Aggie-ny: A&M foils LSU’s bestlaid plans

Published 9:00 am Sunday, November 27, 2022

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — LSU will be a long time living this one down.

The Tigers will still play in the SEC Championship game later this week.

But those visions of sneaking into the College Football Playoff turned into a pipe dream and went poof in a nightmare visit to Kyle Field in an almost inexplicable 38-23 loss to Texas A&M.

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The Tigers (9-3, 6-2 SEC) left looking nothing like the team that had surprisingly moved into the No. 5 spot in the CFP rankings.

“We needed to be better,” said first-year LSU head coach Brian Kelly. “I don’t want to minimize it. We’re all very disappointed. We very much wanted to finish strong and that didn’t happen.”

“I really can’t put my finger on it. They’ve worked so hard all year. I think A&M played really well today. Their energy was great.”

The fact of the matter is we had a great week of practice, guys did a nice job all week.”

Texas A&M, which had lost six consecutive Southeastern Conference games going into the game, looked more like what was expected when the Aggies began the season ranked No. 6 in the preseason polls.

“Their players made plays,” Kelly said. “We didn’t make some of the plays that we have normally made. We just weren’t our best. I’d like to give you a reason why, but we just weren’t our best today.”

Texas A&M’s offense hadn’t scored more than 28 points against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent all season and managed 31 in that season opener against Sam Houston State.

Texas A&M (5-7, 2-6) won’t go bowing — it’s a six-win minimum requirement for that — but had its own postseason celebration when the Aggies faithful took out a season’s worth of frustrations by rushing the field en masse afterwards.

Aggies running back Devon Achane did most of the damage, running for a career-best 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns while quarterback Conner Weigman threw just enough to put the finishing touches on the upset with 155 yards and two touchdowns.

A&M had three possessions in the first half but scored on all of them.

“I’d like to give you a specific answer,” Kelly said of the Aggies’ 429 yards of offense. “But I’d have to bring in so many different things that happened defensively. We didn’t get our jobs done. And it’s very disappointing.”

For a brief moment, however, it looked like LSU’s halftime adjustments, which bailed the Tigers out of several sluggish starts this season, might kick in again after the Aggies took a 17-10 halftime lead while not punting.

LSU’s five-game winning streak was as much about finding a way to win as it was dominating.

So when the Tigers sandwiched a pair of forced A&M three-and-outs around a tying touchdown drive to open the third quarter, it looked like business as usual. But, with a chance to take the lead, the whole complexion of the game changed when LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels was stripped while scrambling and the Aggies’ Demani Richardson scooped it and scored untouched from 27 yards out.

“I think there were some momentum swings there obviously,” Kelly said. “We came out in the second half, got the quick stops and we got the score. I thought we got the thing back in order.

“It was one of those things that just happen, where you wish you could have done it all over again. But it is what it is — the ball comes out. It’s a huge play that momentum swing.

“I don’t know that we ever really recovered from it.”

LSU never again put much pressure on the Aggies, who scored on their next two possession to all but put the game away.

Daniels was a gamer — he was twice knocked out of the game but returned.

But LSU never could get its vertical passing game going. Daniels, who threw for 189 yards, also led LSU in rushing with 84, but most of it came after scrambling when the Tigers couldn’t get receivers open.

“They’ve been great all year,” Kelly said of his team. “They’ve done incredible things, they’ve they’ve changed everything … but you know you you have to do it consistently.

“You can’t just rely on on talent — talents got to make plays.

“It’s my job to get this team prepared and I didn’t get them prepared the way they needed to be today. They were off today and I’m disappointed.”