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LSU’s new offense drew several comparisons to Big 12 offenses in the week leading up to No. 9 Texas’ primetime game against the No. 6 Tigers.
That comparison held true as Tiger QB Joe Burrow led a passing attack the Texas secondary failed to stop most of the night. Burrow’s 31-for-39, 471-yard, four touchdown performance, including a late fourth quarter 61-yard strike to Justin Jefferson on third-and-17, led the Tigers past the Longhorns, 45-38.
“We wanted to pressure him to obviously get a sack or incompletion to give our offense a pretty good or reasonable chance to go down and score,” Texas coach Tom Herman said about the strategy behind pressuring Burrow on the touchdown play.
Facing that third-and-long, Burrow surveyed the field. Texas didn’t bring on its Cowboy package with eight DBs, but blitzed out of normal dime personnel. Amid pressure, Burrow made the throw of the game to Jefferson, who broke a tackle and raced down the sideline to the end zone.
Burrow’s Week 1 performance against Georgia Southern was record breaking, but his inspired Week 2 performance against a team that wore DBU t-shirts in pregame left Texas wondering who exactly it was in the secondary.
Three Tiger receivers – Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, and Terrace Marshall – had monster evenings. Jefferson caught 9 passes for 163 yards and three scores, Chase hauled in 8 receptions for 147 yards, and Marshall added 123 yards and a score on six catches.
No matter what Texas DC Todd Orlando played in order to stem Burrow’s efforts, it did little to solve the problem of LSU’s Joe Brady-influenced offense led by a quarterback Herman once recruited.
“I thought Joe Burrow was the difference in the ball game,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said. “Just really accurate, really aggressive. I thought he fit some balls into some really tight windows, was really accurate down the field, and he’s going to have a heck of a year if he stays healthy.”
Burrow wasn’t the only quarterback with a good performance as Texas’ Sam Ehlinger was 31-for-47 for 401 yards and four scores, and added 60 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
The purple and gold claimant of the DBU throne didn’t outright steal the title with its performance as Devin Duvernay and Brennan Eagles each went for over 100 yards, and freshman Jake Smith added a score as well.
Eagles had Texas’ first play of over 50 yards since 2017 early in the second, while Duvernay had two big touchdown catches including an important 44-yard score to make it 30-28 LSU early in the fourth.
However, Texas’ defense could not keep up with Burrow and the Tiger offense. In response, Burrow led a six play, 75-yard drive to make it a nine point game. Texas would respond with a score with six minutes left in the fourth, except it was only a field goal. Scoring three rather than seven would prove costly.
The final 45-38 margin was just a touchdown, and the result of two Texas drives in the second quarter played a key part in that. The Longhorns drove to the LSU two midway through the first quarter. LSU forced a fourth and goal, and Ehlinger rolled out to his right.
Keaontay Ingram leaked out left and Ehlinger lobbed a pass right into Ingram’s hands. Those hands guided the ball to the ground. Six points were left on the board.
“He will bounce back,” Herman said of Ingram. “I haven’t talked to him personally yet, but I’m sure Coach (Stan) Drayton will and has already. But he’s our guy and I don’t think he should lose any confidence in that.”
Texas had an opportunity to right that wrong the very next time they had the ball. Joseph Ossai intercepted Burrow on the ensuing possession returned the ball to the LSU four.
Ehlinger and Ingram could not punch it in the end zone in the following four plays. Herman was asked if his team lost some energy after missing on those two opportunities inside the five.
“We scored 38 points and had 538 yards of offense, so I don’t think there was any emotional letdown from our offense,” Herman said.
Texas had chances to win or to try to win, especially if they had made that late game third down stop. But where Texas didn’t take advantage of those chances to win, Burrow and LSU made the most of every opportunity. Where the Longhorns scored on 6-of-12 drives, the Tigers scored on 8-of-12, with the 12th drive culminating in a kneel down.
“I think they can take that we’ve got to get better,” Herman said about his defense after the game. “We’re going to play some good offenses in our conference, and that’s on us as coaches, too. We’ve got to put them in position to be successful.
“Not that they weren’t tonight, but moving forward that’s got to be a huge emphasis for us as coaches, to figure out what our weaknesses are, continue to develop those weaknesses, then provide some kind of assistance through calls that can help the secondary at times.”
Although they play a similar style to Texas’ conference mates, the Tigers aren’t in the Big 12. That means Herman’s often-repeated goal of competing for the conference title in November and December remains on the table.
But Texas learned the hard way it has plenty to work on if it wants to meet loftier expectations.
The Longhorns head to Houston to play the Rice Owls at NRG Stadium this Saturday.