LSU honored 14 seniors before Saturday’s game against Texas A&M. And then a trio of true freshmen made some of the game’s biggest plays as the Tigers prevailed 19-7 in Tiger Stadium.
Running back Derrius Guice’s electrifying runs, defensive end Arden Key’s relentless pressure and defensive back Donte Jackson’s tight man coverage each made a splash in the Tigers’ bounce-back win.
The game was a defensive struggle full of penalties and missed field goals. With their passing game out of sync, the Tigers leaned on their bruising rushing attack to pound away at Texas A&M.
Though sophomore Leonard Fournette piled up 159 yards and notched the game-clinching touchdown, Guice provided the go-ahead score with his team trailing 7-6 midway through the third quarter. LSU called an end-around for Guice at midfield. The play-action fake to Fournette gave Guice loads of running room, and he outraced the defense after making a devastating cut that left the only Aggies defender in position to tackle him on his back.
That came after Guice opened the second half with a dazzling 75-yard kick return during which he pinballed off seven would-be tacklers.
“Derrius Guice had a big play,” coach Les Miles said. “He went down the sideline and made a great kick return.”
While the Tigers offense trudged through a one-dimensional performance, Key and the defense kept Texas A&M’s high-powered attack in check. Kyle Allen was sacked four times and hurried another five as the Aggies managed only 250 yards. The lanky Key accounted for eight tackles, three hurries and 1.5 sacks, an effort that landed Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week honors.
Key started the final eight games of the regular season and is second on the team in sacks (five) behind only junior defensive end Lewis Neal (eight).
Jackson was involved in two of LSU’s three takeaways. Following a field goal on the Tigers’ first possession, he recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to give his team outstanding field position it turned into another field goal. But his most impressive play was yet to come.
As Texas A&M tried to mount a two-score comeback with less than 2 minutes remaining, the cornerback showed the athleticism that made him such a prized recruit. Jackson deflected a third-and-6 pass intended for receiver Josh Reynolds and intercepted it while falling on his back, sealing the win.
“All of those turnovers are big, and we need those to be a dominant defense,” Neal said. “We just kept making plays.”
LB Jones honored, too
Senior linebacker Deion Jones hauled in SEC Defensive Player of the Week recognition after he recorded 11 tackles, two pass breakups, 1.5 tackles for loss and half a sack against the Aggies.
Jones leads the team in tackles by a wide margin with 92 and is one of five finalists for the Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation’s top linebacker. The senior has averaged 10.25 tackles per contest in the past four games.
Jones has risen to a projected fourth-round pick in next year’s NFL draft, according to CBSSports.com.
Saturday’s game will be replayed twice on the SEC Network: at midnight Wednesday and at 2:30 a.m. Thursday.