Scooter Hobbs column: From concussion protocol to Heisman quality performance
Published 11:32 pm Sunday, November 12, 2023
BATON ROUGE — Whatever was in that concussion protocol that Jayden Daniels went through last week should be bottled and sold to all aspiring dual-threat quarterbacks.
All it did for LSU’s quarterback was knock 606 yards of total offense into him and get him squarely back into the Heisman Trophy race in a 52-35 win over Florida.
He wasn’t cleared for contact until Wednesday of the week’s workouts.
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Florida evidently didn’t get the memo — the Gators chased him all night but had a devil of time making much meaningful contact with him.
Warning: The protocol may not work for everybody. Don’t invite Alabama defender Dallas Turner to your dinner party to rough up your meal ticket players just yet.
Daniels, you see, had been flirting most of the season with a night like Saturday, when it was almost like he was auditioning for the biggest award in sports.
Yet it looked a lot like most of his games, just with gaudier numbers.
Yes, just when you thought you’d thought you’d seen it all from a guy who’s as accurate with his arm as he is elusive with his feet, just when you thought your jaw couldn’t drop any lower, Daniels once again went over the top, turning a football game into a personal gridiron version of H-O-R-S-E.
One top-this after another. I know I’m still shaking my head.
Maybe Florida should have employed a spy.
Perhaps the Gators did.
Maybe Jayden Daniels is immune to that too.
If you came away from Tiger Stadium, or staggered back from the TV, thinking you’d never seen anything like it, you were right.
The 606 yards of personal total offense is an SEC record.
But, broken down further, nobody in the long history of college football had ever done what Daniels did against the Gators — not one had ever passed for over 350 yards (372, actually) while rushing for over 200 (234 on your stat sheet).
Nobody. Ever. Anywhere. Not even in the Pac 12.
But the crazy thing is, it wasn’t that far off several of his other performances this season.
And this wasn’t stat-padding. It was a 3-point game, 38-35, early in the fourth quarter.
But, omigosh, there he goes again — looking more like a weaving punt returner than a quarterback, with runs of 85, 51, 38 and 27 yards, plus a pair of 14-yarders. Did I mention that 7 of his 17 completions were 30 yards or more.
All he did was up the ante.
If you’re looking for the consummate quick highlight go to the second quarter. Back-to-back plays, an in-stride 41-yard completion to Brian Thomas, followed up by his own nifty 38-yard run.
But that kind of thing was happening all night. Tiger Stadium was a video game with a cheat code.
Here’s a stat for you, courtesy of LSU. The Tigers lead the nation in “explosive plays,” defined as 20 yards or more, with 87 of the big chunks. Daniels arm or legs are responsible for 76 of them.
Only one team in college football has 76.
And yet Daniels is still having trouble being taken seriously in the Heisman race because his Tigers have three losses — three losses in which he averaged 435 yards total offense and was responsible for nine total touchdowns.
“If he didn’t win it tonight, he’s got to be the leading candidate,” LSU head coach Brian Kelly said, “because what he did tonight — unless the Heisman is just about popularity, if you want to be the most popular, then fine — but he’s the best player in college football.
“He did something tonight that no one’s ever done. So if that doesn’t make you the leading candidate then maybe the Heisman is not really for the best player. Maybe it’s for the most popular player.”
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org