AUSTIN, Texas — On a night when LSU and Texas combined for 83 points and more than 1,100 yards of offense, it’s fair to say neither defense did much to win the game.
Both units looked futile throughout the second half as Joe Burrow and Sam Ehlinger traded haymakers in the form of touchdown passes.
The two quarterbacks accounted for nine touchdowns as LSU outgunned Texas 45-38 in an epic aerial display at Darrel K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.
But long before the Big 12-style shootout broke out, it was two defensive stands by LSU that helped the Tigers escape Austin with a signature win for Ed Orgeron and his staff.
LSU held a 3-0 lead in the first quarter and twice turned away Texas on the goal line. The rest of the night was borderline nightmarish for the vaunted LSU defense, but keeping those points off the board made all the difference in what ended up being a one-score game.
“They bailed us out in the first quarter and then we bailed them out in the end,” Burrow said. “That’s what teams do.”
Texas was set up with first-and-goal from the LSU 8-yard line after an Ehlinger pass to wideout Brennan Eagles. After an incompletion, an Ehlinger keeper moved the Longhorns down to the LSU 2.
A K’Lavon Chaisson pressure forced another incompletion, bringing up fourth down. Texas coach Tom Herman decided to go for it. Ehlinger had running back Keaontay Ingram wide open in the end zone, but Ingram dropped the ball and Texas turned the ball over on downs.
That defense found itself right back on the field after a Burrow pass was tipped and intercepted, setting up Texas with first-and-goal inside the 5-yard line.
“That’s one thing we take pride in, goal-line stands,” Chaisson said. “That’s when it gets real. You have to dig even deeper when it gets there. Sometimes you get down mentally. You’ve got to dig even deeper and hold it.”
What happened next was a direct result of LSU’s preparation for Ehlinger and the Texas offense. Orgeron compared the Texas quarterback to Tim Tebow in terms of his rushing ability, and Dave Aranda designed a goal-line package specifically to combat him.
LSU moved Divinity outside and put its bigger inside linebackers in the game to combat Ehlinger. The defensive line was instructed to “submarine” the blockers, meaning get lower leverage and just try to keep any holes from opening up.
Texas appeared to score on a second-down run from Ehlinger, but video review determined that his knee touched down before the ball broke the plane. Texas handed the ball to Ingram on third down and Patrick Queen stuffed him at the line of scrimmage.
Herman again elected to leave his offense on the field instead of attempting the game-tying field goal. LSU recognized the formation as setting up for Ehlinger to run right on a sweep, and it again was Queen who came flying through the line to make a touchdown-saving tackle.
Texas ran eight plays inside LSU’s 10-yard line and came away with zero points. That propelled the Tigers to a 20-7 lead at halftime and eventually the seven-point victory once the game turned into a track meet in the second half.
“We don’t stop them on the goal line, we’re dead,” Orgeron said.
2. Heat Index
Temperatures on the turf exceeded 100 degrees when LSU and Texas kicked off at 6:40 local time, but Orgeron’s Bayou Bengals appeared no worse for wear in the first half. Nobody needed IVs when the Tigers went back to the locker room for halftime.
It is pretty hot in Baton Rouge, as you might know.
One grueling 19-play drive changed all that. LSU defenders were left strewn across the ground dealing with cramps and various injuries as Texas marched in for the touchdown that ignited a wild second half.
Cramps and injuries were just about the only way LSU’s defense got off the field after halftime. Divinity and Grant Delpit both went back to the locker room at different points to receive IV fluids. Nose tackle Tyler Shelvin went down with apparent cramps, too.
“Most of them were cramps, but some of them were ankle sprains and some of them were knees,” Orgeron said. “They were hurting a little bit. That was a war out there.”
LSU also lost defensive ends Rashard Lawrence and Glen Logan with apparent leg injuries. Orgeron didn’t specify who was hurt as opposed to who was cramping up, but it sounds like some defenders will be out for a bit with injury.
“I think there will be a couple of weeks on a couple of guys,” Orgeron said. “I’m not sure yet. We’ll see.”
Fortunately for LSU, the schedule is favorable as it tries to get healthy for the tough tests ahead. LSU hosts Northwestern State before opening SEC play at Vanderbilt the following week. The Tigers will then enjoy a bye week before facing Utah State.
3. Kicking Hurt
LSU freshman kicker Cade York was the unsung hero of the night. The rookie thrived in his first high-pressure road game, drilling three kicks that loomed large in the grand scheme of things.
All three of York’s field goals came from 40 yards and in, but his night is even more impressive than the stat sheet would appear.
Orgeron revealed after the game that York didn’t kick in practice all week due to a minor injury. The coach also gave credit to trainer Jack Marucci and special teams coordinator Greg McMahon for helping prepare York for his perfect night.
“Tremendous job by (York),” Orgeron said. “He was hurt Tuesday and couldn’t kick. We asked him all week. Jack got him better and Coach Mac did a great job. He came in and did a phenomenal job of kicking.”