ORLANDO, Fla. — Dave Aranda won the chess match, Arden Key blasted through a school record and Ed Orgeron got Win No. 1 as LSU’s full-time head coach.
The Tigers’ athletic, speedy defensive front smothered Louisville’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, sacking Lamar Jackson eight times and corralling him for a safety in a 29-9 win over the Cardinals in the Citrus Bowl on Saturday at sparsely filled Camping World Stadium.
This New Year’s Eve clash was billed as a tactical showdown between Aranda, LSU’s prized defensive coordinator, and Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, an offensive guru. The result: Louisville failed to score a touchdown for the first time since 2010, and the Heisman winner lost his bowl game for the first time since 2008.
Aranda’s unit crippled Petrino’s crew, holding the No. 15 Cardinals (9-4) to 220 yards — they had just 57 at halftime — and smothering the 6-foot-3, 205-pound dual-threat QB. He gained just 33 yards rushing and completed only two passes in UL’s first 11 drives; he finished 10-for-27 passing. The No. 19 Tigers (8-4) held him more than 200 yards below his average for total offense of 410 yards.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Turns out, LSU didn't need Leonard Fournette.
"When you give Dave three weeks to prepare, he's going to prepare," Orgeron said.
His defense made the Heisman winner look like just another guy on this sunny, cool Saturday in Florida. UL’s offensive line struggled, and its receivers dropped a host of passes in the third straight defeat for Petrino’s team.
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Key, LSU’s sophomore edge-rushing sensation, took down Jackson twice, including in the end zone for a second-quarter safety. His second sack, in the third quarter, gave him the single-season school record. He broke Gabe Northern’s 1994 mark of 12, toppling Jackson and then roaring.
"You give coach Aranda more than a week, it's going to be hard for you," said Key, who learned of his record on Twitter after the game. "If you don't change your offense and you run the same thing you've been running all year, Aranda's going to make something happen."
Meanwhile, Orgeron began his tenure with a resounding victory — and it came with his mother, Coco, watching from the stands. A three-point favorite, the Tigers blew through an ACC team that at one point was ranked No. 3 in the AP poll.
Orgeron and his Tigers had every right to celebrate long and loud...
LSU’s offense did more than enough in its final game with Steve Ensminger calling the plays. Newly hired offensive coordinator Matt Canada takes charge Sunday.
NFL draft-eligible junior receiver Malachi Dupre turned in a career-best performance with 139 yards on seven catches, and running back Derrius Guice churned his way to 138 yards rushing. The sophomore from Baton Rouge scored twice, hauling in a 1-yard touchdown pass and scoring on a 70-yard run.
"He stepped in for (Leonard Fournette) and didn't blink an eye," Orgeron said. "He's one of best players in the USA."
Quarterback Danny Etling completed 16 of 29 passes for 217 yards, and kicker Colby Delahoussaye followed a missed first-quarter field goal attempt with makes from 25 and 42 yards. All of it came before an announced 46,063, a light crowd for this 11 a.m. EST kickoff.
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The fans who were there got to see a riveting defensive showing from the Tigers.
Louisville started 0 for 13 on third downs, and the Tigers stuffed the Cardinals on fourth-and-goal from the 5 to seal the victory with 7 minutes to play. Aranda’s unit rolled in what could be the final game for as many as six defensive starters.
One of them dropped some news after the game: Draft-eligible junior safety Jamal Adams, projected as a top-15 pick, told reporters that he would hold a news conference Friday to announce his decision.
All of the guys who are or could be leaving contributed: Adams made that late fourth-down stop. Linebacker Duke Riley, a senior, led the team in tackles, and Tashawn Bower, also a senior, rolled up three sacks on Jackson.
Bower said he stayed up until 3 a.m. Saturday watching film of Jackson. The team wakeup call came just 3½ hours later.
"I was up last night watching a lot of film to pick apart these guys," Bower said. "We mixed things up, gave them some different looks. Everyone did their job."
Davon Godchaux, a draft-eligible junior considering leaving early, sacked Jackson once and had four tackles. He watched film of Jackson, too — so much that he could anticipate the Heisman winner's moves.
"We knew everything; the whole defense did," he said. "You give Dave Aranda a month, that's dangerous."