COLLEGE STATION, Texas - LSU football wasn't stunned on Saturday. The Tigers were beaten badly.
No. 6 LSU (9-3, 6-2 SEC) was thoroughly pounded by Texas A&M, 38-23, on Saturday night in College Station. The Tigers couldn't stop an Aggies offense that had failed to score more than 30 points against an FBS opponent heading into the night.
After trailing 17-10 at halftime, LSU seemed to right the ship in the third quarter. The Tigers had the ball after forcing consecutive stops against Texas A&M (5-7, 2-6) and scoring a touchdown in their first possession of the second half.
But Jayden Daniels fumbled on a crucial third down in LSU territory. The fumble was picked up by Texas A&M defensive back Demani Richardson, who scored to give the lead back to the Aggies.
LSU then went three-and-out on its next possession and surrendered an eight-play, 83-yard drive touchdown drive to give Texas A&M a two-score lead.
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The Tigers added a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but it was already too late. The score only cut the deficit to 15 points with 6:21 left to play. LSU also failed to convert a two-point conversion.
The defeat eliminates LSU from the College Football Playoff discussion as it heads into next Saturday's matchup against No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. After this performance, it's hard to believe the Tigers would even have a chance.
A first half defined by long drives
Long, time-consuming drives defined the first half for both teams.
After LSU punted on its first possession, the Aggies and Tigers traded long scoring drives. Texas A&M went on a 15-play, 90-yard march to take the first lead of the game, 7-0, before LSU answered with its own 12-play 75-yard touchdown drive.
By the time LSU's drive had ended, a minute had already passed by in the second quarter. The two sides then traded field goals on drives of more than 10 plays.
The running game is often key to sustaining long drives, and that's what both teams displayed in the opening half. Texas A&M had 137 rushing yards, mostly from star running back Devon Achane. LSU finished the half with 64 yards.
A terrible performance for LSU's defense
LSU, which entered with the No. 11 defense in the nation according to ESPN's College Football Power Index, couldn't get off the field in the first half against the No. 88 offense in Texas A&M.
The Aggies scored on each of their three first-half drives, running the ball almost at will and passing efficiently. Freshman quarterback Conner Weigman completed 9 of 12 attempts for 82 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He also ran for 19 yards, with two scrambles that extended drives on third-and-long.
LSU didn't have many busts in coverage or surrender a ton of big plays. They were mostly nickel-and-dimed by an Aggies offense that converted on 7 of 8 third downs, most of them being the third-and-short variety.
The Tigers defense played better to start the second half, forcing consecutive three-and-outs on Texas A&M's first two drives. But the Aggies scored touchdowns on their next two drives, largely thanks to a couple of great catches by wide receiver Moose Muhammad, including a one-handed grab that resulted in the first of the two scores.
John Emery, Noah Cain step up
With Josh Williams still nursing a knee injury and Armoni Goodwin out for the year, LSU's rushing attack needed its two veterans, Noah Cain and John Emery Jr., to step up.
And they did.
Cain had 48 rushing yards on 11 carries, while Emery added 52 yards on eight attempts following LSU's first drive of the fourth quarter. When Emery scored LSU's game-tying score in the third quarter, he was averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
Williams was dressed to play but didn't have any carries through the first three quarters. As LSU's lead running back for most of the season, he was instrumental in the Tigers' improved rushing attack.
Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: LSU football falls to Texas A&M, ends College Football Playoff hopes