COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Kyle Field’s west-sideline stands swayed Thursday night for the last time. On Dec. 21, it gets demolished while the rest of the stadium remains.
There’s an Aggie joke there just begging to be slammed over the net, but that’s not important right now.
It looked for a time during the LSU-Texas A&M game that the demolition crew started early, or at least tried to hold a derby.
Mayhem, to quote a college football-related commercial campaign by a well-known insurance conglomerate, is everywhere.
Thursday night, this precinct of the Lone Star State was its epicenter.
Broken headsets. Torched timeouts. Blown referee’s calls. An 8½-minute LSU drive that practically went nowhere. A do-over, an actual do-over, the second time in the past four LSU games that’s happened. A nearly blown lead in a game the Tigers dominated. One more blown referee’s call, just to keep things sporting.
And beneath it, an undercurrent of brute force. Clumsy at times but powerful nonetheless that eventually coalesced into a 23-17 LSU victory.
At first, the Tigers were genial guests at the Aggies’ Thanksgiving table. An Anthony Jennings interception on a slant pattern for Travin Dural set up a 41-yard touchdown run by A&M’s Trey Williams less than six minutes into the game. The Tigers followed that with a missed field goal by Colby Delahoussaye in the first quarter that ended his night and a 14-play drive that spun 8:31 off the clock and netted 35 yards and no points.
For much of the game, it looked as though LSU was simply playing keep-away with the ball as though it could win the game on time of possession. The Tigers rolled like Gen. Patton’s tanks through French hedgerow country, but they seemed to lose the map that would take them into Berlin. Drive after drive seemed to end as spinning wheels on wet grass.
There were moments though, moments rarely seen by LSU or anyone. The Tigers wound up with 384 rushing yards, slicing through Texas A&M’s Maginot Line defensive front for their highest total against any Southeastern Conference opponent in 17 years.
LSU’s ground beef assault crystallized around one memorable play.
Poor Howard Matthews. The Aggies safety was waiting in open space as LSU tailback Leonard Fournette burst through a Texas-sized hole (everything’s bigger in Texas) in the line.
Knees bent, arms extended forward, Matthews was the picture of textbook defensive posture. The next instant he was a “SportsCenter” highlight. Though he goes 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Matthews was plowed like the north 40 by the 6-1, 230-pound Fournette as he steamed supertanker style into the end zone to tie the score at 7.
“It’s like when a semi hits a sparrow on the freeway,” ESPN’s Mark May said at halftime.
Fournette’s touchdown seemed to stoke some sort of fire in the Tigers, who quickly tacked on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jennings to John Diarse and a Trent Domingue field goal after New Orleans native Speedy Noil fumbled the ensuing kickoff for a 17-7 halftime lead.
Jennings was almost as much a weapon as Fournette (career-high 146 yards on 19 carries), rushing 14 times for 119 yards, deftly pulling off keeper after keeper that the Aggies were powerless to stop. And what was surprising about Dural’s four jet sweeps for 49 yards is that he didn’t end around for more.
But the Tigers also spent plenty of time, especially in the first half, employing their three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-mistrust passing game. LSU even went — gasp! — four- and five-wides on occasion. And the Tigers actually nosed over the century mark in passing yards with 107 for the first time since the Ole Miss game.
In the second half, though, the Tigers went back to relying on their running game, except for a 41-yard pass from Jennings to Diarse that set up a field goal miss by Trent Domingue, who replaced Colby Delahoussaye until Delahoussaye replaced him for a 43-yarder that just cleared the crossbar.
It was almost not enough. The Aggies came storming back and had the ball near midfield when Kyle Allen lobbed a pass he may have thought was a freebie because he thought LSU was offside.
Indeed, it looked like defensive end Sione Teuhema’s helmet grazed the neutral zone. But it wasn’t called, Jalen Collins came down with the jump ball and again for the first time since Ole Miss the Tigers were able to finish the game in victory formation.
Now 8-4 overall and 4-4 in SEC play, the Tigers may have played their way back into a Florida bowl. We’ll find out Dec. 7 if LSU will be able to take I-10 due east all the way to the Atlantic Ocean and wind up in the Jan. 2 Taxslayer Bowl (the artist formerly known as Gator) in Jacksonville.
But for now it’s a win, over a big rival. It was crazy, it was almost squandered, but once again the Tigers were able to rise above their self-induced fray and get the win.
Mayhem? Potential demolition? Over and over LSU says, “Bring it on.”
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.