.”
FSU quarterback Jordan Travis completed 20 of 32 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns to wide receiver Ontaria Wilson, who had seven receptions for 102 yards.
The Seminoles outgained the Tigers 392-342 for the game. It was the team’s 13th consecutive defeat when trailing at halftime.
LSU did its best after having its back against the wall. The Tigers went 82 yards in 11 plays after the Seminoles led 17-3 and Penn State transfer running back Noah Cain scored from a yard out on fourth down, pulling his team to within 17-10 with eight seconds left in the third quarter.
FSU responded with a 24-10 advantage with 9:04 remaining, though, when linebacker-turned-fullback DJ Lundy capped a 12-play, 79-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge.
The combination of Daniels-to-Jenkins, which worked five times for 46 yards, connected with 4:07 left in the game on a 22-yard scoring play on second down. That came at the end of a 15-play, 75-yard series that took nearly five minutes and left the Tigers trailing, 24-17.
LSU reached FSU’s 5 and 13-yard lines on its first and last drive of the first half but came away with a total of three points and trailed 7-3 at halftime.
The Tigers dealt with their share of disaster in each phase of the game with center Garrett Dellinger snapping the ball over the head on Daniels on second-and-goal and lost 14 yards back to FSU’s 19.
That resulted in a field goal for Ramos and the walk-on delivered from 36 yards out on his first collegiate try.
FSU maintained an 18-play, 85-yard drive, bridging the first and second quarters, by digging into its bag of tricks on second-and-12. The Seminolesexecuted a flea-flicker with Travis connecting with Wilson on a 39-yard TD pass against transfer cornerback Mekhi Garner who was beaten on the play for a 7-3 lead.
LSU had its best drive of 12 plays that lasted nearly eight minutes result in no points with 5:43 left before halftime.
With Ramos lined up for a 30-yard field goal to draw the Tigers within a point, Albany transfer defensive end Jared Verse blocked the attempt.
LSU’s defense, led by the eight tackles of Jay Ward and Major Burns, forced Travis into a third-down incompletion when sophomore Malik Nabers fumbled a fair catch attempt which FSU’s Wyatt Rector recovered at the Tigers’ 16 with 3:15 to play before halftime.
LSU’s defense forced a fourth-and-22 from its own 8, and with redshirt freshman Sage Ryan running stride for stride with wide receiver Mycah Pittman, Travis was incomplete with 1:10 remaining.
“Look, I’m not here to say we take any solace in a loss,” Kelly said. “That’s not why I’m here at LSU, to learn about great lessons in losses. But the reality of it is, we’ve got some ‑‑ some learning to do. We’ve got to coach better, and we’ve got to play better.”