By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports
BATON ROUGE – The end zones were painted with Army camo.
With three almost-perfect on-field landings and not into somebody’s tailgate party in a surrounding parking lot, the Army Silver Wings parachute team stole the pregame show by flawlessly swooping from the sky to deliver the United States, Army and POW/MIA flags and the game ball.
Both teams – in a scene straight out of a feel-good movie from the 1940s or ‘50s – gathered together postgame in front of their respective bands to sing each other’s alma mater.
On a historic Saturday night when the Cadets from West Point, N.Y. made their first Tiger Stadium appearance ever, there was no red, white and boo.
After the LSU faithful debated all week on social media whether to be on their best behavior or scream “Tiger Bait” (and worse) at the 20-something-year-old young men training to defend our country, the No. 19 ranked Tigers issued one of their most polite and respectful Death Valley beatdowns ever in the program’s 130-year history.
LSU second-year head coach Brian Kelly got the 300th win of his 33-year career and his 15th against a service academy in a 62-0 Homecoming howitzer that sent the Bayou Bengals into next Saturday’s open date with a 6-2 record.
“For us, it was about how do we get better,” Kelly said. “So, it’s the consistency of performance on the offensive side of the ball and continuing to make that improvement (on defense) necessary to have a team that can compete for an SEC championship.
“We ran into a couple of rough spots as we moved through our schedule, but our guys have really put themselves in a good position with four games remaining to be in the thick of the SEC race.”
With a looming Nov. 4 showdown at No. 11 Alabama that will factor heavily in deciding the SEC West Division winner, LSU skated through three hours of football against the 32-point underdog Cadets in a game light on injuries (except for Tigers’ starting cornerback Zy Alexander) and heavy on stats inflation.
“We have great momentum right now,” said Josh Williams, one of LSU’s five running backs who contributed to the Tigers rolling for 570 total offense yards. “Both the offense and the defense played great tonight. We can’t get concerned about Alabama yet. We’ve just got to take it day-by-day in our bye week and get ready.”
The blowout transpired much like LSU’s 72-10 win over Grambling on Sept. 9 when Tigers’ QB Jayden Daniels threw for 269 yards and five TDs as LSU took a 42-10 halftime lead. The 32-point cushion afforded Daniels the opportunity to sit out the second half.
In sprinting to a 38-0 halftime advantage over Army, Daniels threw for 279 yards and three TDs and ran for another. And again, he was able to put up his feet and rest the final two quarters as Kelly eventually used 70 players in the blowout.
Tigers’ backup QB Garrett Nussmeier started the second half, launched a 51-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Malik Nabers on LSU’s fourth snap of the third quarter and kept his foot on the Tigers’ offensive accelerator.
Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. had virtually the same brilliant receiving performances.
Nabers had four catches for 121 yards and two TDs. Thomas had three receptions for 122 yards and two TDs, including an 86-yard catch and run off a Daniels’ scramble that was the third-longest pass play in LSU history.
True freshman Trey Holly, the Tigers’ fifth running back, ended up as LSU’s leading rusher with 91 yards on six carries. He busted loose on a 67-yard TD run for LSU’s final score with 40 seconds left.
With the Tigers’ starting offensive line outweighing Army’s defensive front by almost 60 pounds per man, it wasn’t a fair fight from the moment the Cadets got off their team bus.
“They (LSU) look like an NFL team out there,” said Army head coach Jeff Monken, whose team fell to 2-5 as it suffered its second consecutive shutout. “We made mistakes, they got up early and didn’t let their foot off the gas. I don’t know what we learned from that (game). It’s an unbelievable atmosphere (in Tiger Stadium) for our team to experience, but to get beat 62-0 is hard.”
What made it worse for the Cadets was that their usual starting quarterback Bryson Daily was sidelined with injuries suffered in last Saturday’s 19-0 loss to Troy.
As a result, Monken used freshmen QBs Champ Harris and Larry Robinson and both got swallowed by LSU’s aggressive defense that limited Army to 193 yards and forced four turnovers leading to 17 Tigers’ points.
Harris was yanked after a rough first half in which he finished just 13 total offense yards and committed three turnovers (two interceptions) and a fumble leading to 14 LSU points.
Robinson had 37 total offense yards and threw a third-quarter interception that the Tigers converted into placekicker Damian Ramos’ second and final field goal.
LSU’s defensive star of the night was safety Andre Sam, an Iowa, La. native who’s a senior transfer from Marshall University. Sam had two interceptions, a pass breakup and three tackles.
“I should have had four (interceptions) because I dropped two,” Sam said. “But I’ll take two. I’m good with that.”
Contact Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org