Brian Kelly’s first game at LSU was a special teams disaster.
The Tigers lost 24-23 to Florida State on Sunday night after having two punts blocked and missing two points. The final blocked kick came on a game-tying extra point with no time remaining after Jaray Jenkins caught a two-yard TD pass from Jayden Daniels.
LSU and Kelly could have gone for two and the win, but instead played to overtime in New Orleans. It turned out to be the wrong decision as Florida State’s Shyheim Brown blocked the kick from reaching the uprights.
The blocked extra point ruined what could have been a drive that broke down on LSU’s handoff. The Tigers drove 99 yards in 80 seconds to pull within one after Florida State’s Treshaun Ward dropped a pitch near the goal line. That hit came after Tigers WR Malik Nabers appeared to cost LSU any chance to win the game when he fumbled his second punt with less than 2:30 left and Florida State recovered.
The crazy closing minutes of the match were not indicative of what happened for most of it. Both teams tended to struggle when they got near each other’s end zone, and LSU’s passing offense looked lost until it looked fumbled midway through the fourth quarter.
A huge win for Florida State
Jordan Travis had the best game of his career against the Tigers. Travis was 20-of-33 passing for 260 yards and two TDs and also ran for 31 yards.
The win was easily the biggest for coach Mike Norvell in his tenure at Florida State. While that’s nowhere near the LSU team that accomplished college football in 2019, Florida State has been desperate for a signature win in recent years. The Seminoles haven’t won more than five games in each of Norvell’s two seasons and have been to just one bowl game in the five seasons since Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M.
A win over LSU in the Tigers’ backyard could be the spark Florida State needs to start getting back to where it once was in the college football landscape. The Seminoles have back-to-back games against Louisville and Boston College to close out September before facing three consecutive opponents in Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Clemson to open October. We’ll have a good idea of how good FSU is by the middle of next month.
Job to do at LSU
It was obviously a runaway special teams disaster for the Tigers. LSU simply cannot make mistakes like this and expect to win games. And there is serious room for improvement in attack as well.
Daniels was very willing to take off and run for much of the game. He didn’t look comfortable in the pocket until the fourth quarter and the Tigers pushed the tempo, and it was also no coincidence that he had his best success when LSU was going fast. Daniels still finished with just 209 yards passing, despite a 99-yard drive late in the game.
He was also LSU’s best rushing threat by far. And that’s not great when many of the yards he gained were on designed passing plays. Daniels rushed 16 times for 114 yards as the Tigers had just 25 rushing yards from their other players.
The left knee injury to defensive lineman Maason Smith is also a major concern. Smith was injured while celebrating early in the game and did not return. He was seen on the sidelines in the second half on crutches. The top defensive recruit in the 2021 class, Smith was expected to anchor LSU’s defensive line as a sophomore and will be sorely missed if he is out for an extended period of time.