LSU takes care of business, gets Lobos to roll over in second half

Published 6:50 am Monday, September 26, 2022

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But even against an obviously overmatched opponent, LSU has seldom been more dominant than the Tigers were Saturday night.

It was pretty much a Saturday night stroll in the park as the Tigers never punted while doing what the Tigers pleased and putting a total clampdown on New Mexico for a 38-0 victory that seemed bigger than the final margin.

Somehow it was only 17-0 at the half, but it might as well have been 170 as the Tigers had total control from start to finish.

“You just wish you had more points on the board at that time,” LSU head coach Brian Kelly said, “because it was pretty clear that they were gonna have a difficult time moving the football on us.

“We felt pretty good that … we were in a pretty good position.”

There were no extenuating weather conditions Saturday.

“The 38-0 score does not define our season,” New Mexico head coach Danny Gonzales said. “They were bigger and stronger than us and they played like it.”

The shut out was probably overkill for the Tigers, who outgained the Lobos 633-88 and held them to 12 yards and no first downs in the second half.

“It’s difficult to shut out anybody in football, today,” Kelly said. “College football is set up for success on offense. So I was really pleased with that.”

The Lobos’ offense was suspect coming in. But New Mexico (2-2) supposedly had a representative defense.

Yet the Tigers were fairly balanced, with quarterback Jayden Daniels and backup Garrett Nussmeier combining to throw for 414 yards while rushing for 219.

How it helps the Tigers (3-1) heading into their first Southeastern Conference road game at Auburn this week remains to be seen.

But Kelly had no problems with his team’s third consecutive win after losing his LSU debut to Florida State.

“I told our guys one time is an accident. Second time’s a coincidence. Third time is a habit. They’ve won three in a row. They’re building good habits,” he said. “We look to continue to build on that going into SEC play over the next month.”

Daniels, who seemed more committed to staying in the pocket, completed 24 of 29 passes to 10 receivers for 279 yards before leaving when he was slammed down at the end of a first-down scramble.

“He could have gone back in,” Kelly said of Jayden, explaining that he strained his back. “He was cleared by the doctors, but there was no need at that time of the game.”

Nussmeier was far more impressive than his first action against Southern University two weeks ago when he threw two interceptions in his mop-up duty. He was 9 of 10 for 139 yards, including a 57-yard scoring pass to Brian Thomas.

“Other than a missed field goal, and an interesting penalty call on a touchdown, we were very efficient offensively throwing the football and running the football. Really good performance something to build off,” Kelly said.

But Kelly was still fuming about the penalty that negated what might have been the highlight of the night — Jack Bech’s 76-yard punt return score that was called back because of a blind-side block.

He argued long and hard about the play, which came with LSU up 7-0.

“I took issue with the fact that it was a blindside block — a blind side means (the defender) could not defend himself.

“We I felt like he clearly saw it coming. He got his head across (in front of the body).

“They just simply had a different interpretation. I said if you if you take that block out of football there won’t be punt returns. They (officials) won the argument because it’s their interpretation.”

It was about the only thing that went wrong for the Tigers.

“It’s difficult to shut out anybody in football,” Kelly said. “College football is set up for success on offense. Had to juggle the lineup defensively and the guys really rallied. It was pretty clear that they were going to have a difficult time moving the football on us. Our game plan was excellent.”