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Preview: Tigers Travel to Oxford for Saturday Showdown with No. 20 Ole Miss

by Harrison Valentine | Digital Media Graduate Assistant
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Preview: Tigers Travel to Oxford for Saturday Showdown with No. 20 Ole Miss

OXFORD, Miss. — No. 13 LSU will look to continue their winning ways on the road this Saturday as the Tigers travel to Oxford to face No. 20 Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Kickoff is set for 5:01 p.m. CT on ESPN and the LSU Sports Radio Network.

Saturday will mark just the second time since 1941 that LSU and Ole Miss have met during the month of September and it’s also the first time both teams are ranked in the Top 25 for the contest since 2016.

After a slow start, LSU’s offense under quarterback Jayden Daniels found its groove in the second half against Arkansas, finishing with 509 yards of total offense, 320 coming through the air, with 189 coming on the ground.

Most of all, Daniels displayed his maturation and experience after making the necessary adjustments in the locker room, en route to an impressive second half performance, which awarded him SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week, the league office announced on Monday.

“He was not in great rhythm early,” head coach Brian Kelly said of Daniels on Monday. “He saw that. He sensed that. The experience that he’s had, to allow himself to find that rhythm that he needed, is the difference. He made the self corrections based on the experience that he’s had before.”

Two receivers have set themselves apart in recent weeks. Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas continue to put on a show and Saturday was more of the same, tallying eight catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns, and five catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns, respectively. 

After falling behind 13-3 late in the second quarter, Daniels found Thomas for a key 49-yard touchdown before the half, and would connect with Thomas again on another 49-yard score on the first possession of the second half.

Resilience was needed, and the Tigers showed just that. With the first real test in conference play presenting itself, LSU was able to pass and improve to 2-0 in the SEC, thanks to a last-second 20-yard field goal from placekicker Damian Ramos. That type of fight, Coach Kelly says, was encouraging to see as the team continues to progress.

“There are times when you play in quality competition that you get a better sense and feel for your team, especially when you’re down,” Kelly said. “This was our first chance to really identify who we were. We immediately responded.”

Defensively, true freshman linebacker Whit Weeks continues to turn heads. In his second career start, Weeks recorded nine tackles, 0.5 sacks, and one quarterback hurry. Over the last two weeks, the Watkinsville, Georgia native has 17 tackles and three pressures under his belt.

Major Burns and Greg Penn III led the team with 12 each, a career high for both. Andre Sam made his presence known and provided the unit with a burst of energy with seven tackles and an interception.

The defensive unit will get a boost with the return of senior linebacker Omar Speights, who Kelly categorized as “100%” heading into Saturday’s contest. Speights has been sidelined due to injury and hasn’t seen game action since Sept. 9 vs. Grambling.

“He’ll be in the rotation,” Kelly said on Thursday. “Practiced well this week. But he can’t handle the volume that would be required, so we feel really good about the work that Whit (Weeks) has done, so he will be in the rotation as well.”

The Rebels are led by junior quarterback Jaxson Dart, who has 1,096 yards passing, seven touchdowns and two interceptions through four weeks of play. He also leads the team in rushing with 44 carries for 219 yards and three scores.

Jordan Watkins leads the team in receiving with 24 receptions for 347 yards and one touchdowns, averaging 14.5 yards per catch.

Safety Trey Washington has a team-best 25 tackles and one forced fumble, while Ashanti Cistrunk has tallied 23 tackles of his own.

“An outstanding offense and a very aggressive defense,” Kelly said of Ole Miss. “It’s a rivalry game again with the Magnolia Bowl trophy and we have to go on the road against another SEC opponent. We have some things that we have to get better at, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”