Scooter Hobbs column: LSU season has become quest for Heisman
Published 8:35 pm Sunday, November 19, 2023
At the beginning of Saturday’s LSU-Georgia State game, there was a scattering of Tiger Stadium boos when the visiting Panthers drove almost effortlessly for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead on their first possession.
In the end, in reminiscing about those early moments, it was nice to be reminded there was an actual football game going on.
The scoreboard would eventually blink with:
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Georgia State 14
It was about what you would expect coming in against an overmatched opponent. But that didn’t really seem important.
The big video board would have better served its paying patrons if it had just kept a running total of quarterback Jayden’s Daniels latest statistical handiwork. Better yet, run them alongside the day’s earlier numbers from Oregon quarterback Bo Nix. Maybe Washington’s Michael Pennix, too.
Perhaps make it like one of those charity donation bar-charts, comparing funds raised with the goals, Daniels vs. Nix vs. Pennix.
That is what LSU’s season’s seems to have come down to. Let others fret over reaching the College Football Playoff.
Head coach Brian Kelly keeps dangling the carrot of a 10-win season for the now 8-3 Tigers, but it seems the last few games and the regular season finale this week against Texas A&M, have become all about Daniels and the Heisman Trophy.
If that means padding stats, so be it.
Memo to Heisman voters: Daniels played three and half quarters in rolling up another night of ridiculous video game numbers — 25 of 30 for 413 yards passing and six touchdowns, another 96 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns.
True, the final half-quarter won’t be a chapter in Profiles in Sportsmanship, especially since the final touchdown came on a 40-yard, Daniels-to-Malik Nabers bomb.
Kelly’s postgame handshake with Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott seemed a bit quick and cool, but no harm done. You suppose, all is fair in love and Heisman Trophy campaigns.
True, there was no football reason for Daniels to still be in harn’s way protecting what was then a 35-point lead.
It turned out that the Nabers touchdown reception, the eighth with Daniels’ fingerprints on it tied the LSU and SEC record for touchdowns responsibility set by Joe Burrow against Oklahoma in the 2019 Peach Bowl CFP semifinal (Burrow played longer than needed in that game, too, and he had already won the Heisman at the time).
But it can’t hurt to have that on your resume, although Kelly did finally balk at letting Daniels loose for a shot to break it.
Kelly said earlier in the week that over the years he has changed his tune on promoting players for individiual awards. He used to be content to stay on the sidelines and let the chips fall where they may. But now he feels like its his duty.
“When I have the opportunity to talk about my players, I’m going to do it,” he reiterated after Saturday’s game. “I’m going to use my opportunities to talk about my players. And I think he’s the best player in college football and every opportunity that I get I’m going to make sure that people understand that.”
LSU’s defense, in a strange way, actually did Daniels no favors this night.
After giving up touchdowns on two of GSU’s first two drives, it actually got its act together and shut out the Panthers for the remainder. LSU and Daniels were steady scoring — on all eight possessions that Daniels was in there — putting more and more distance on the scoreboard with no apologies forthcoming.
LSU faced a real dilemma late in the third quarter when it faced first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Daniels was at 95 yards rushing, needing five to crack the 100-yard mark again, from there a statistical impossiblity even for him. Maybe the Tigers should have taken a 5-yard delay of game penalty to put the round number back in play.
Or maybe that would have been over-doing it.
You do wonder if Kelly and LSU were aware (my guess is yes) that Nix had torched another outmanned defense, Arizona State, for six touchdown passes (all in the first half) of Oregon’s 49-13 win.
Daniels basically held serve against Nix in what is a neck-and-neck battle.
So Kelly will keep promoting and keep turning his star loose. Dating back to the Florida game, LSU has scored touchdowns on Daniels’ last 13 possessions.
“If you’re on the other sideline … how do you defend him?” Kelly said.
“There’s this sense of whatever you call it’s going to be executed. You’re thinking OK, what’s the defense going to do because they have no chance unless they come up with something new. That’s a quarterback that has complete control over what’s going on out there. And that’s kind of fun.”
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at email@example.com