LSU’s Kelly: Daniels ‘at a level I have never seen before’

NSU QB Jayden Daniels slaps hands with fans running off the field after Saturday’s 56-15 win over Georgia State in Tiger Stadium. (Photo courtesy of LSU Athletics)

BATON ROUGE – With Heisman Trophy ballots a week away from being distributed, Jayden Daniels’ Heisman Trophy campaign manager/LSU head football coach Brian Kelly said here Monday that his senior quarterback is “playing the game of football at a level that I have never seen before.”

Daniels won SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors for the fifth time this season (sharing it with Missouri QB Brady Cook). With another record-setting performance in last Saturday’s blowout of Georgia State, he joined 2021 Heisman winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M as the only players in SEC history to pass for 3,500 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

In 11 games for the 8-3 Tigers, Daniels has passed for 3,577 yards and 36 TDs and rushed for 1,014 yards and 10 TDs.

Heisman finalists are announced in two weeks on Dec. 4 and the winner is revealed on Dec. 9 in New York, so LSU’s last regular season game Saturday vs. SEC West rival Texas A&M in Tiger Stadium is Daniels’ final chance to gain more votes.

He’s done a good job of that the last two Saturdays.

Daniels’ 8 TDs – 6 passing and 2 rushing – in the 56-14 pounding of Georgia State tied 2019 Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow’s LSU single-game record for TD responsibility. What’s more, Daniels’ 509 total offense yards made him the only player in SEC history with more than 600 and 500 total offense yards in consecutive games.

“I’m chasing to be great each and every week,” Daniels said after the win over Georgia State. “I’ve still got a long way to go. I put in the work, day in and day out. You can’t cheat the game of football. You really got to go out there and just give it your all.”

Two Saturdays ago, in the Tigers’ 52-35 win over Florida, Daniels set an SEC single-game total offense yardage record of 606 yards (372 passing, 234 yards) and 5 TDs (3 passing, 2 rushing). He also became the first player in FBS (NCAA Division 1-A) history to pass for more than 350 yards and rush for more than 200 yards in a game. His rushing yards were the most ever by an SEC QB in a game.

Daniels, who leads the nation in seven stat categories, and Oregon QB Bo Nix (an Auburn transfer) are in a two-man race for the Heisman. On Monday, Daniels moved to the top of the Heisman odds on BetMGM.

He’s No. 1 nationally in total offense (417.4 ypg), passing efficiency (208.34), passing TDs (36), rushing yards per carry (8.18), rushing yards by a QB (1,014 yards), points responsible for (278) and points responsible for per game (25.3).

Also, Daniels has made 81 plays of 20 or more yards (more than 7 per game) with 64 passing and 17 rushing.

“I’ve watched the other players (Nix, Washington QB Michael Penix Jr.) and they’re terrific players, too,” Kelly said. “But what he’s (Daniels) doing is so different in terms of what I’ve seen in my career, in terms of pushing the ball down the field, the accuracy in terms of dropping balls into tight coverages. running the football and the assertiveness he’s shown throwing the football.

“These aren’t screen passes. These aren’t swing passes. These aren’t cupcake throws. All of his throws are vertical throws, and he’s pushing the ball down the field, and his runs are not like, `Wow, where is everybody? ‘He’s making people miss.

“He’s taken hits to run the football. We can count on one hand the times he’s slid. He doesn’t slide. He shows toughness.”

KNOW YOUR ENEMY

No. 14 LSU (8-3 overall, 5-2 SEC West) vs. Texas A&M (7-4, 4-3 SEC West), Tiger Stadium, Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPN

Last game for Texas A&M: Won at home Saturday 38-10 over Abilene Christian. The Aggies had 448 yards, while the defense held its opponent from scoring an offensive touchdown for the fourth time this season.

Series record and last meeting: LSU leads 35-22-3. Last November in College Station, Texas A&M won 38-23. A&M’s Devon Achane rushed for 215 yards and 2 TDs on 38 carries.

Interim Texas A&M head coach: Elijah Robinson (1-0 overall)

THIS AND THAT

Early betting line: LSU is an 11-point favorite.

Number of Louisiana natives on Texas A&M roster: 5

Number of Texas natives on LSU roster: 13

Number of transfers on Texas A&M roster from 4-year schools: 17 players from 16 schools including 7 players from 6 Power 5 Conference schools

TEXAS A&M PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Jaylen Henderson (27 of 42 for 410 yards, 4 TDs, 1 interception) RB Amari Daniels (505 rushing yards, 5 TDs on 92 carries), WR Ainias Smith (45 catches for 736 receiving yards, 2 TDs), LB Edgerrin Cooper (75 tackles, 16 TFL, 7 sacks, 8 QB hurries, 2 PBU, 2 FF), DE Shemar Thomas (31 tackles, 10½ TFL, 6 sacks, 3 QB hurries), PK/KO Randy Bond (22 of 30 field goals, 43 of 43 extra points, 60 kickoffs for 63.2 pko, 30 touchbacks, 1 out of bounds), P Nik Constantinou (36 for 40.83 ypp, 18 fair catches, 14 inside the 20, six, 50 or more yards), PR Ainias Smith (19 for 289 yards, 1 TD) and KR Rueben Owens (8 for 154)

POP QUIZ

1. How much has Texas A&M paid collectively in buyouts to its last four fired head football coaches?

A. $56.8 million

B. $42.3 million

C. $98.2 million

D. $39.7 million

2. What did the Aggie say when he called the locksmith?

A. “Do you unlock just houses?”

B. “Can you open combination locks?”

C. “How much do you charge?”

D. “Please hurry. I locked my car keys in my convertible, the top is down and it’s starting to rain.”

3. How many consecutive seasons at one point did LSU play Texas A&M in Baton Rouge?

A. 5

B. 16

C. 10

D. 8

ANSWERS: 1. C 2. D 3. B

Contact Ron at ronhigginsmedia@gmail.com