On a 3rd-and-17, with a six point lead and two and a half minutes left in the game, the old LSU would have run the ball, punted and played defense. The old LSU is dead, and the new one is pretty damn scary.
On that 3rd-and-17, Joe Burrow faced a blitz, stepped up and found Justin Jefferson, who raced 61 yards for a touchdown that clinched the No. 6 Tigers’ 45-31 win over No. 9 Texas in Austin.
Burrow played the game of his life, completing 31-of-39 passes for 471 yards with four touchdowns, the second-most passing yards in LSU history, while in the process producing three 100-yard receivers for the first time in LSU history. The trio of Jefferson, JaMarr Chase and Terrace Marshall, Jr. simply torched the Texas secondary, as Jefferson caught snared nine passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns, Chase caught eight for 147 and Marshall caught six for 123 and a score of his own.
Sam Ehlinger posted a career night of his own, throwing for 407 yards, rushing for 60 and accounting for five touchdowns, but it was a play he didn’t make that set the early tone.
LSU opened the scoring with a 36-yard Cade York field goal, but the Longhorns appeared in position to take the lead when Brennan Eagles hauled in a 26-yard pass to put the ball at the LSU 8 on UT’s second possession. The ‘Horns moved the ball to the 2 when Tom Herman characteristically rolled the fourth down dice, which saw Ehlinger find a wide open Keaontay Ingram in the end zone, who promptly dropped the ball.
The Texas defense gave its offense the ball right back, though, when linebacker Joseph Ossai caught a tipped Burrow pass and took it to the LSU 4, but again Texas was denied. This time, Ehlinger ran for two yards on first down and appeared to get in on second, but replay ruled him down inside the 1. The Tigers stuffed Ingram on third down, then stoned Ehlinger on fourth — thereby turning eight snaps in goal-to-go situations into zero points.
After Texas forced an LSU punt, Ehlinger tried two unsuccessful deep shots, then hit on a third when Kristian Fulton misjudged a ball and a wide open Eagles hauled it in to race 55 yards for a touchdown, putting the ‘Horns up 7-3 at the 10:29 mark of the second quarter. The play was Texas’ first of 50-plus yards since the 2017 season.
LSU answered with its best drive of the half: 75 yards in eight plays, most of them Burrow to Jefferson, who had grabs of 17, 12 and six yards, the last of which resulted in a third-and-goal touchdown, shoving LSU back ahead 10-7 at the exact midpoint of the second quarter.
After a Texas punt, Burrow again charged LSU down the field, but this time an Ossai third down sack forced a 33-yard York field goal with 1:41 left in the first half. Texas used two timeouts in forcing that field goal, a move that backfired when its offense went three-and-out and LSU took over at its own 42 with 1:13 still left. They would need only 26 seconds. Three straight Burrow completions, the last to Jefferson from 21 yards out, gave LSU a commanding 20-7 halftime lead.
Teetering on the brink of blowout territory, Texas answered the bell to open the second half. The ‘Horns’ defense forced a three-and-out to open the third quarter, and then the offense went on a 2018-esque 19-play, 86-yard touchdown drive (that saw four stoppages due to injured LSU players) that this time around ended in a successful 2-yard Ehlinger plunge.
After a third York field goal, Texas again drove the length of the field on a winded and bruised Tiger defense, moving 75 yards in seven plays and scoring on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Ehlinger to Jake Smith on a third-and-10, pulling UT within 23-21 with 2:36 left in the third quarter.
And at that point, a game that began an SEC slobber-knocker turned into a Big 12 track meet.
LSU zipped down the field 75 yards in six plays, scoring on a 26-yard strike from Burrow to Marshall. Texas zipped right back, going 75 yards in seven plays and scoring when Devin Duvernay caught a slant on 4th-and-2, slipped a tackle and sprinted 44 yards for a touchdown that brought Texas back within 30-28 with 12:09 to play.
When Texas pulled close, LSU again pulled away with yet another 6-play, 75-yard drive. Clyde Edwards-Hellaire did the damage this time with a 12-yard run to push the cushion to 37-28 with 9:58 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Texas finally blinked. And by blinked, they broke a string of four straight touchdown drives (and three touchdowns in their last three possessions) by settling for a 47-yard Cameron Dicker field goal to cut the deficit to six with 3:59 left.
After an incompletion on 1st-and-10, Brandon Jones sacked Burrow on 2nd-and-10 to set up a 3rd-and-17 with 2:27 to play, needing only one stop to potentially send its offense on the field with a chance to win the game. Instead, Jefferson beat single coverage from Texas safety Caden Sterns and was off to the races.
Texas answered with another Ehlinger-to-Duvernay touchdown, but it came with just 22 seconds remaining.
The Longhorns had a golden opportunity to recover the onside kick, but the ball rolled off Collin Johnson‘s fingertips and he could not recover the ball, allowing LSU to hold on for the win.