For LSU, this was The Statement Game.
Make that statements. Bleeping plural.
The Tigers issued a statement to Texas A&M to let the Aggies know how ticked off they still were a year after that 74-72, seven-overtime loss and brawl in College Station, Texas, the one commemorated by the Aggies on their soda cups and inside their Gator Bowl rings (where they beat N.C. State, not LSU, so go figure).
LSU, particularly the Tigers’ defense, made a statement to the College Football Playoff committee to let it know it is not as weak a link as it has been made out to be. The Tigers made a statement by chasing Kellen Mond from here to the Sabine River and holding the Aggies to no points and just 40 total yards as LSU raced to a 31-0 halftime lead that became a 50-7 rout.
Even Joe Burrow had a couple of statements to make about his love for his adopted (if temporary) Louisiana home and for Heisman Trophy voters everywhere considering a first-place vote for Chase Young or Justin Fields or even J.K. Dobbins from his alma mater Ohio State (Joe is an LSU grad student). Joe “Burreaux,” as it said on the jersey he wore when he ran out to a Senior Night standing ovation, broke the Southeastern Conference record for passing yards in a season and tied the record for touchdown passes. Heisman spells out "He Is (the) Man."
Did LSU do enough to reclaim the No. 1 spot in the CFP rankings that it grudgingly handed back to Ohio State this week? Probably not. Not after the Buckeyes embarrassed archrival Michigan once again, this by a 56-27 count (This just in: Michigan, and Jim Harbaugh, are overheated dishwater). But that didn’t seem to be LSU’s prime intent Saturday night.
They were mad as hell about last year’s A&M game in this mushrooming rivalry, and they were in no mood to take it anymore.
“We had a little chip on our shoulders,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron, tapping into vast reservoirs of understatement.
You could imagine the Tigers wanted to take the stats page from Saturday night’s game, write a very rude word on it (preferably in blood) and mail it to the CFP committee. And to College Station. It was — as Orgeron said last Saturday night after LSU finished drubbing Arkansas — on. And no concerns about being overly keyed up or accusations of rubbing it in — the Tigers hounded backup A&M quarterback James Foster into fumbling out the back of the end zone for a safety with 3½ minutes left to hang half a hundred on the Aggies — were going to wash with anyone affiliated with the LSU football program.
“Our defense hasn’t been playing LSU-caliber defense,” said linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, who had 1½ sacks among his team-high six tackles. “We made sure that’s how we played tonight.”
After playing respectably against one of the nation’s most brutal schedules, losing by 14 at Clemson, by eight to Auburn, by 19 to Alabama (did you hear Bama lost the Iron Bowl? Just checking) and by six at Georgia, the Aggies had to believe they could come into Tiger Stadium and give LSU a fight. And rightfully so.
But very quickly, the Aggies were saying “no mas.”
“They played a great game,” said Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M coach and once the coach LSU fans wanted instead of Orgeron. “They kicked our butts in all three phases. They got out fast and started quickly.”
Got out fast and started quickly, indeed.
This one ended in regulation.
Mike Tyson once said everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. And the Tigers came out of their corner swinging from the opening bell.
A left hook: LSU takes the opening kickoff and drives 75 yards for a 5-yard Clyde Edwards-Helaire touchdown run.
A right hook: A wide-open Justin Jefferson cradles a 12-yard touchdown pass from Burrow.
Another left: Burrow goes deep for a perfectly thrown 78-yard touchdown strike to Ja’Marr Chase, the presumptive Heisman winner having a catch with the likely Biletnikoff Award winner. The challenger is bleeding and takes a standing eight count.
Another right: Tyron Davis-Price bulls his way into the south end zone from the 4. Just behind the end line, Texas A&M band members are waving white handkerchiefs.
Or were they surrendering?
It was 28-0 with 10:46 left in the second quarter, but any hopes the Aggies had of at last wringing a major upset from their ridiculously difficult schedule (and an updated souvenir cup design) had already left the building. With 5:58 left, LSU was up 31-0 on a confidence-boosting 51-yard field goal by Texan Cade York, 31 being the number of points both teams scored in regulation last year.
What started with a Grant Delpit interception late in regulation last year that was ruled not an interception because Mond’s knee was down set off a string of injustices perceived or factual that LSU players and coaches stewed over from last November to this. Yes, it will be the Aggies’ turn at retribution next year, but you have a feeling the Tigers were saying “So what?” as their biggest rout in the history of the LSU-A&M rivalry mounted.
Joe Burrow's senior night to remember at Tiger Stadium will be bookended by two memorable moments.
When it was done, the Tigers were probably left feeling like Robert Redford’s character in “The Sting,” seeking revenge for a friend’s murder by taking gangster Robert Shaw for half a million.
“You’re right,” Redford tells Paul Newman’s fellow stinger. “It’s not enough. But it’s close.”
Close will probably have to be enough for LSU in this week’s CFP rankings. But the Tigers may take enough of Saturday’s foul mood to Atlanta next week for the SEC Championship Game against Georgia to make a statement there, too.
“This was another step on the ladder,” defensive end Breiden Fehoko said. “We know our destination.”
For the first time since probably LSU’s 23-20 win over Auburn in late October, the Tigers look like they truly have the chops to get where they want to go.