Sep 11, 2021; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;  LSU Tigers defensive lineman Maason Smith (0) sacks McNeese State Cowboys quarterback Cody Orgeron (8) during the second half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Max Johnson, LSU roll past McNeese State

Max Johnson threw three touchdown passes and the LSU defense dominated visiting McNeese State in a 34-7 non-conference victory Saturday night in Baton Rouge.

Johnson completed 18 of 27 passes for 161 yards and no interceptions in less than three quarters. He threw two touchdown passes to Kayshon Boutte, who had caught three touchdowns in a 38-27 upset loss at UCLA a week earlier.

The Tigers (1-1) also got a record-setting performance from kicker Cade York, whose 55-yard field goal in the first half was the longest in Tiger Stadium history. He surpassed that with a 56-yarder in the fourth quarter.

The longest kick in LSU history is the 57-yarder that York made in a road victory against Florida last season.

The Tigers offense struggled behind an offensive line missing three starters due to injury but their defense overwhelmed the FCS Cowboys (0-2).

McNeese State quarterback Cody Orgeron, a son of LSU head coach Ed Orgeron, completed 10 of 20 passes for 91 yards with one touchdown and was sacked eight times.

The Tigers punted on their first two second-half possessions before Johnson and Boutte connected on a 6-yard touchdown for a 24-0 lead at the end of the period. York’s second record-setting kick of the night pushed the lead to 27-0.

Freshman Corey Kiner ran 23 yards for an LSU touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys avoided a shutout when Orgeron threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Carlos Williams to complete the scoring.

On its first drive, LSU converted two fourth downs, the second of which was a 19-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Trey Palmer for a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Tigers recovered a fumble at the Cowboys 28, leading to Johnson’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Boutte and a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

York’s first record-setting field goal pushed the lead to 17-0 lead at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Aug 28, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA;  UCLA Bruins running back Zach Charbonnet (24) scores on a 21-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No. 16 LSU ready for first meeting with UCLA

UCLA’s season has gotten off to an impressive start.

No. 16 LSU already has had challenges getting ready for its opener against the host Bruins on Saturday.

UCLA rolled to a 44-10 home victory against Hawaii last Saturday as a tune-up for its first meeting against the Tigers, who evacuated to Houston over the weekend to avoid Hurricane Ida and prepare for their opener.

The Bruins got their first nonconference victory in seven tries under fourth-year coach Chip Kelly. Beating LSU would give Kelly his first nonconference win against a Power 5 opponent.

“This team is a special team,” Kelly said. “You can be a special team and get your tail kicked on weekends too, but the players we have right now are really special. … It’s a mature team. … They’re really disciplined in terms of what they want to do.”

Zach Charbonnet had 106 of the Bruins’ 244 rushing yards and ran for three touchdowns on just six carries. Brittain Brown added 78 rushing yards and a touchdown.

“If you ask me, I think we have the best running back duo in the country,” said quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who completed just 10 of 20 passes for 130 yards, which included a 44-yard touchdown to Kazmeir Allen.

UCLA held the Rainbow Warriors to 269 total yards and made two interceptions. Ale Kaho blocked a punt that David Priebe recovered in the end zone.

“Took care of the ball on offense, created turnovers on defense. … You couldn’t ask for more than that,” Thompson-Robinson said.

It was an encouraging start for a program seeking its first winning record in six years.

LSU is eager to put the disappointment of last season behind it by getting off to a winning start of its own. The Tigers were defending national champions when they were upset at home by Mississippi State 44-34 last season, setting the tone for a 5-5 record.

“This game is probably the most important starting game I’ve had since I’ve been head coach,” Ed Orgeron said of the opener for his fifth full season as head coach. “Our team knows that. For us to get on the right foot, to get to where we want to be, we have to start well.”

LSU also has been dealing with a series on injuries on offense. Sophomore Max Johnson won what was expected to be a close competition to be the starting quarterback when fifth-year player Myles Brennan suffered a broken bone in his non-throwing arm on the eve of preseason camp.

The Tigers’ two most experienced running backs — Tyrion Davis-Price and John Emery Jr. — have been sidelined for much of preseason practice. Sophomore Josh Williams and highly regarded freshmen Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin have gotten most of the preseason snaps.

“I want Tyrion and John to be our running backs,” Orgeron said. “But they haven’t remained healthy throughout camp. Let’s see if they come back (for UCLA). If they come back and play well, they’re going to be fine. But if not, we have to find out who’s our best running back.”

Starting guard Chasen Hines and top reserve offensive lineman Anthony Bradford also have been injured, but Orgeron is hopeful that they will be ready this week.

–Field Level Media

Apr 17, 2021; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;  LSU Tigers offensive tackle Dare Rosenthal (51) and LSU Tigers wide receiver Kayshon Boutte (1) pose for the camera on a time out during the first half of the annual Purple and White spring game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

LSU LT Dare Rosenthal enters transfer portal

LSU starting left tackle Dare Rosenthal is in the NCAA transfer portal, Tigers coach Ed Orgeron confirmed Tuesday.

“He had some personal situations that he had to take care of,” Orgeron told ESPN. “It was a hard decision, but we wish him the best. We’re going to miss him.”

The 6-foot-7, 327-pound lineman struggled to stay on the field during his three seasons on campus.

A four-star recruit in the Class of 2018, Rosenthal played in five games (three starts) as a redshirt freshman for the Tigers’ undefeated national championship team in 2019.

After briefly leaving school for personal reasons and missing spring practice in 2020, he returned and started two games before being indefinitely suspended in October. Rosenthal was reinstated and started three more games.

Sophomore Cameron Wire, who started in Rosenthal’s absence in 2020, is expected to take over as the starting left tackle.

LSU opens the season on Sept. 4 at UCLA.

–Field Level Media

Apr 17, 2021; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;  LSU Tigers quarterback TJ Finley (11) warms up with LSU Tigers quarterback Garrett Nussmeier (5) on the sidelines during the first half of the annual Purple and White spring game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Report: LSU QB TJ Finley enters transfer portal

LSU quarterback TJ Finley has entered the NCAA transfer portal, 247Sports reported Thursday.

Finley started five games for the Tigers as a true freshman in 2020.

He completed 57.1 percent of his passes for 941 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for 34 yards and one score.

The 6-foot-6 Finley was one of three quarterbacks to start multiple games for LSU during a 5-5 season, along with freshman Max Johnson and junior Myles Brennan.

Johnson worked with the first team this spring, leaving Finley in a backup role heading into the 2021 campaign.

–Field Level Media

Nov 17, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Saints keep D-line coach Ryan Nielsen from leaving for LSU

After New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen was offered the defensive coordinator position at LSU, the NFL team responded by elevating his position and giving him with a new three-year contract, according to multiple reports.

Nielsen, who recently completed his fourth season on Sean Payton’s staff, is being promoted to assistant head coach, rather than jumping back to the college ranks at LSU. Just a day earlier, Nielson had been reported as finalizing the deal with LSU coach Ed Orgeron, whom he had previously played and worked for at Ole Miss.

The Saints have been highly successful with Nielsen coaching the defensive line. The team has won four successive NFC South titles and, according to ESPN, during his tenure the Saints have ranked No. 1 in the NFL in run defense (94.3 yards allowed per game) and third in sacks (187).

The Saints’ role of assistant head coach has opened with Dan Campbell reportedly set to become head coach of the Detroit Lions.

The LSU coordinator position is becoming problematic for Orgeron, who just a year ago captured the national championship. His defensive coordinator of four seasons, Dave Aranda, was hired after the 2019 season as Baylor’s head coach, and Orgeron brought in former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini.

But after a 5-5 season with a defense that gave up 34.9 points a game, Orgeron fired Pelini last month. He pursued Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, who instead took the coordinator job at Notre Dame, leading to Nielsen becoming the top candidate.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2020; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;  Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Dontario Drummond (11) is tackled by LSU Tigers linebacker Josh White (10) at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

LSU forces 6 turnovers, rallies to defeat Ole Miss

Max Johnson passed for 435 yards and three touchdowns to Kayshon Boutte, who had an SEC-record 308 receiving yards, as LSU defeated Ole Miss, 53-48, in an SEC game Saturday in Baton Rouge, La.

Johnson and Boutte connected on a 45-yard game-winner with 1:34 left and the Tigers held on when JaCoby Stevens recovered Matt Corral’s fumble at the LSU 27 with 40 seconds left.

It was the sixth turnover for Corral, who passed for 251 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown. However, he threw five interceptions before the fumble.

LSU finished 5-5 a year after winning the CFP Championship with a 15-0 record. The Tigers have self-imposed a postseason ban amid an NCAA investigation into the program.

The Rebels fell to 4-5, but still are likely to receive a bowl bid.

Ole Miss overcame a 16-point third-quarter deficit and led 48-40 before Johnson started the LSU comeback by running one yard for a touchdown, though his two-point pass attempt fell incomplete.

LSU led 34-21 at halftime and on the first possession of the third quarter, Corral threw his fifth interception, Jay Ward grabbed his second, leading to Cade York’s 23-yard field goal.

Henry Parrish Jr.’s 10-yard touchdown run and Corral’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Dontario Drummond pulled the Rebels within 37-34.

York kicked a 50-yard field goal before Corral threw a 25-yard touchdown to Braylon Sanders to give the Rebels a 41-40 lead at the seven seconds into the fourth quarter.

Corral threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Sanders on the first possession of the game.

The Tigers drove to York’s 34-yard field goal and Ward intercepted Corral and returned 31 yards for a touchdown that gave them a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Johnson’s 1-yard touchdown run increased the Tigers’ lead to 17-7, but Jerrion Ealy returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

LSU answered with Johnson’s 32-yard touchdown pass before Parrish ran one yard for a touchdown that pulled Ole Miss within 24-21.

Johnson connected with Boutte for an 18-yard touchdown pass that gave the Tigers a 31-21 lead. York’s 34-yard field goal increased LSU’s lead to 34-21 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2020; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels running back Jerrion Ealy (9) runs the ball during the second half against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss vying for bowl game in season finale at LSU

Ole Miss has a good chance to go to a bowl game. LSU can only play spoiler.

The two longtime SEC rivals meet in their regular-season finale Saturday afternoon at Baton Rouge, La.

The Rebels are 4-4 in coach Lane Kiffin’s first season, and they’re eager to play after last week’s game against Texas A&M was canceled because of COVID-19 issues in the Ole Miss program.

“I hope it’s not if it happens; I’m assuming it’s when it happens,” Kiffin said of a potential bowl bid. “We’re excited about that. It helps for development of all your players.”

Ole Miss hasn’t played since beating Mississippi State 31-24 in the Egg Bowl on Nov. 28, a three-week break between games.

“I don’t think it’s ideal,” Kiffin said of the layoff. “We’re definitely going to have fresh legs. That part is good. It has taken a little time getting back into it. Obviously, we wanted to keep playing.”

Kiffin spoke to his players about the significance of playing their second-biggest rival, albeit a much weaker team than last season’s national championship winner.

“You’re going to remember the rest of your life if you go into Tiger Stadium and beat LSU,” Kiffin told the team. “Nobody’s going to remember if it’s COVID or opt-outs or any of that stuff.

“This is a huge game and really important too, besides beating LSU. I think all of you (reporters) would’ve said that this was a successful season, after seeing the all-SEC schedule rollout, that you’re going to have a winning record.”

LSU (4-5) can’t have a winning record and is bowl ineligible after self-imposing a postseason ban amid an NCAA investigation into the program. But the Tigers are coming off their best performance of the season, a 37-34 upset victory at then-No. 6 Florida last Saturday.

The Tigers were coming off a 55-17 loss to No. 1 Alabama and barely had 50 scholarship players available because of COVID-19 issues.

“I think we’re all going to learn from having a week like we had last week where some teams or some men would have crumbled,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “And we decided to get stronger and fight.

“The players dug in. They were not happy. Nobody was. We wanted to represent LSU in the right way. We know what everybody is saying about us out there and all that. It’s not true. We gotta show everybody. The only way you’re going to do it is to show them.”

LSU hopes to get a few more players back this week, but it will still be short-handed.

“I think we have 54 guys available or something like that,” Orgeron said. “If we can do it (at Florida), we can do it at home.”

Freshman quarterback Max Johnson made his first college start against Florida and passed for 239 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions

“I think that we’re very impressed with Max’s leadership, his toughness, his ability to run the football, his ability to make decisions under pressure,” Orgeron said. “And the biggest thing is no turnovers.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2020; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators quarterbacks Kyle Trask (11) throws the ball for a first down in the first half in the game against the LSU Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. Dec. 12, 2020.  Mandatory Credit: Brad McClenny-USA TODAY NETWORK

LSU stuns No. 6 Florida on late field goal

Max Johnson, making his first career start at quarterback, combined with a something-to-prove defense to lead Louisiana State (4-5) to a 37-34 upset of No. 6 Florida (8-2) Saturday night in Gainesville.

Johnson, who had been backing up TJ Finley, helped beat the Gators with his arm and his legs as he ran for 52 yards and went 21-for-36 for 239 yards and three touchdowns passing the ball.

Kayshon Boutte had five catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in the win.

The LSU defense, meanwhile, gave up big yardage to Florida’s passing game and its Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Kyle Trask, but also forced Trask into two interceptions — one for a 68-yard pick six by Eli Ricks in the first half — and a fumble.

The Tigers led 24-17 at halftime, gave up the lead in the third quarter at 31-27 and then came back early in the final quarter to take the lead 34-31 when Johnson tossed a 4-yard TD pass to Tre Bradford.

Trask led the Gators on a drive that tied the score with a 31-yard field goal with 2:51 left. But, LSU, with an assist from a bone-headed penalty on third down by Marco Wilson which saw him throw an LSU player’s shoe down the field that gave the Tigers a first down, moved into field goal position.

Tiger kicker Cade York gave his team the win with a 57-yard field goal with 23 seconds left.

The Gators had a shot to tie the game and send it to overtime with a 51-yard FG with 2 seconds left but the kick went wide left.

The victory took a bit of the sting out of a season gone wrong for the defending national champion Tigers (4-5). They entered the game a 23-point underdog.

LSU (4-5) not only lost games this season, but a large handful of key players who have opted out of the season or entered the transfer portal. It had arrived at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with just 54 scholarship players suited up.

The Tigers still have a chance to finish the season at .500 as they host Ole Miss next Saturday. They will not, however, play in a bowl game. During the week, LSU announced it was self-imposing a ban on bowl this year amid an apparent investigation of rules violations by the NCAA.

With the win, LSU stands at 31-33-3 against Florida. Last year, the Tigers beat the Gators 42-28 in Baton Rouge.

Trask, who was averaging 360 passing yards a game this year, and who had passed for a nation leading 38 TDs, ended the night with 474 yards passing and two touchdowns on 29 completions on 47 attempts.

Hampering the Florida passing game was the announcement that star tight end Kyle Pitts was a late scratch. Pitts was averaging 92 yards receiving a game.

In his absence, Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney caught passes for 98 and 182 yards, respectively.

The loss likely means the end of Florida’s hopes to earn a berth in the four-team CFP championship series.

Despite the loss, the Gators will still play for the conference championship. They had already clinched a berth in the SEC championship, where they will play No. 1 Alabama next weekend, but now that game will be played with mostly pride on the line for Florida.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2020; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask (11) looks to pass the ball against the Tennessee Volunteers during the second half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

No. 6 Florida can’t overlook defending champion LSU

Ranked No. 6 in the latest CFP rankings, the Florida Gators know that their hopes for a national championship just may ride on some team near the top of those rankings slipping up over the final two weeks of the season.

Florida coach Dan Mullen knows that unless his Gators (8-1) play up to their capabilities, the team slipping up just could be his own — especially this weekend when the defending national champion LSU Tigers (3-5) come to Gainesville.

Never mind LSU’s record this season, Mullen warned during his weekend press conference on Monday. The Tigers are loaded with young talent and can explode against any team that overlooks them.

“They’ve got a lot of talent,” Mullen said. “They put up a lot of points. They’ve lost a lot of guys, so they’re a young team.”

“(LSU has) some playmakers and mismatches on offense from the running backs,” Mullen said. “Different wideouts that can cause you issues. Defensively, they got DBs that can cover on the back end and a big physical group up front.”

A week ago against No. 1 Alabama, 33 of the 55 players that LSU put on the field were underclassmen. Nineteen true freshmen have seen playing time for the Tigers.

Even though the Tigers lost big — 55-17 — to Alabama, LSU coach Ed Orgeron said, “I was pleased the offense scored 17 points. We missed that fourth-and-short going in to tie the game 7-7. Could have been a difference in the ballgame very early. We didn’t get that done. We have to improve on that stuff. I thought overall offensively we made some improvements in some areas.”

LSU has used a number of quarterbacks this year. Its current depth chart contains the word “or” a lot: as in it will be either TJ Finley “or” Max Johnson to start on Saturday.

More “or” words appear up and down the two-deep.

A wave of players opting out — including top receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. and, possibly, tight end Arik Gilbert — have introduced “nor” into the conversation.

But Mullen knows that his own team has been far from perfect. He pointed to last weekend’s game when unranked Tennessee threw a bit of a scare at the Gators during their 31-19 victory.

“We’ve just got to execute better,” he said. “It’s not to say we weren’t very good. I think we missed a lot of opportunities last week. I think we had three possessions start on the plus side of the field with zero points. We should be 100 percent on that. I think we left 21 points on the field.”

Executing well this season has been Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Kyle Trask, who has passed for 3,243 yards for 38 TDs with just three interceptions.

“The guy is tough. He’s tough, a competitor,” Orgeron said. “He (Mullen) found him. He’s a diamond in the rough. I think you look at 38 touchdowns to three interceptions. The way he operates, the way he finds the guys. Dan is a great gameday caller. He knows exactly what to do with his quarterback. I think it’s a combination of a great quarterback and a great caller.”

There will be no repeat championship for LSU. But a win or two in the next couple of games could land the Tigers a bowl bid, and Orgeron would take that.

“Another chance to compete, another chance for young players to get better, more practice time,” he said.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2020; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones (10) and offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor Jr. (55) celebrate after a touchdown against the LSU Tigers during the second quarter at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Alabama steamrolls LSU, 55-17

Mac Jones passed for 385 yards and four touchdowns and DeVonta Smith caught three touchdowns as No. 1 Alabama clinched the SEC West title with a 55-17 thrashing of LSU on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.

Jones strengthened his Heisman Trophy candidacy by completing 20 of 28, and Najee Harris added 145 rushing yards and three touchdowns as the Crimson Tide improved to 9-0 on their way to facing East Division champion Florida in the conference title game Dec. 19. They conclude the regular season at Arkansas next week.

Smith caught eight passes for 231 yards.

Alabama beat the Tigers (3-5) for the ninth time in the last 10 meetings, easily avenging last year’s 46-41 loss during LSU’s national championship season.

Coach Nick Saban returned from a one-game absence after testing positive for COVID-19, and the Tide scored touchdowns on each of their first five possessions. Jones completed his first 11 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns.

Alabama gained 470 yards and scored the most points it had ever scored against LSU in a road game as it rolled to a 45-14 halftime lead. The Tide’s final point total was their most ever against the Tigers, and they gained 650 yards.

Harris ran for touchdowns of 14 yards and one yard on the Tide’s first two possessions and Jones followed with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jahleel Billingsley for a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

LSU had a 95-yard touchdown drive, but Jones negated that with a 65-yard touchdown to Smith for a 28-7 lead early in the second quarter.

John Emery Jr. ran 54 yards for a touchdown that pulled the Tigers within 28-14, but after that they managed only a 52-yard field goal by Cade York late in the third quarter.

Jones answered with a 61-yard touchdown pass to Smith for a 35-14 lead.

Will Reichard kicked a 30-yard field goal and Jones and Smith teamed on a 20-yard touchdown pass for a 45-14 halftime lead.

Harris ran 11 yards for a third-quarter touchdown and Reichard kicked a 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

–Field Level Media