Brian Kelly’s first game at LSU was a special teams disaster.
The Tigers lost 24-23 to Florida State on Sunday night after they had two kicks blocked and dropped two points. The final blocked kick came on a game-tying extra point with no time left after Jaray Jenkins caught a two-yard TD pass from Jayden Daniels.
LSU and Kelly could have gone for two and the win but instead played for overtime in New Orleans. That turned out to be the wrong decision as Florida State’s Shyheim Brown prevented the kick from reaching the uprights.
The blocked extra point ruined what could have been a drive that fell within LSU knowledge. The Tigers drove 99 yards in 80 seconds to pull within one after Florida State’s Treshaun Ward dropped a pitch near the goal line. That fumble came after Tigers WR Malik Nabers appeared to cost LSU any chance at winning the game when he fumbled his second punt with less than 2:30 to go and Florida State recovered.
The game’s wild closing minutes were not indicative of what happened for most of it. Both teams tended to struggle when they approached each other’s end zone and LSU’s passing offense looked lost until it went to a peerless look midway through the fourth quarter.
Huge win for Florida State
Florida State QB Jordan Travis played what may have been the best game of his career against the Tigers. Travis was 20-of-33 passing for 260 yards and two TDs and also rushed for 31 yards.
The win was easily the biggest for coach Mike Norvell in his tenure at Florida State. While this isn’t close to the LSU team that swept college football in 2019, Florida State has been desperate for a signature win in recent years. The Seminoles have not won more than five games in each of Norvell’s two seasons and have gone to just one bowl game in the five seasons since Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M.
A win over LSU in the Tigers’ backyard could be the spark Florida State needs to start climbing back to where it once was in the college football landscape. The Seminoles have winnable games against Louisville and Boston College to close out September before facing three consecutive ranked opponents in Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Clemson to open October. We’ll have a good idea of how good FSU is by the middle of next month.
Work to do at LSU
It was obviously an unmitigated special teams disaster for the Tigers. LSU simply cannot make mistakes like that and expect to win games. And there is significant room for improvement on offense as well.
Daniels was far too eager to get going and run for much of the game. He didn’t seem comfortable in the pocket until the fourth quarter and the Tigers pushed the tempo and it also doesn’t feel like much of a coincidence that he had his best success when LSU was going fast. Daniels still finished with just 209 yards passing despite the 99-yard drive at the end of the game.
He was also LSU’s best rushing threat by far. And that’s not great when many of the yards he gained were on designed pass plays. Daniels rushed 16 times for 114 yards when the Tigers had just 25 rushing yards from their other players.
The left knee injury starring defensive lineman Maason Smith is also a big concern. Smith was injured celebrating early in the game and did not return. He was seen on the sidelines in the second half on crutches. The top defensive recruit in the 2021 class, Smith was expected to anchor LSU’s defensive line as a sophomore and will be sorely missed if he is gone for an extended period of time.