The Tigers outgained the Aggies 491 yards to 228, but the visiting team still had to hold on late due to a pair of missed field goals and an A&M comeback sparked by a Speedy Noil touchdown grab.
Below I throw out my five takeaways from the game, including thoughts on LSU's offense, defense and special teams.
1. Offensive wrinkles, better late than never, proved effective
- The read-option with Anthony Jennings (14 carries, 119 yards) has been in the playbook, we just finally saw it on a more consistent basis Thursday night. What struck me most was the constant jet-sweep action with receiver Travin Dural, who was frequently set in motion across the formation. Whether he got the ball around end or served as a decoy, the mere threat of Dural put that Texas A&M defensive front in a frenzy. LSU stretched the Aggies horizontally early and often, making it that much easier for Leonard Fournette (19 rushes, 146 yards, 1 TD) to plow through defenders underneath. For the night the Tigers rushed for 384 yards on 6.7 yards per carry. If you’re going to be this dedicated to the run, at least be varied in your ground game. Thanksgiving night LSU was, and that new level of creativity carried the Bayou Bengals on the road.
2. Jermauria Rasco played a whale of a ballgame
- On a night when LSU lost starting defensive end Danielle Hunter to neck spasms before halftime, his bookend mate stepped up and played one of his most complete games in the purple and gold. Rasco, a senior from Shreveport, totaled eight tackles, two for loss, one sack and a quarterback hurry on the Aggies’ Kyle Allen. Even when matched up on A&M stud left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, Rasco shined, part of a defense that allowed only 84 yards rushing and was hellacious versus the short passing game, time and again wrecking screen passes and registering an impressive eight tackles for loss. It took a while for Rasco to truly get warmed up this season, but he’s been playing at a high clip of late. The Tigers will miss him at defensive end once the bowl game has come and gone.
3. John Diarse has moved up the pecking order at wide receiver
- The redshirt freshman from Monroe was Mr. Third Down in College Station, doing his best Jarvis Landry impression for LSU, which started the game 5-of-8 converting third downs and finished at 6-of-15. Diarse hauled in three passes for 29 yards and a touchdown. They aren’t gaudy numbers, but consider that his first two grabs moved the chains in the opening half, allowing for the Tigers’ ridiculous Time of Possession stats, and the third reception went for a score 34 seconds before halftime. Diarse did start the ballgame and, for the second straight contest, played significantly more than Trey Quinn. Bowl season and the ensuing offseason will determine a lot about the future, but for now Diarse has a leg-up on Quinn for the role of lead slot receiver.
4. 2014 Tigers among world’s best at game of Keep Away
- Seriously, if this were a sport and contested worldwide, this LSU football team would be a major player and Les Miles would be the sport’s guru. Try and wrap your brain around the fact that the Tigers possessed the ball for 41 minutes and 13 seconds of a possible 60 minutes. It’s just absurd. The Aggies didn’t have a single quarter with more than 5:23 of possession while the Tigers maintained at least 9:37 of possession in every single quarter. With two missed field goals LSU didn’t capitalize nearly as much as it could’ve, but Miles was dead-on after the game when he said this style of offense doesn’t allow the other team’s offense to get into any kind of rhythm whatsoever.
5. Kicking game woes nearly cost LSU, remain problematic
- When you cover LSU football under Miles, seldom does the time arrive when you write about special teams sinking – or nearly sinking – the ship. More often than not kickers, punters and returners make up the difference in ballgames for the Tigers. But that was far from the case Thursday night. Colby Delahoussaye, who started his LSU career 20-of-21 on three-point tries, missed from 22 yards in the first quarter (his fourth miss in his last seven kicks), leading to a quick hook. Walk-on Trent Domingue stepped in, connecting from 31 and 27 yards before missing an important attempt from 39 yards early in the fourth quarter to keep the lead at 10 points. Delahoussaye did come back and barely eked a 43-yarder over the crossbar with 2:07 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Tigers also nearly coughed up a kickoff return late, too, when Fournette put one on the ground, only to be recovered by freshman Ed Paris. Sloppy specialists weren’t part of the solution on Thanksgiving, and LSU had to overcome many of these miscues to get the victory.