Before scoring the game-winning touchdown in LSU’s pulsating 53-48 Southeastern Conference victory Saturday over Ole Miss, freshman wide receiver Kayshon Boutte was perched atop an exercise bike on the sideline, hurriedly trying to loosen his injured ankle.
The Tigers trailed by two points when the defense forced a rare three-and-out, giving the offense one final possession with 2 minutes, 36 seconds remaining to try and persevere in a rainy shootout with their Western Division rivals.
Boutte had established himself as LSU’s primary offensive weapon throughout the game, but needed to have his ankle re-taped to rejoin his teammates who were staring at their first losing season in 21 years.
LSU’s true freshman connection of quarterback Max Johnson and Boutte didn’t allow that to happen, combining on a 45-yard touchdown with 1:34 remaining and the defense produced their sixth turnover of the game – a fumble recovery from JaCoby Stevens – to end a tumultuous 2020 season with a two-game win streak and 5-5 record.
“It’s a tough game, I couldn’t quit now,” Boutte said, “and I pushed through.”
Boutte, who took over as LSU’s primary receiver after Terrace Marshall Jr. opted out after the Texas A&M game, wound up with a career-high 14 catches for 308 yards and three touchdowns.
The record-setting performance from Boutte included a school mark for yards in a game, breaking Josh Reed’s 292 yards in 2001, and topped the 303 yards by Arkansas’ Colbi Hamilton for an SEC record.
Boutte’s 308 yards were the second most nationally this season (trailing only the 310 of Arkansas State’s Corey Rucker) and tied the 18th best performance in FBS history.
“The day Ja’Marr Chase left, Kayshon had a tremendous practice,” LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron said. “Not only is he a speed receiver, but he runs good routes and catches all the balls thrown to him. He’s made a bunch of improvement and still has a way to go. He’s going to be one of the great players we have here at LSU.”
LSU won for the fifth-straight time against Ole Miss in a series that dates to 1894.
However, the teams never waged quite a contest like Saturday’s that featured a series-high combined 109 points and the two teams generated 1,151 yards of offense.
Johnson won in his second consecutive start, completing 27 of 51 passes for 435 yards – the most for an LSU true freshman – with three TDs and an interception. He accounted for 489 yards and five TDs, rushing for a pair of 1-yard scores for the Tigers who totaled a season-high 593 yards on 94 plays.
Ole Miss (4-5) cranked up its high-octane offense in the second half and wound up with 558 yards on 75 play.
The Rebels scored on four straight possessions in the second half, accumulating 285 yards during that stretch with their longest drive consuming 3:52.
“We knew they were an explosive offense,” Orgeron said. “We knew they were going to make plays. At the end, our guys kept on fighting. They gave it all they had, and they won.”
LSU lost its grip on a 37-21 after back-to-back field goals from Cade York at the end of the first half and 10-minute mark of the third quarter.
While LSU was settling for field goals from the consistent right leg of York, who kicked four goals in the game, Ole Miss erased that 16-point deficit over a 10-minute stretch that produced four straight touchdowns.
Quarterback Matt Corral accounted for three of those scores with a pair of TD passes and it was his 2-yard run on a fourth-down bootleg that extended Ole Miss’ lead to 48-40 with 8:43 remaining.
LSU narrowed the gap to 48-46 with 5:31 to play when the Tigers marched 75 yards in 10 plays when Johnson, who overcame the first interception of his career earlier in the quarter, dove over the goal for a 1-yard score.
His two-point pass attempt for Boutte was broken up by Ole Miss’ Jalen Jordan.
LSU’s defense, which surrendered 500-plus total yards for the sixth time this season, forced a punt for the first time since the first quarter after a stretch of 10 possessions that either ended in a touchdown or turnover with 2:36 to play.
Three plays later, LSU was in the end zone for the fourth lead change in the game.
Following a first-down run from Tre Bradford to Ole Miss’ 46, Johnson found Boutte crossing toward his bench. He broke a tackle at the 34, hit the sideline and split two defenders with a cutback to the inside at the 5-yard line to complete the scoring play.
It was the 20th time Boutte was targeted by Johnson, whose final seven completions of the game went to Boutte along with all three scores.
For the second straight week, all of LSU’s points were scored by freshmen and sophomores.
“The game’s in your hands,” Boutte said. “You’ve just got to catch your passes and make progress off it.”
LSU’s defense had the final say, though, after Ole Miss crossed midfield and reached Tigers’ territory with just over a minute to play.
With the Rebels facing a first-and-10 from LSU’s 28, Corral was pressured and stepped up in the pocket where Tigers defensive end Ali Gaye forced a fumble which Stevens, a senior playing in his final game, recovered with 40 seconds left.
“It was sort of a bend but don’t break scheme,” LSU linebacker Jabril Cox said. “At the end of the day it was guys just digging in deep and doing their assignments right throughout the whole game.”
LSU parlayed four first-half interceptions into 24 points, highlighted by Jay Ward’s 31-yard pick-6 that gave the Tigers a 10-7 lead. It was the first time since 1999 the Tigers recorded four interceptions in one half with Ward leading the way with two, while Gay and Todd Harris had the others.
The Tigers rattled off 17 unanswered points for a 17-7 edge, taking advantage of Harris’ interception, to fuel a 9-play, 86-yard drive that Johnson culminated with a 1-yard sneak on fourth down.
Ole Miss stole back some of LSU’s momentum when Jerrion Ealy brought out Avery Atkins’ eight yards deep in the end zone, found room along his own sideline before cutting back toward the middle of the field and racing in for a touchdown in which he was credited for 100 yards.
Boutte caught TD passes of 32 and 18 yards, respectively, in the second quarter and York added a pair of field goals that helped LSU gain its biggest lead at 16 points, setting the stage for a dramatic finish between Johnson and Boutte.
“I love playing with him,” Johnson said. “He makes big plays for us.”