Daniels out to cement Heisman Trophy resumé in finale against Texas A&M

Published 5:51 pm Friday, November 24, 2023

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels’ Heisman Trophy candidacy could come down to his final regular-season start against Texas A&M.

One more big game, particularly against an Aggies defense that ranks eighth nationally, could be enough to win over voters in advance of conference title games featuring other candidates next week.

So while No. 14 LSU (8-3, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) won’t be defending its SEC West title this season, the Tigers will want to rally around Daniels when Texas A&M (7-4, 4-3) invades Death Valley on Saturday. LSU coach Brian Kelly set that tone this week.

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“If you want to look at numbers, Daniels’ numbers are starting to pull away from everybody,” Kelly said as he rounded up to make his point. “He’s nearly 1,000 yards in total offense ahead of the next candidate. If we want to look at numbers, this race is starting to distance itself.”

Entering this week, Daniels’ 4,591 total yards put him 901 yards ahead of Washington quarterback Michael Penix and 924 ahead of Oregon quarterback Bo Nix.

Daniels accounted for eight touchdowns and 509 total yards against Georgia State last week. He now leads the nation in total offense with 417.4 yards per game and is just the second player in SEC history to throw for 3,500 yards and rush for 1,000 in a season (Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel did it first in 2012).

Daniels also leads the country in TDs passing (36), TDs accounted for (46) and yards rushing by a QB (1,014).
In the process, he has done things no one has ever seen, such as when he passed for more than 350 yards and rushed for more than 200 in the same game against Florida on Nov. 11.

Now he will conclude his final college regular season against a defense that has been allowing 286.5 yards per game and which features players like Bednarik Award semifinalist Edgerrin Cooper, who happens to be from Covington, Louisiana.

Cooper, a linebacker, has 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks in the six SEC games he has played. His 16 tackles for loss in all games leads the SEC and is tied for 10th nationally.

“That’s the strength of their defense is the versatility, the depth that they play on the defensive line and they’re aggressive,” Kelly said. “You certainly have to do a really good job in protections. … You’ve got to be able to find a way to mitigate some of the potential negative plays.”

The Aggies have won their lone game since the firing of coach Jimbo Fisher. That was against Abilene Christian with defensive line coach Elijah Robinson serving as head coach.

Kelly said the Tigers must guard against being distracted by Fisher’s firing or taking the Aggies lightly because of it.

“You can spend the day thinking about, ‘Well, A&M is without a head coach. What’s their mindset? How are they going about this?’ “ Kelly said. “I’ve been in this long enough to know whatever side of that they come out on really doesn’t matter.”

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