No. 17 LSU believed it had the exact matchup in the precise moment to save the day.
The combination of quarterback and Myles Brennan and wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., which had previously clicked 11 times for three touchdowns, wasn’t able to connect on a pivotal fourth-and-goal pass play from the 1-yard line.
With Marshall lined up in the slot and facing man coverage, it was Missouri senior free safety Joshuah Bledsoe that made his team’s biggest defensive play and knocked away Brennan’s pass attempt with 16 seconds to go, sending LSU to a perplexing 45-41 defeat Saturday in Southeastern Conference play at Faurot Field in Columbia, MO
“They were just sitting on the route,” Brennan said. “We didn’t execute. We didn’t finish.”
LSU (1-2, 1-2 in SEC) found itself having to play a regularly scheduled home game nearly 800 miles away to escape the wrath of Hurricane Delta which slammed into the state’s coast Friday evening.
The Tigers, whose 1-2 record is their worst since 1994, found themselves trying to keep pace in an offensive shootout that produced 1,065 total yards because of the reoccurring ills of a defense that for the second time in three weeks, couldn’t solve the opposition’s offense.
This time Missouri hurt LSU with a balanced offense that produced 586 total yards, taking its first lead in the game with 5:18 to play on quarterback Connor Bazelak’s 5-yard TD pass to tight end Niko Hea.
“I love Bo,” LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron said of first-year defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, whose unit surrendered 623 passing yards in a week one 44-34 loss to Mississippi State. “I think Bo’s going to be a great defensive coordinator. He’s done it before, but we’ve got to get better. There are some things we need to fix, and we need to coach better. There are somethings we need to look at schematically and see where we can get better. I know we will.”
Brennan enjoyed his best day as a collegian, completing 29 of 48 passes for 430 yards and four touchdowns. The redshirt junior almost drove LSU the length of the field to win the game, engineering a 13-play, 74-yard drive in just over five minutes.
The Tigers’ efforts, though, proved to be one yard short.
Brennan completed six straight passes on the drive that began at Missouri’s 25-yard line and reached the 1-yard line with 44 seconds showing on a 13-yard completion to Marshall that stood after a review by the replay booth.
“Our mindset was to go out there, do our job and take care of what we have to do and then go on the sideline and root for the defense,” said Marshall, who produced the school’s fourth-highest receiving total with 235 yards.
LSU’s running game, which was limited to 49 yards on 20 attempts, was negated on two straight run plays from Tyrion Davis-Price, the second of which resulted in a timeout with 22 seconds to play.
With Marshall lined up in the slot to the left, Brennan’s attempt to his favorite target was batted down by Missouri defensive end Nick Bolton, securing LSU’s dubious 0-of-10 showing on third down.
Brennan then rolled to his right on fourth down, waited for Marshall to clear when Bledsoe perfectly timed his break, getting inside of LSU’s receiver to defense the pass and secure Missouri’s first win over a defending national champion in 42 years since a 3-0 victory over Notre Dame in 1978.
“I just wasn’t able to make the play,” Marshall said.
Said Orgeron: “We ought to be able to run the football. We’re LSU. We should score from the 1-yard line.”
LSU’s defense was hard pressed to stop a Missouri offense which produced four touchdowns that covered 21-plus yards.
Despite missing three starters (seven in all) because of COVID-19 concerns, and Bazelak getting his first start, Missouri’s offense befuddled an LSU defense which for the second time in three weeks, was vulnerable against the pass.
Bazelak completed 29 of 34 passes for 406 yards and four touchdowns and was complemented by the running of Larry Rountree who added 119 yards on 18 carries.
“We couldn’t stop the play-action game,” Orgeron said. “We couldn’t stop the run game. When we bit up on the run, we had guys wide open down the field. Too many busts.”
The game followed a back-and-forth pattern with Brennan and Bazelak matching each other when LSU grabbed a 24-14 lead at the 14:41 mark of the second quarter on a 25-yard TD pass to Arik Gilbert (6-97).
Missouri closed with the half’s final 10 points to pull even at 24-24 at halftime on Jalen Knox’s 16-yard scoring run on a reverse and Harrison Mevis’ 52-yard field goal.
There were a pair of ties in third quarter, the second coming on Bazelek’s 21-yard TD pass to Tyler Badie when LSU took a 41-38 lead on the final play of the third quarter when Cade York made a 51-yard field goal.
LSU didn’t score again, having York’s 45-yard field goal attempt blocked by Tre Williams, giving the ball back to Missouri with 7:04 remaining for its game-winning drive.
Bazelak found a wide-open Chance Luper for a 69-yard completion to LSU’s 10 and Missouri led for the first time on the 5-yard scoring pass from Bazelak to Hea.
“You only get stronger through adversity and we’re going through some pretty adverse situations right now,” Brennan said. “It’s only going to make us stronger. We’re going to keep fighting each week.”