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Coach Kelly’s Press Conference After The Game

It was a nice tuneup, though the Tigers did walk away with some injuries that Kelly addressed after the game. They may be shorthanded as they continue SEC play next week on the road against Auburn.

Still, it’s hard to find many flaws with LSU’s performance in this one. Here’s what coach Brian Kelly had to say after the game.

Opening statement

“Pleased, obviously, any time you shut out an opponent. It’s difficult to shut out anybody in football. College football is set up for success on offense. We had three or four starters out on defense, and we had to juggle in the lineup. We had Jarrick (Bernard-Converse) playing safety, and the guys rallied. They held them to under 100 yards… Offensively, other than a missed field goal and an interesting penalty call on a touchdown, very efficient offensively, throwing the football, running the football. Excellent performance, something to build off of. I told our guys, one time’s an accident, second time’s a coincidence, third time’s a habit. They’ve won three in a row, they’re building good habits, and we look to continue to build on that going into SEC play over the next month.”

On defensive dominance and progress

The Tigers delivered one of their best defensive performances in recent memory, holding New Mexico to 88 yards of offense. The Lobos punted on every possession except when they ran the clock down at half, and they only totaled two first downs. They also crossed midfield just once.

“I’ve been coaching 32 years, so I’ve had some of those games. I think most of them, you know you’re in a dominating performance and you just wish you had more points on the board at that time… We felt pretty good going into halftime even though it was 17-0 that we were in a pretty good position.”

Kelly said he’s overall pleased with the defense’s progress since Week 1.

“We’re getting pressure, obviously that’s huge from a four-man front,” he said. “Playing on-body coverage and we’re tackling, we’re running sideline to sideline. (Micah) Baskerville is helping, Harold (Perkins) is helping a bunch and we’re getting really consistent inside play now… I think we can continue to get better. We can play better, and that’s a good think. I think we’re trending in the right direction.”

The Tigers’ defense showed up against Mississippi State’s air-raid offense, which didn’t take off this game.

About Jayden Daniels’ injury and performance

It was another great performance from quarterback Jayden Daniels, who had 279 yards on 24 of 29 passing in mostly just a half. He exited the game with an injury early in the third quarter, and Garrett Nussmeier entered the game. Kelly said that Daniels was cleared to return but was held out.

“Jayden strained his lower back, he could have went back in but there was no need at that time of the game,” Kelly said. “He was cleared by the doctors, so he’s good.”

The Tigers’ passer should be good to go against Auburn. Kelly said he’s pleased with Daniels’ development within the offense.

“More familiar with the offensive structure, concepts,” he said. “We were really firm on fast feet and then slowing down the thought process. We gelt like when his feet are slow, it puts his mind moving too fast… We got into a really good coaching point with fast feet, slow decision-making, and it really helped him a lot.”

About Jack Bech returning punts

Last week, Kelly discussed the coach’s efforts to get Jack Bech more involved after a slow start. The result was his most impactful game of the year.

He was targeted seven times, making six catches for 43 yards. He also saw some action at punt returner, becoming the third player LSU has tried in that spot so far.

“He’s fearless. There was a time maybe he could have put his hand up on a fair catch, but we love his spirit, he makes us better back there and it was great to get him involved in being a part of the offense.”

The returns were promising. Though he finished with no return yards, he had a 76-yard touchdown called back due to a questionable blindside block call, which Kelly was critical of.

“I took issue with the fact that it was a blindside block. A blindside block means he could not defend himself, I felt like he clearly saw it coming, he got his head across and they just simply had a different interpretation. And I said, ‘If you take that block out of football, there won’t be punt returns.’ I didn’t agree with the call… and I wanted to make sure they heard me.”

LSU has struggled to find a trustworthy return man, but it may have one in Bech.

About LSU Team injury situation

In addition to Daniels’ injury, the Tigers were without several other starters. Major Burns missed the game with an upper neck injury, and Kelly said he will be unavailable for 3-6 weeks.

“He’s been cleared by all of the doctors, but it’s going to need some rest,” he said.

Meanwhile, edge rusher BJ Ojulari also didn’t suit up, but he’s expected to be ready to go against Auburn.

“It’s the patella, we work out on Saturdays and when we went through our workouts, it was just cranky. He was not going to get a ton of work… We just thought it was best that we rest him and get him to 100%.”

Finally, starting running back Armoni Goodwin left the game in the second half. Kelly said it was a hamstring injury and the team is optimistic he will be good to go moving forward.

Regarding Garrett Nussmeier’s performance

After struggling in his debut against Southern, backup quarterback Garrett Nussmeier got to play nearly the entire second half in this one, and he impressed with 135 yards and a touchdown while completing 9 of his 10 passes.

Kelly said it looked like the Nussmeier he saw during the preseason that pushed Daniels for the starting job.

“Decisive and made some really high level throws… He’s a talented football player, he’s just making good decisions, take what they give you, be disciplined and you’ve got another really fine quarterbacks there,” Kelly said.

About the LSU running backs

The Tigers were able to get the running game going in this one despite losing Goodwin with an injury. Noah Cain had a breakout performance, leading the team with 94 yards on 11 carries while scoring twice.

John Emery Jr. also had a solid outing in his second game since returning from suspension. He took nine carries for 45 yards, while Goodwin scored twice before leaving the game in the second half.

“I thought they ran with low pads, they were physical. Noah Cain obviously played really well… Took it to the defense, and that was the emphasis all week. They’re not very big up front… I thought we were extremely physical at the running back position.”

On “next man up” mentality

In addition to the injuries above, LSU was without star receiver Kayshon Boutte, who missed the game after his girlfriend recently gave birth to their son. Kelly said the coaches trust the team’s depth to step up when the starters aren’t available.

“One, we trust them,” he said. “If a guy goes down we have no problem bringing the next guy in and giving them that opportunity. I think they feel the trust from us, and that gives them confidence that they can go in there and play at a high level… We’re not wringing our hands, we know the next guy is going to play well. I think we’re in a very fortunate position that we have that, let’s try to get them all on the field at one time and see what happens, that would be nice as well.”

On offensive progress

The run game was solid on Saturday, but LSU’s offensive success mainly stemmed from the passing game, which accounted for 414 yards between Daniels and Nussmeier.

Kelly said he thought the offense was efficient and prepared to face the Lobos’ defense.

“It starts with the quarterback, you saw what those receivers can do. We were patient today. That’s a very difficult defense, they want you to throw the ball down the field and waste downs, we were not going to do that. We were going to be very deliberate, very patient… We got the ball out quickly, it was timely, it was efficient, and then we let those receivers make some plays… I think where our offense really stepped up today was efficiency.”

LSU completed 33 of 39 passes as a team, an impressive show of efficiency for a team that looked flustered in the passing attack earlier this season.

About Offense and spreading the ball around

LSU wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. (11) scores a touchdown against New Mexico during the second half of an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

While the quarterbacks deserve credit for making sharp decisions, the receivers made that considerably easier. Ten different Tigers wideouts caught a pass on Saturday night, and Kelly said he’s impressed with the team’s depth in that regard.

Malik Nabers, Brian Thomas Jr., Kyren Lacy, Jaray Jenkins and Bech made plays without Boutte.

“Look, there’s so many of those guys that can make plays… I could go on and on. There’s a lot of really good players and we got the ball around to all of them.”

This is one of the most talented receiver rooms in the country. Though that has kept any individual players from breaking out statistically, it allows the Tigers a lot of dynamism within their offense.