It was a reasonably good start for Utah State against one of the nation’s premier college football teams.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, their inability to run the ball, sustain drives and get off field defensively on third downs was way too much to overcome.
An aggressive, explosive LSU team scored 35 unanswered points from the second quarter on en route to a 42-6 drubbing of USU on a warm and muggy Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 100,266 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Simply put, the No. 5 Tigers looked focused and refreshed following their first bye week of the season.
Meanwhile, the Aggies (3-2) will head into their second bye week in need of some rest and recuperation time after they lost a couple more players to what appeared to be serious injuries. Starting right tackle Kyler Hack went down early in the first quarter and was replaced by third-stringer Jacob South. Originally starter Andy Koch suffered a season-ending injury against San Diego State. Defensive tackle Caden Andersen, a Logan High product, was helped off the field later in the game and was unable to put any weight on his right leg.
The Aggies struggled mightily offensively in the second half as they only managed 53 yards of total offense and two first downs. The visitors went three and out on five of its first six possessions of the half.
“We got stomped on offense. There you have it," USU head coach Gary Andersen said. “Couldn't run the ball. Couldn't throw the ball. You name it, we couldn't do it.”
USU, which was limited to 159 total yards, finished with a measly 22 yards rushing on 19 attempts, and clearly missed powerful running back Jaylen Warren, who did warm up prior to the game but is still recovering from an injury.
Jordan Love threw two of his three interceptions after halftime, although LSU All-American safety Grant Delpit didn’t appear to have complete control on the third pick. Love went 15 of 130 for 130 yards, and this was the second time this season he was tossed a trio of INTs in a game.
LSU (5-0) completely dominated in time of possession as USU didn’t sustain a single drive the entire game. The Tigers enjoyed a whopping 41:03 to 18:57 advantage in time of possession and shined on third downs as they converted 11 of 17. Conversely, the Aggies were only successful on 1 of 12 third downs.
It was another strong performance from LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who completed 27 of 38 passes for 344 yards and five touchdowns, vs. one INT. The Ohio State graduate transfer already has 22 TD tosses in five games. Burrow became the first LSU signal caller to throw for 300-plus yards in four consecutive games.
Two of Burrow’s scoring strikes went to stellar 6-foot-3 wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who finished with 155 yards on nine receptions. Burrow connected with Jefferson on TD passes of 4 and 39 yards in the third quarter.
LSU inserted the final nail in the coffin with 13:23 remaining in the contest when Burrow found Thaddeus Moss on a 8-yard slant. Moss slipped out of a tackle and recorded his first TD of the season.
The Tigers racked up 601 total yards, including 248 on 51 rushes. On several occasions, Burrow and a trio of LSU tailbacks broke tackles and juked their way past Aggie defenders. LSU entered the contest ranked first nationally in scoring offense (57.8 points per game) and third in total offense (563.5 yards an outing).
The Tigers wasted little time taking a lead they never relinquished. The hosts received the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards on 12 plays, capped off by a 7-yard scoring pass to Derrick Dillon.
USU moved the ball pretty well on its first possession, highlighted by passes to Nathan and Siaosi Mariner for 14 and 10 yards, respectively. The Aggies were in LSU territory when the drive stall out on a tackle for loss and an errant snap one play later.
The Aggies caught a break midway through the first quarter when Burrow’s pass sailed through the hands of his intended target and was intercepted by Aggie cornerback Cameron Haney. The Aggie senior returned his first career INT 20 yards to the LSU 7-yard line.
Unfortunately for USU, its red zone struggles continued. The visitors settled for a 30-yard field goal by Dominik Eberle after Love was sacked on third and goal.
The Aggies made another big play defensively on the Tigers’ next possession. USU got exceptional penetration and stuffed Burrow on a fourth-and-one keeper.
It didn’t take long for USU to get into LSU territory as Mariner made an sublime 35-yard diving reception at the Tiger 29. Unfortunately for the Aggies, their leading receiving landed hard on his shoulder and didn’t play the rest of the game. Productive tight end Caleb Repp was also shaken up in the game and didn’t return.
Repp dropped a pinpoint pass from Love at the LSU 10 — his first drop of the season — and USU was forced to kick another field goal. Eberle came through with a 47-yarder, paring the Aggie deficit to 7-6 late in the first quarter.
With the exception of a beautiful 35-yard strike from Love to Nathan, USU’s offense was stymied by LSU the rest of the first half. Meanwhile, the Tigers proceeded to march to paydirt twice in the second quarter.
Burrow powered his way in from 1 yard out early in the second quarter, and the Tigers took a two-possession lead at the 6:42 mark of the quarter on a well-executed back shoulder fade to Ja’Marr Chase from 25 yards out. LSU marched 99 yards on 13 plays on that drive and converted on a trio of third downs, including a third and 14.
“Our goal is simple when we have the ball," said Chase of his sixth TD reception of the season. “Go out there and put on a display. It's fun out there."
The Tigers needed to go 99 yards because they picked off Love at their own 1. Freshman corner Derek Stingley Jr. made an outstanding, acrobatic INT on a pass intended for Savon Scarver at the pylon.
LSU advanced the pigskin inside the USU 40 at the end of the first half, but a big tackle for loss and two straight incompletions thwarted the Tiger threat. The hosts enjoyed a whopping 343-106 edge in total offense in the opening half, but the Tigers were also somewhat fortunate to recover both of their fumbles.
LSU did finally cough up a fumble in the third quarter. Three Aggies swarmed LSU’s receiver and Meitzenheimer dislodged the ball, which was corralled by safety Troy Lefeged Jr. Meitzenheimer finished with a career-high 14 tackles, including 12 solo stops, and two forced fumbles.
It was another strong effort from USU All-American linebacker David Woodward, who tallied a game-high 16 tackles (11 solo) and 1.0 sack. Logan native Jacoby Wildman also sacked Burrow. Lefeged Jr. contributed with nine tackles, while Nick Heninger led the team with 1.5 tackles for loss and looked sharp throughout the contest.
LSU’s defense was very impressive Saturday and finished with 10 tackles for loss. Linebacker Patrick Queen led the way with 3 TFLs. Not only did the Tigers foil the Aggies on the ground, they completely took away USU’s short passing game.
“We've been hearing a lot of noise from outside, talking about we can't tackle and stuff like that," Delpit said. "We came out and proved it today. Utah State's a great team with a great offense, and I think we can play lights out on defense and hopefully carry that into next week."
• This was USU’s largest margin of defeat since a 59-10 setback to Wisconsin in the 2017 season opener for both teams.
• The Aggies streak of scoring 20 or more points in 21 straight games was snapped. It was the third longest among FBS teams heading into the game.
• This was the second-largest crowd USU has ever competed in front of.
• Wide receiver Deven Thompkins made his first career start for the Aggies.
• LSU now leads the all-time series between the two teams, 3-0.