Bold move upsets Tide, Kelly goes for two in overtime

Published 6:31 am Monday, November 7, 2022

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The result — way ahead of schedule in any LSU fan’s wildest dreams — was exactly why he was brought to the wild and ecstatic party that was Tiger Stadium Saturday night to begin with.

It will cost LSU another $250,000 fine as the students — many of whom seemed to be well into middle age — poured out to turn every inch of the stadium turf into Mardi Gras, New Years Eve and VJ Day all at once.

LSU found somebody in Kelly who could beat the Tigers’ longtime nemesis Alabama on his first try as a Tiger, bringing down Nick Saban & Co. 32-31 in overtime Saturday night.

“The crowd was unbelievable tonight,” Kelly said after fighting his way through it postgame. “They created an energy unlike anything I can remember.”

Well, they hadn’t seen their team beat Alabama in their home joint since 2010.

It took a gutsy decision by Kelly when quarterback Jayden Daniels, after outdueling Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young most of the night, sprinted 25 yards for a score on LSU’s first play of overtime and followed it up with a 2-point conversion pass to Mason Taylor.

Kelly never hesitated about the 2-point gamble after answering Alabama’s touchdown to open the OT.

His mantra to his team through an emotional up and down night was to take it one game at a time.

Then he put his call where his mouth was.

“It was a decision in the moment,” he said. “I just felt … if we could boil this game down to one play — if you asked me before the game, ‘Hey, I’m gonna give you one play and if you’re successful you beat Alabama’ — I would have taken that 100 times out of 100.

“It kind of hit me that way.”

There was another factor.

“I knew we had a really good play that we hadn’t used and they hadn’t seen,” he said. “So I felt really good about the play and it was well executed. That was the thought behind it.

“Let’s let the quarterback make a good play, let’s get him on the edge. That’s kind of why I went for it.”

LSU has plenty of opportunity to fall back on the usual and frustrating excuses post-Alabama.

Instead the Tigers kept plugging away, ignoring a quirky rule that cost them as well as Kelly’s game-long frustration getting some bang-bang calls turned.

The Tigers have done plenty of that with Alabama over the years.

The time they took matters into their own hands no matter what breaks went against them.

“I don’t know how they do it,” Kelly said. “They have a mental toughness that is unusual for their experience an age.”

“I thought we really grew up today.

Particularly a defense that bottled up Young fairly well and held the Tide to two touchdowns and four field goals in regulation.

Especially Daniels, who all but took over the game when need be while throwing for 182 yards and rushing for 95 more, including the 25-yard run on that first Tiger snap in overtime.

“We’re not here unless our quarterback plays really well,” Kelly said. “You know this. Whether it’s peewee football Your quarterback has to play well. He did some really amazing things in particular late. He made big plays late when he needed to. He ran when he needed to, he threw it made big plays.

“We did some great things defensively. Our special teams was was good. To beat a top 10 team like Alabama, you have to have a complete football game.”

The Tigers (7-2, 5-1 SEC) find themselves in serious danger of reaching the SEC Championship game after handing the Tide (6-2, 4-2) their second loss.

The Tigers have SEC games at Arkansas and Texas A&M sandwiched around their final home game, a nonconference affair against Alabama-Birmingham.

LSU’s win also likely ends any hope Bama had of reaching the College Football Playoff.