BATON ROUGE, La. (AP)An overwhelming show of force in the first quarter gave first-year LSU coach Brian Kelly what he wanted from a game the Tigers were already expected to win handily.
Jayden Daniels completed 10 of 11 passes for 137 yards, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another score in just five drives, and LSU built a 51-0 halftime lead over Southern before cruising to a 65-17 victory Saturday night in the first matchup of the two universities from Louisiana’s capital city.
”We’re trying to come up with an identity for our football team,” Kelly said. ”It was really about playing with a sense of urgency, playing fast, free and physical and trusting their teaching – trusting it but not overthinking it. And letting these, what I consider outstanding athletes, go play without being apprehensive.”
It was the first victory at LSU (1-1) for Kelly, who was lured away from Notre Dame after last season by a 10-year contract worth about $100 million. The Tigers lost to Florida State 24-23 in his debut last Sunday.
Daniels’ scoring passes went for 17 yards to Jack Bech, 5 yards to Malik Nabers and 44 yards to Brian Thomas. The last of those ended the night for the senior quarterback, who won the starting job after transferring from Arizona State.
”It’s still football at the end of the day, no matter who the opponent is,” Daniels said. ”Being able to go out there and really just dish the ball around, make sure I get my eyes are right, getting the ball to where the guys need to be and let them make plays – that’s a big thing to build off of.”
Southern (1-1), which a week earlier opened a 42-0 first-quarter lead in a season-opening 86-0 victory against NAIA program Florida Memorial, saw the tables turn.
LSU scored five touchdowns in the first 10:16 of the game, including a 29-yard interception return by linebacker Micah Baskerville. The Tigers led 37-0 after Baskerville blocked Robens Beauplan’s punt and the ball bounded through the end zone for a safety with 1:31 left in the first quarter.
”I love how fast we started, I love how physical we were, I loved the turnovers, I loved the score, I loved everything,” said Baskerville, who received a game ball. ”I loved the pressure. I loved everything we were doing. We blitzed violently.”
After Southern fumbled the opening kickoff, Daniels scored the first TD of the game on his 18-yard scramble, which he finished by diving for the right pylon. LSU also scored on short runs by Josh Williams and Noah Cain in the first half. Armoni Goodwin rushed for a pair of short TDs in the second half.
Southern didn’t score until Benny McCray intercepted LSU backup QB Garrett Nussmeier – who attempted an underhanded throw while being dragged down – and ran free the other way for a 94-yard TD with 3:45 left in the third quarter.
”We did not execute at a high level tonight,” first-year Southern coach Eric Dooley said. ”One thing I will take away from this game here is the Jaguars are going to fight, and they are going to fight for 60 minutes.”
Southern: The Jaguars looked overmatched, and it didn’t help that they had the misfortune of playing an LSU squad looking to respond emphatically to an emotional season-opening loss. Starting quarterback BeSean McCray completed half of his 14 throws for 42 yards without a TD and was intercepted once. The Jags lost four fumbles in all.
LSU: While Kelly had portrayed the preseason QB competition between Daniels and Nussmeier as a close one, there was a clear disparity in their performance. Making his first appearance this season, Nussmeier was intercepted twice and did not throw for a TD. He finished 13 of 23 for 183 yards, with 60 yards coming on a deep pass down the right sideline to Nabers.
The Southern marching band, known as the ”Human Jukebox,” drew some of the loudest cheers of the night for its historic first performance in Death Valley. Band members impressively formed the halftime score of 51-0 without missing a step.
The LSU band also performed, as usual, before both bands joined together – to raucous applause – as they formed a heart and the local area code 225 while playing ”Cupid Shuffle.”
Most of a sellout crowd of about 102,000 appeared to have remained in their seats for the much-anticipated halftime show, and many of them were gone early in the third quarter.
Southern: Visits Texas Southern for its SWAC opener on Sept. 17.
LSU: Opens SEC play, hosting Mississippi State on Sept. 17.
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