Defense Holds Late; Football Powers Past No. 21 Missouri, 49-39
COLUMBIA, Mo. – In a game featuring two high powered offenses, it was key plays on the defensive side for LSU that allowed the No. 23 Tigers to leave with a 49-39 win over No. 21 Missouri on Saturday at Faurot Field.
With 41 seconds to play in regulation, and a 42-39 lead in hand, the LSU defense was required to make one last stop, and they did just that.
On 2nd-and-10 from the Missouri five yard line, junior safety Major Burns intercepted quarterback Brady Cook, returning it 17 yards for a touchdown to seal the victory.
It marked the first pick six by a Tiger since Quad Wilson in the Cheez-It Bowl (99 yards) and the first in a regular-season game since Micah Baskerville vs. Southern on 9/10/22 (29 yards).
“Proud of my football team,” said head coach Brian Kelly postgame. “It starts with our players and their ability to go out on the field and effect change from last week. They were much more physical. There’s certainly things we need to do better, but we were playing a really good football team.”
Quarterback Jayden Daniels showed incredible toughness and grit, willing the offense to score points when they needed them most, finishing 15-of-21 for 259 yards passing, 130 yards rushing and four total touchdowns.
Daniels took a hit to open the fourth quarter that forced him to miss the rest of the drive, but he would return to finish the rest of the game, leading the offense to two critical touchdown scores that would ultimately be the difference in the contest. The fifth-year senior earned the game ball for his performance.
“Jayden Daniels is just a warrior,” Kelly said. “He’s tough. He’s physical. He’s smart. He’s skilled. I can’t use enough superlatives about him individually.”
“No matter how good this win feels, next week we have a new opponent and can’t carry any good or bad into the next week,” Daniels added postgame. “It gives us confidence going into the second half of the season now.”
Malik Nabers was Daniels’ most effective target, proving yet again to be one of the top receivers in the nation with six catches for 146 yards and a touchdown, averaging 24.3 yards per completion. Brian Thomas reeled in four catches for 66 yards and a score, while Mason Taylor found the end zone as well.
The running game was also an effective weapon for the Tigers. Logan Diggs set a new career high in rushing yards (134) on 24 carries to go along with a touchdown. Daniels made big plays with his feet in big moments too, tallying 130 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
5 is a Warrior
Jayden Daniels put it all out there for this team and earned the game ball pic.twitter.com/Ur3tuEKIcr
— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) October 7, 2023
After surrendering 24 points on five drives in the first half, the LSU defense settled down and made some game-changing plays the rest of the way. The Tigers allowed just 14 points, forcing two punts, a turnover on downs and a missed field goal in the second half.
Sophomore linebacker Harold Perkins made his presence felt, recording three tackles, one for loss, with an interception and a quarterback hurry. Cornerback Zy Alexander led the team in tackles with seven, while Andre Sam and Greg Penn III finished with six of their own.
“We certainly know that we have to be better, but these kids are starting to see that they can make some plays,” Kelly said on the defense. “We need to continue to work on that and gain some consistency.”
With the win, the Tigers improve to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play. Missouri drops to 5-1 and 1-1 in the SEC.
LSU will now play five of their last six games at home, returning to Tiger Stadium next Saturday against Auburn for a 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. kickoff on either ESPN or the SEC Network.