LSU destroys Purdue with record-setting performance in Citrus Bowl

Published 6:31 pm Monday, January 2, 2023

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — LSU has had plenty of talent come through its receiver room in recent years: Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson. For most of this season it was Kayshon Boutte.

Malik Nabers made a bid to join those names on Monday, when he threw for a touchdown, caught one and had 163 yards receiving in the No. 16 Tigers’ 63-7 rout of Purdue in the Citrus Bowl.

“That’s kind of the mantle of LSU wide receivers,” Tigers coach Brian Kelly said of Nabers, who was the game’s MVP. “It’s his opportunity now, and you can see that he wanted to make sure that he made a statement out there today.”

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LSU never trailed, recording 594 yards of offense and concluding the scoring with Quad Wilson’s 99-yard interception return for a touchdown with less than a minute to go.

The Tigers (10-4) finished with at least 10 wins for the first time since the 2019 season, when Joe Burrow, Chase and Jefferson led undefeated LSU to a national title.

These Tigers tied the 2019 team’s school record for highest point total in a bowl game. LSU scored 63 in a win over Oklahoma in the 2019 Peach Bowl, which was also a College Football Playoff semifinal game.

The 63 points were also a Citrus Bowl record.

“We could have had any reason to not come out here and play fast. We had some time off, had some fun, but we was locked into understanding what our main goal was, was to come out here and win and get our 10th win,” Nabers said.

The Boilermakers (8-6) were led by interim coach Brian Brohm after his brother, Jeff, left at the end of the regular season to take Louisville’s head coaching job. Ryan Walters, formerly the defensive coordinator at Illinois, will now take over as Purdue’s coach.

Purdue had an up-and-down year, starting 1-2 before rallying to win the Big Ten West and reach the conference title game, where it lost 43-22 to Michigan. The Boilermakers were playing in their first Citrus Bowl.

“I feel like the program is in a good spot,” Brian Brohm said. “Coach Walters is gonna inherit a program of guys that are tough, want to play hard and want to win. I hope that he’s able to keep it going and take it to the next level.”

LSU, after a year in which it beat Alabama and reached the Southeastern Conference championship game, controlled the game from the start. And nothing changed when starting quarterback Jayden Daniels was relieved by backup Garrett Nussmeier. After punting on their first drive, the Tigers scored touchdowns on seven of their next eight possessions to take a 49-0 lead.

Daniels led four scoring drives, going 12-of-17 for 139 yards and a touchdown. He also had 67 rushing yards and caught the TD pass from Nabers.

Nussmeier finished 11-of-15 for 173 yards and two TDs. He threw a second-half interception, but LSU was already leading 42-0 at the time and the Tigers’ defense followed by forcing a three-and-out.

Nabers, LSU’s leading receiver this season, had season highs in yards and catches (nine), and his TD toss wasn’t even his most impressive pass of the day. After running wide on a jet sweep, he threw an on-target deep ball to Kyren Lacy for a 45-yard completion that set up a touchdown in the first half.

After the game, he first lamented three passes he felt he should have caught. Still, he has high hopes for next season.

“This performance shows that I’m able to come out here and perform at a high level with anybody,” said Nabers, who was 2-for-2 passing for 50 yards.

John Emery Jr. had a 1-yard TD rush, Derrick Davis Jr. had a 12-yard rushing score and Noah Cain had two rushing TDs, which gave the Tigers a school-record 39 rushing TDs for the year. They had 225 rushing yards as a team in this game, with Daniels’ 67 leading the way.

Austin Burton made his third career start at quarterback for the Boilermakers in place of Aidan O’Connell, who opted out to prepare for the NFL draft. Burton completed 12 of 24 passes for 74 yards with an interception.

Michael Alaimo relieved Burton in the second half and threw a 16-yard TD pass to T.J. Sheffield. Alaimo finished 4 of 11 for 31 yards with an interception.

Purdue crossed midfield four times. The first was on a drive set up by a fake punt, but that ended when Burton threw a pick. The other three ended in a touchdown, interception and turnover on downs. Purdue’s first nine possessions resulted in six punts and three turnovers.