Up until Saturday night, Donte Jackson didn’t have an interception to his name this season.
He came close. He dropped a couple of easy picks earlier in the year, including one that could’ve been taken back for a touchdown just two weeks ago against Arkansas.
But the player who tells teammates and coaches every chance he gets that he has the best hands in the secondary and who is considered one of the fastest players in college football, hadn’t been able to reel one in for 11 consecutive games.
Better late than never.
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Early in the third quarter with Texas A&M piecing together a comeback, the Tigers needed a stop. More than that, they needed something to drain the Aggies' rapidly increasing momentum.
So when quarterback Nick Starkel fired to the left side of the field, Jackson saw his chance after coming close so many times before.
Jackson came up with the interception, effectively stopping Texas A&M’s comeback bid.
The game was never the same.
There were times Saturday night when you had to wonder whether the LSU Tigers learned anything about the fragility of a 20-0 lead.
LSU scored touchdowns on its next three drives, coasting to a commanding 45-21 final score in the regular-season finale.
"We needed it," coach Ed Orgeron said. "You could feel the team going into a little lull at that point in the game. You could feel Texas A&M's momentum shifting. I think that was a big play."
It was one of the brightest games for a young LSU secondary that had highs and lows all season.
There was Andraez “Greedy” Williams who started the game with his fifth interception of the season, putting the redshirt freshman a quarter of the way to LSU’s all-time record.
Not as crucial as Jackson’s pick, but it did squash Texas A&M’s hope of taking an early lead after the Tigers fumbled on the first play of the game.
"Coach O told us we had to make game-changing plays," Williams said. "I thought that was one of those plays that changed the game for us. It was a big play, and it was a game-changing play."
Williams said the secondary has to find something else to tease of Jackson for now that he has an interception.
Cornerback Kevin Toliver had one of the best games of his career, breaking up three passes, forcing a fumble and sealing the game when he tipped a ball into the hands of linebacker Devin White.
"He answered the bell," Orgeron said.
The secondary wasn't perfect.
Danny Etling’s trip down the Tiger Walk on Saturday evening was not normal.
Starkel's 45-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the third quarter, in which none of the Tigers defensive backs were within 10 yards of Damion Ratley, was unquestionably the down moment.
It was hard to tell whose fault the broken coverage was, but safety Grant Delpit was closest to Ratley and did not start on the field for the next defensive series.
LSU allowed four passes of 30 or more yards on Saturday night, though none were as costly as the touchdown.
"We struggled there in coverage," Orgeron said. "And when the DB gets beat, everybody sees it."