With the Tigers looking every bit the national championship contender, Texas A&M came out and played by far its worst game of the year in a 50-7 demolition before more 102,000 fans at Tiger Stadium.
“They kicked our butts,” coach Jimbo Fisher said, “On all three phases.”
A&M didn’t need to give LSU much help, but they played the role of generous guest from the first play from scrimmage. The Aggies pressured LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, but instead of letting him run out of bounds for a 1-yard gain, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike grabbed him from behind and was hit with a 15-yard penalty for a horsecollar tackle. That was all the spark the Tigers needed, as they scored just five plays later. After a brief A&M drive, Burrow (23-32, 352 yards, 3 TD) led LSU on an 11-play, 80-yard drive capped off by a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide open receiver Jordan Jefferson (6 catches, 55 yards).
The worst in a quarter that could have come from central casting as 15 minutes from Hell hadn’t even hit yet. After the Aggies were forced to punt yet again, Burrow and the Tigers covered 91 yards in just three plays. With A&M getting very little pressure with a new 3-man front, Burrow had plenty of time to find a wide open Ja’Marr Chase (7 catches, 197 yards, 2 TD) streaking down the middle of the field and behind the Aggie secondary for a 78-yard score.
With 1:47 to go in the first quarter, Burrow had likely salted away the Heisman Trophy, A&M had been outgained 240-18 and the rout was on.
For Kellen Mond and the Aggie offense, the nightmare was just beginning.
Mond was sacked twice in the first quarter, including on 3rd and 8 on A&M’s third possession. A shanked punt by Braden Mann gave the Tigers the ball at their 45, and they methodically took the ball down the field and scored another touchdown.
Though the Aggie defense would slow LSU’s offense the rest of the half, the hammering of the Aggie offense continued. A&M got nowhere near the Red Zone and ended up gaining just 40 yards in a first half where they had nearly as many penalty yards (35).
“I thought we rushed the passer very well,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “We put pressure on the quarterback. We didn’t allow them to beat us one-on-one.”
After Burrow set the all-time SEC record for passing yards in a season and kicker Cade York became the first LSU kicker to hit two 50-yard-plus field goals in one game, the Aggies finally got on the scoreboard. A&M went 75 yards in 6 plays, capping off the drive with a 1-yard rush by Isaiah Spiller (11 carries, 66 yards, 1 TD; 45 yards receiving). LSU took care of any good feelings with Burrow answering right back with an 18-yard touchdown to Chase to make it 41-7 before calling it a night early in the fourth quarter.
A week after A&M fought SEC East champion Georgia to the wire in Athens, the Aggies were humiliated in Baton Rouge. Fisher, who said a week ago that A&M was close to reaching the top, was asked if his opinion had changed.
“One game doesn’t change,” he said. “At the same time it shows you how quick it can go the other way. We had issues covering them in the passing game and getting pressure. They did a good job in that up front. I’m not deterred as far as one game. We’ll evaluate that. But there’s still a lot of work we have to do. We’ve known that. We’ve got to find out how important it is to us.”
While some coaches might want their players to forget an embarrassing loss like this, Fisher said he wants the opposite.
“You can’t look past it. You’re never going to look past it. You’ve got to learn from it. I mean, you can’t dwell on it. You’ve got to understand what happened, why it happened and not let it happen again. You’ve got to learn from that,” he said. “They didn’t play well, they didn’t execute well, we didn’t coach well.”