LSU football coach Brian Kelly said the origin could have come from difference sources.
Start with the Tigers trailing 13-0 going into their final drive of the second quarter. After plenty of futility for 28 minutes, quarterback Jayden Daniels led his team 75 yards in seven plays and found Jaray Jenkins for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 46 seconds to go before halftime.
Senior Jay Ward, who was moved to nickelback earlier in the week, provided a glimpse of one of the most impactful games of his career with a breakup of a fourth down pass with 2:17 remaining in the third quarter.
Both teams had traded field goals earlier in the quarter, and Mississippi State led 16-10, when the Tigers were in the process of giving the ball back to the Bulldogs near the end of the third quarter.
Sophomore long snapper Slade Roy, a transfer from East Carolina, then hustled downfield for a Jay Bramblett punt that MSU’s Austin Williams muffed while attempting a fair catch. Roy alertly recovered the ball at the Bulldogs’ 9-yard line and the entire complexion of the game seemed to shift.
While LSU showed preliminary signs of a team coming of age during a fourth-quarter comeback in the first week of the season against Florida State, ultimately falling 24-23, they had the necessary characteristics needed to come all of the way back and punctuate the team’s first Southeastern Conference victory.
LSU took a 17-16 lead at the 14:11 mark of the fourth quarter when Daniels scored on a 3-yard run and Damian Ramos added the extra point.
That triggered a 21-point onslaught from the Tigers with three successive scoring drives and in return, the team’s defense made it stand up with a dominating fourth quarter performance for a 31-16 victory.
“Our guys are gritty, they were down in the game, and they never questioned if they were able to come back,” Kelly said. “We’re building that kind of mindset, and if they keep working hard and keep doing things the right way, we can be a better team in November. It we can incrementally keep working at it, this can be a pretty good football team.”
The final quarter of play was the closest LSU’s come to playing complementary football this season.
Not only did the Tigers take the lead and stretch their advantage in the last seven minutes of play, but the defense made life miserable by limiting the Bulldogs to three points and 86 yards in the second half.
The SEC’s leading quarterback Will Rogers, tops in most major categories, was limited to season lows with 214 yards and touchdowns (1) and was sacked four times.
Ward enjoyed a career-best night with 11 tackles, 1 ½ tackles for loss and a clinching interception of Rogers with 3:04 to play and was named the league’s Defensive of Player of the Week.
LSU’s defense allowed 72 yards on two running plays, including a bust in the first quarter that led to a 37-yard TD and 6-0 deficit, but allowed 75 yards in all on the ground on 22 attempts.
Rogers’ longest pass of the night was 24 yards and was held to 11 of 24 passing for 106 yards with an interception and no touchdowns in the second half.
Daniels was responsible for 303 of LSU’s 416 total yards and two touchdowns, 210 of which was through the air and the other 93 on the ground. He calmy directed the Tigers on a 14-play, 85-yard drive that resulted in Josh Williams’ second-effort 7-yard TD run and 24-16 lead with less than seven minutes left.
It was during that series where the evolution of the Daniels-to-Malik Nabers connection truly took form. They combined four times for 51 yards, but none more important than on fourth-and-three where Nabers had a 27-yard reception to State’s 7 to set up Williams’ score on the next play.
The offensive line, with the two freshman bookends at tackle in Will Campbell and Emery Jones Jr., started wearing down State’s defense and finally put the game away with 4:50 to play when Armoni Goodwin scored on a 47-yard run through a gaping hole up the middle, sending the Tigers to their first league win and delivering a clear message they were headed in the right direction.