By RYNE BERTHELOT, Journal Sports
BATON ROUGE – No small thanks to Shreveport’s Micah Baskerville, LSU’s student section found a reason for an old-fashioned field storming.
It’s not often the Tigers have found themselves on the right side of a homefield “upset,” at least this century. They’re rarely the underdog in Tiger Stadium.
While the oddsmakers slightly favored LSU Saturday afternoon, the Top 25 rankings didn’t. The unranked (for a few more hours) Tigers, with Baskerville playing a key role, took command after halftime and notched their first Top 10 win under new coach Brian Kelly, 45-20 over No. 7 Ole Miss.
“Our guys wanted this opportunity. They saw this as a privilege in this stadium,” Kelly said. “Obviously the last three quarters, we played great football.”
The Tigers (6-2, 4-1 SEC) outscored the Rebels (6-1, 3-1 SEC) 42-6 after the first quarter, as quarterback Jayden Daniels ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more.
Baskerville led LSU with eight tackles and made a pivotal play in the third quarter that produced a game-altering interception in the Ole Miss end zone.
Early in the contest, the Rebels didn’t let the hostile atmosphere slow down their offensive output, moving 64 yards on only four plays before true freshman running back Quinshon Judkins punched in the first touchdown of the day from six yards out just 97 seconds in.
The Tigers responded with a deep drive into the red zone, settling for a Damian Ramos 23-yard field goal midway through the first quarter.
Judkins found paydirt for the second time just a couple minutes later, with a 3-yard run giving Ole Miss a 14-3 lead. A 32-yard field goal from Jonathan Cruz pushed the Rebels’ advantage to 14 points, 17-3.
After LSU’s second drive stalled and the Tigers suffered a 42-yard miss by Ramos, the offense got into rhythm. Daniels led the Tigers to back-to-back touchdowns, the first when he found Jaray Jenkins standing at the goalline on a 32-yard touchdown pass with 12:11 left in the second quarter to narrow the gap to 17-10. Daniels did it with his feet just a drive later, when he snuck three yards into the end zone, tying the game at 17 with 8:20 to go in the half.
Daniels hit tight end Mason Taylor in the flat on a 1-yard touchdown at the 8:25 mark of the third period, pushing the Tigers on top for good at 24-20. But it didn’t feel like a long-lived lead until after Baskerville’s pivotal play triggered an LSU eruption.
The senior linebacker pressured Jaxson Dart into a wobbly red zone toss to the right sideline of the end zone, a duck that was intercepted by defensive back Joe Foucha with 4:03 left in the third quarter, killing the last real threat by the Rebels.
“The momentum really shifted there. The interception was probably the biggest play, because they were threatening to score in that situation,” Kelly said. “We felt like that was the first time we got an extension in the game from them. It was score, score, score. That was probably the one big play in the game that allowed us to obviously pull away.”
Baskerville thought he was trying to add to his tackle total when the ball was snapped, coming on a blitz.
“It was really a run defense,” he said. “I was just like, ‘regardless of it being a pass or run, I’m going. If it’s a pass, I have to make a play and get to the quarterback.’ That’s what was going through my mind.”
The Tigers made the most of it, scoring on their next three drives after Foucha’s interception.
Daniels drove LSU 80 yards on 10 plays, scrambling in from 11 yards out with 14:18 left to play. Another 80-yard march took seven snaps before Daniels danced 17 yards for a decisive TD and a 38-20 lead with 8:36 left. Josh Williams capped the outburst with a 1-yard touchdown 2:05 before the student section entered the field.
Defensively, Kelly made a concerted effort to get true freshman linebacker Harold Perkins involved more in the second half, after Perkins saw limited playing time in the first half and in the loss to Tennessee. The move paid dividends almost immediately: Perkins filled up the stat sheet with five tackles, two quarterback hurries, a sack, a tackle for loss, and a pass breakup to disrupt the Rebels.
The addition of Perkins wasn’t the only move LSU made, though. After Kelly and defensive coordinator Matt House huddled at halftime, the Tigers ramped up their aggressiveness on that side of the ball. There were also a few adjustments employed that Kelly was none too keen to divulge.
“I can’t give you all of those, they’re secrets,” Kelly told reporters. “I’d really like to tell you there were a lot, but I think we just got a little bit more aggressive. Talking to Matt at halftime, (we agreed) sometimes we tend to cover up some things we feel like are weaknesses, and they’re not really that weak.”
Ask Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin. His high-powered offense went silent in the second half.
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