Football Faces Texas A&M in Regular Season Finale
BATON ROUGE – LSU will look to keep its hopes for a 10-win season alive and in the process enhance its bowl destination possibilities on Saturday when the 18th-ranked Tigers host Texas A&M in a key Southeastern Conference Western Division contest.
LSU, winners of five of its last six games, stands at 8-3 overall and 5-2 in league play. LSU is one win shy of picking up its ninth regular-season victory of the season for the first time since 2013. The Tigers are still within reach of a 10-win season, which would be the first for the school since 2013.
The Aggies stand at 7-4 overall and 4-3 in conference play. The Aggies have won two straight, which includes a 31-24 victory over Ole Miss last week in Oxford. Three of A&M’s four conference wins have come away from College Station.
Kickoff between the Tigers and the unranked Aggies is set for 6:39 p.m. on the SEC Network where Tom Hart (play by play), Jordan Rodgers (analyst) and Cole Cubelic (sideline reporter) will call the action. The game can also be seen on the Watch ESPN app.
The LSU Sports Radio Network, featuring the Voice of the Tiger Chris Blair, Doug Moreau and Gordy Rush, will have the radio broadcast of the game. The game can be heard in the Baton Rouge area on Eagle 98.1 FM or for free on the internet at www.LSUsports.net/live.
For behind-the-scenes video and photographs, along with updates throughout the game, fans can visit LSU’s social media platforms www.twitter.com/LSUfootball, www.facebook.com/LSUfootball, and www.instagram.com/LSUfootball for a unique perspective of the contest.
Prior to kickoff, LSU will honor its 20-member senior class with a pregame ceremony. The list of 20 seniors include 12 players who have been considered starters during their career; six current graduates with another six scheduled to graduate in December; been part of four bowl games and extended the streak of seasons with at least eight wins to a Power 5 Conference-leading 18 consecutive seasons.
“It’s senior night and we will honor a group that I’m very proud of,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “I’ve been with them for three years and they have meant a lot to this program. This group is made up of a bunch of tremendous guys, who are great leaders. They will do great things in their life after football.
Offensively, LSU goes into the Texas A&M game riding the strength of its running game, which has been led by junior Derrius Guice and senior Darrel Williams. The duo has combined to rush for 1,696 yards and 18 touchdowns making them one of the most productive 1-2 running back punches in college football.
Guice currently leads the Tigers and ranks second in the SEC with 1,026 yards and 10 TDs, while Williams has accounted for 670 yards and eight scores. Williams also stands second in the team in receiving with 21 catches for 271 yards.
“I can’t tell you how much Darrel has meant to our football team as far as a leader, as far as a guy that can catch the ball in the backfield,” Orgeron said. “Last year, when Leonard couldn’t play, we had Derrius. This year when Derrius couldn’t play, we had Darrel. And although they’re two different players, at times Darrell was just as effective.
“So he brought a lot to our team. That’s the way — you can’t run a running back in this league every down. It’s just not going to happen. You have to have two good backs and he provided that to our team.”
Quarterback Danny Etling will make his 22nd straight start for the Tigers and LSU is 15-6 in games that he’s started. Etling currently ranks No. 2 in SEC history in interceptions per attempt (minimum of 400 passes) as he’s thrown 481 passes during his LSU career with just seven interceptions or one for every 69 attempts.
This year, Etling has thrown for 1,887 yards, 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions. His top target is that of senior DJ Chark, who has 30 receptions for 725 yards and two TDs. Chark leads the SEC and ranks third in the nation with 24.2 yards a catch.
As a unit, LSU is averaging 26.5 points and 394.9 total yards per game (207.2 rushing, 187.7 passing). The Tigers are tied with Alabama for the fewest turnovers in the nation with only seven this year (3 fumbles, 4 interceptions).
Defensively, the Tigers are paced by sophomore linebacker Devin White, who leads the SEC in both tackles (114) and tackles per game (10.3). White also has 11.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks to his credit. Senior defensive end Christian LaCouture is second on team with 61 tackles, which included 8.5 tackles for loss and a team-best 6.0 sacks.
LSU currently ranks second in the SEC in sacks with 33. The Tigers have allowed only two fourth quarter touchdowns in their seven SEC games this year. LSU ranks among the SEC leaders in points allowed (18.5), total yards (314.4), rushing defense (132.9) and pass defense (181.5).
The Tiger defense will be tested by an Aggie offense that is averaging 32.0 points and 399.4 total yards per game (168.5 rushing, 230.9 passing). Quarterback Nick Starkel has started the past two games for the Aggies – both wins – and the season opener (loss at UCLA). He threw for 272 yards and accounted for two touchdowns (one rushing, one passing) last week against Ole Miss.
Wide receiver Christian Kirk is one of the most explosive players in college football. He’s scored TDs three ways this year – receiving, punt return and kickoff return – and he’s averaging a team-best 116.3 all-purpose yards per game.
Running back Trayveon Williams is a workhorse on the ground for the Aggies with 678 yards and six TDs on 149 carries.
“Christian Kirk is a dynamic playmaker and he’s one of the top players in the SEC,” Orgeron said. “He’s great after the catch. And Trayveon Williams is a very good back – tough, hard to tackle and very fast.”
Defensively, the Aggies are allowing 27.2 points and 369.4 total yards per game (156.8 rushing, 212.5 passing). They lead the SEC in sacks with 36.
“Texas A&M is a very strong team,” Orgeron said. “They are explosive on offense and very talented on defense. This is going to be a tremendous challenge for us. We’ve had a good week of practice with good focus and attention to detail. We expect a tough battle against Texas A&M. “I know it’s going to be a great night Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium. I’m anticipating a tremendous crowd with great energy starting with the Tiger Walk.”
Last year, LSU beat the Aggies, 54-39, in College Station; however Texas A&M scored 32 points in the second half to keep the game closer. Guice set an LSU record with 285 rushing yards and four TDs in that game, while Etling threw for 324 yards and three scored.
“We have to finish and we have to play strong,” Orgeron said of the Tigers. “I thought Steve Ensminger did a tremendous job last year of game planning against their defense. We’re going to have to score some points. They’re going to score some points. This is going to be a war.
“It’s going to be a 60-minute game. They really beat us in the second half last year. We came out strong, but we have to start fast and finish strong.”
• LSU has won six straight over the Aggies, five of which have come since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012. LSU’s other win during the six-game streak was a 41-24 win over the Aggies in the 2011 Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.
• Darrel Williams is 30 rushing yards away from reach 700 for the season. Only two other times in school history (1976 and 2016) has LSU featured a 1,000-yard rusher and a 700-yard rusher in the same backfield. Williams and Guice can make it three if Williams reaches 700 yards this week. • Of Coach Orgeron’s 14 LSU victories, 11 have come by double-figures.
• With only 7 turnovers this year, LSU is on pace to break the school record for fewest in a season.
• LSU has thrown only 4 interceptions this year, the fewest since 1962 when the Tigers threw 4 interceptions in 108 passing attempts. LSU has thrown 236 passes this year for a ratio of one interception for every 59 passes.