Jayden Daniels didn’t see the blocked extra point that cost him a shot at leading LSU into overtime against Florida State. LSU’s quarterback was on the sideline attending to a cramp when the crowd’s reaction told him yet another blunder had doomed the Tigers.
“I was stunned and confused,” Daniels said. “It’s disheartening because, obviously, you think you’re going to overtime, but that doesn’t define the game. We had like 20 to 30 plays that defined the game.”
Twenty to 30 gaffes, more like.
Daniels deserved more than to have overtime denied after he led a 99-yard touchdown drive in the final 80 seconds of LSU’s 24-23 loss to Florida State on Sunday night at the Superdome.
On the whole, though, the Tigers (0-1) got the outcome they deserved after a sloppy performance in coach Brian Kelly’s debut.
“Mistake after mistake for us,” Kelly said.
Now, semantics are shifting when assessing the season’s outlook. Reloading under a proven and richly paid coach has morphed into rebuilding.
At least Kelly got one thing right when he plucked Daniels out of the transfer portal and named him the starter.
LSU’s offensive line looks as porous as the units hamstrung the past two seasons. That makes having a quarterback who can improvise with his legs a necessity, and for about 2½ quarters, LSU’s only offense of substance came on Daniels scrambles.
LSU finally found second-half success when it turned up the tempo against the Seminoles (1-0). But for tempo to be effective, drives can’t stall after a few plays.
Daniels showed his passing ability in those rare moments when he had enough time to let receivers’ routes develop. He was a half-beat slow to recognize Jaray Jenkins open on a slant in the end zone with his last-second touchdown, but once he left his eyes and spotted Jenkins, he delivered a perfect ball.
“When he does sit in the pocket, we saw his ability to find open receivers,” Kelly said.
Maybe, John Emery Jr.’s return will provide more balance. LSU’s top running back did not play as he served the first of a reported two-game suspension related to academics.
An effective ground game counteracts a relentless pass rush, but the Tigers barely recognized handoffs as an option against FSU.
I’d still like to see what strong-armed redshirt freshman quarterback Garrett Nussmeier could do with the reins, but if LSU doesn’t protect the quarterback better, then having a howitzer isn’t the asset a quarterback needs most. He needs wheels to escape danger. Daniels did that, time and again. His 114 rushing yards led all players. Daniels’ passes or runs supplied all the yardage on the final touchdown drive.
Daniels doesn’t just need more help from his offensive line. Wide receiver Kayshon Boutte must play up to his star potential. Boutte could have supplied two touchdowns on well-thrown balls that he didn’t corral and dropped two additional passes.
Kelly chalked up Boutte’s struggles to pressing and “trying to do a little too much,” but his lack of production, combined with the line’s poor blocking and an ignored run game, left Daniels needing to do it all.
But Daniels could do nothing about the blocked extra point.
Considering LSU already had suffered a blocked field goal, Kelly might have been wiser to go for two, something he said he considered “for a slight moment.” Kicking the extra point was a smarter percentage play, he said.
But the extra point relegated Daniels to the sideline, where he could deliver no more heroics. Instead, he listened to the sound of LSU’s fate is sealed.