By Harrison Valentine, LSU Digital Media Graduate Assistant
BATON ROUGE — Damian Ramos connected on a 20-yard field goal with five seconds remaining to lift No. 12 LSU over Arkansas, 34-31, in a back and forth affair on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
“This game has come down to a field goal over the last three years – now make it four,” said head coach Brian Kelly postgame. “It’s just the nature of two teams, in close proximity, playing for a rivalry trophy. These are the games you have to find a way to win.”
That’s exactly what the Tigers were able to do in a game where having the ball last felt consequential. Quarterback Jayden Daniels, who finished 20-of-29 for 320 yards, four touchdown passes and one interception, led the offense down the field for a nine play, 72-yard drive, spanning 5:01, setting up the eventual game-winning field goal by Ramos to keep the Golden Boot in Baton Rouge.
“I had no intention of giving them the ball back,” Kelly said. “We wanted to take time off the clock and put ourselves in great position because we have faith in our field goal kicker.”
After falling behind 13-3 late in the second quarter, LSU’s offense responded when they needed it most with a 49-yard touchdown connection between Daniels and Brian Thomas with 30 seconds to play in the half, a big momentum shifter before the teams hit the locker room.
Daniels would find Thomas again on the first drive of the second half for another 49-yard touchdown score, giving the Tigers a 17-13 lead behind a three play drive lasting just one minute.
The LSU offense would account for 509 yards of total offense, 320 coming through the air, with 189 coming on the ground.
It was another huge night for LSU’s receiving corps. Thomas posted his best performance of the season with five catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns. Malik Nabers continued to be a chore for opposing corners, reeling in eight catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
Thomas (133) and Nabers (130) became the second LSU wide receiver duo to both record at least 130 receiving yards in a single game, as the other pair came in 2019 when Justin Jefferson (163) and Ja’Marr Chase (147) did it at Texas.
“We gave him the game ball,” Kelly said of Thomas. “They were bracket covering Malik, so we had to find alternatives. He stepped up big for us and made some big plays down the field. We were still able to shake Malik loose on some over routes that got him out of some double coverages.”
Daniels has found some success pushing the ball down field over his last two contests. Having receivers like Thomas and Nabers helps, and Saturday was no different. The ability to take some shots is something, Thomas says, he and his quarterback are feeling more comfortable with each week.
“We pride ourselves on it,” Thomas said. “If you give us a deep shot, we are going to make a play. It makes him (Jayden Daniels) more confident with us, and we just build on each other with that.”
Every time Logan Diggs runs the ball, good things happen. The Boutte native led LSU’s rushing attack once again, posting 97 yards on 13 carries, averaging 6.9 yards per touch. Josh Williams broke open a 41 yard rush on his only carry of the night.
Defensively, true freshman linebacker Whit Weeks was all over the field for the Tigers in his second career start, tallying nine tackles, 0.5 sacks, and one quarterback hurry. Major Burns and Greg Penn III led the team with 12 each, a career high for both. Andre Sam made his presence known and provided the unit with a burst of energy with seven tackles and an interception.
The Tigers will hit the road again next Saturday for a 5 p.m. CT matchup with No. 15 Ole Miss on ESPN.