LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels has been in the Heisman conversation all season long, but it was his performance against Florida that has given him his “Heisman” moment. Not only did the Tigers’ star dual threat quarterback have one Heisman moment, but he had his fair share of plenty throughout the game with spectacular plays throughout including an 85-yard rushing touchdown, a 51-yard rushing touchdown, and a 37-yard touchdown pass.
“He’s the best quarterback in the country. He’s the best playmaker in the country. I’ve watched them all. We’re 7-3. That doesn’t mean anything. It matters who the best player is and he’s the best player.”LSU HC Brian Kelly on Jayden Daniels’ Heisman chances
Just like when Daniels fully stamped his name as LSU’s QB1 last season with a six-touchdown performance against the Gators in 2022, he put his stamp in the Heisman Trophy race with a five-touchdown encore and a SEC single game record of 606 (372 passing, 234 rushing) total yards of offense in 2023. LSU’s star quarterback did something that has never been done before and that is pass for 350+ and run for 200+. With this performance, he also became the first FBS quarterback to throw for 12,000 yards and run for 3,000.
“If he didn’t win (the Heisman) tonight, then he’s got to be the leading candidate,” said head coach Brian Kelly postgame. “He did something tonight that nobody has ever done. If that doesn’t make you the leading candidate, then maybe the Heisman isn’t for the best player.”LSU HC Brian Kelly on Jayden Daniels’ Heisman worthy performance
Daniels outgained Florida by himself at 606-488, and it certainly was one of the greatest individual performances in LSU history, but he was quick to praise his teammates.
“I can’t do it on my own. Some things I am able to do on my own, but not always. The offensive line got a block, the running backs have to do what they have to do, and the receivers have to make plays. I’m just in the back trying to give them the ball and let them do what they do. The offensive line is doing an incredible job up front just dominating the opponent.”LSU QB Jayden Daniels on giving teammates credit for his performance
He got great support from two running backs Josh Williams and Noah Cain, who each had touchdowns and had to step up for Logan Diggs, who was out with an upper body injury, and John Emery Jr., who injured his knee during the game. Coach Brian Kelly was quick to point out and single out their performances first at the postgame press conference.
“I’d like to start with Noah Cain. Noah Cain, Josh Williams coming in, here’s two guys that haven’t played all year. When we need a couple guys that are seniors-look, you guys want me to talk about Jayden Daniels; I get it, okay? But, you’re going to listen to me, okay? Because I’ve got the podium, you’re going to have to listen to me, and that’s just the way it goes. Today, when you have a player like that (Jayden Daniels) and a guy like Noah Cain and Josh Williams, you want to put those guys out in front so others can see that’s the way you do it. So, thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about those guys because we’re blessed that we have them.”LSU HC Brian Kelly on Josh Williams and Noah Cain
Defensively, the Tigers gave up three rushing touchdowns to running back Trevor Etienne and close to 500 total yards of offense, but the defense did enough to secure the victory as that side of the football was led by Omar Speights, who had 12 tackles, and Javien Toviano, who had 10 tackles. Also, Harold Perkins Jr., Bradyn Swinson, Jordan Jefferson, Saivion Jones, and Paris Shand combined for four sacks.
LSU took the opening kickoff and marched down the field 75 yards for the opening score as Josh Williams was able to punch it in the end zone with a one-yard touchdown to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
Florida immediately responded by easily going down the field 75 yards on eight plays as Mertz was a perfect four for four on the drive including a nine-yard touchdown pass to Eugene Wilson in order to tie the game at seven a piece.
LSU looked like it was on its way to score another touchdown, but Florida was able to get a goal line stand as Williams was stuffed four times. However, LSU’s defense was able to make a big play as Bradyn Swinson forced a Mertz fumble and freshman Javien Toviano was able to recover it to give the Tigers the ball back.
Florida’s defense rose to the occasion on fourth down once again by forcing another turnover on downs denying them any points.
LSU got two big plays from Daniels to get inside the red zone, but the drive stalled, and Damian Ramos had to settle for a field goal to give the Tigers a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Daniels then had the first of many big runs with an 85-yard scamper down the sidelines for the touchdown to ignite the home crowd and give them a two-possession lead at 17-7.
Florida would respond again, but not without a little controversy as LSU safety Andre Sam was ejected for targeting in what was a questionable call. The Gators took advantage of another unnecessary roughness penalty with a seven yard touchdown run by Etienne to pull within three at 17-14.
LSU would take that three-point margin to the second half and started the final 30 minutes strong with a defensive stop and an 81-yard scoring drive that resulted in a Kaleb Jackson touchdown run to put the Tigers up ahead once again by 10 at 24-14.
Florida came soaring back with not only a 21 yard touchdown run by Etienne, but also the special teams recovered a Kaleb Jackson fumble on the ensuing kickoff to give the Gators an extra possession they desperately needed. The Gators cashed in on a Florida sneak by Mertz to give them their first lead of the game at 28-24.
After that, Daniels took over with his second rushing touchdown run of the game and this time, it was even more impressive than the 85-yard scamper earlier as he weaved his way through the Gators defense for an unreal 51-yard rushing touchdown to give the Tigers the lead back at 31-28.
LSU would never relinquish that lead as Daniels then added a six-yard touchdown pass to Noah Cain for his first passing score of the game. Although Florida did get a third touchdown run by Etienne to pull within three at 38-35, the Gators defense simply could not stop the Tigers offense as Daniels added two more touchdown passes to Thomas to put the nail in the coffin.
This was a tough loss for Billy Napier and the Florida Gators as this loss put them at 5-5 and 3-4 in conference play.
The LSU Tigers improve to 7-3 and are still on pace to have a second straight 10 plus winning season if they win out, but also, this game now puts Jayden Daniels on the pedestal when it comes to the Heisman conversation. Just ask his teammates and see why he should be in the conversation if not the front runner.
“His God-given ability makes Jayden extremely unique. Being a quarterback with elite running and passing abilities is special, and he helps us find success. Sharing the same field with him is amazing and a true honor.”LSU WR Brian Thomas Jr.
“Give him the Heisman now. He’s been a difference maker all season and I don’t think there’s another player more deserving. He is the best quarterback in the country without a doubt and he showed it tonight. The adversity that he had to fight through all week to get back and help us win. There’s not a better quarterback than him right now.”LSU RB Noah Cain
“I mean, Coach Kelly, told us that it was the first time in FBS history that a quarterback has had those type of stats. So, I think that was pretty amazing for Jayden to comeback after last week, facing adversity throughout practice all week, showing his team that he’s a captain: he’s going to be there for us. To come out here and perform like that is amazing. That’s why he is our captain.”LSU RB Josh Williams
During the game, Daniels celebrated with Garrett Nussmeier by striking the Heisman pose. When you ask him if this was his “Heisman moment”, Daniels responded by saying this:
“I would say so. I think it’s possible. I just give thanks to God and my teammates because without them, I wouldn’t be in this situation.”LSU QB Jayden Daniels
Actions speak louder than words, and in tonight’s game, Daniels’ performance was as loud as 100,000 screaming fans in Tiger Stadium when it comes to his Heisman case.
Offensive Cumulative Stats
|NET TOTAL YARDS||488||701|
|NET RUSHING YARDS||177||329|
|Average Per Rush||4.2||9.4|
|NET PASSING YARDS||311||372|
|Avg Per Completion||12.0||21.9|
|TOTAL 1ST DOWNS||27||25|
|Rushing 1st Downs||9||11|
|Passing 1st Downs||16||14|
|Penalty 1st Downs||2||0|
Offense Efficiency Comparison:
|RED ZONE ATTEMPTS||4-5||5-6|
|Red Zone Points||28||31|
|RZ TDs Rush-Pass||3-1||2-2|
|RZ FG Made-Att||0-0||1-1|
|Pts Off Turns||0||0|
Special Teams Comparison:
|Tackles for Loss||3||5|
Florida Field Goals:
|TOTAL||0-0||LONG OF 0|
Florida All Purpose Yards
|3||Marshall Jr.,Jason (DB)||3||3||0||0||0||2||0||0|
Florida Punt Returns:
Florida Kick Returns:
Florida Team Stats By Quarter:
Florida Scoring Summary:
|1||08:58||TD||PASS||Wilson III,Eugene 9 yd reception thrown by Mertz,Graham||8/75/03:01||7-7|
|2||04:30||TD||RUSH||Etienne,Trevor 7 yd rush||8/75/03:51||17-14|
|3||09:37||TD||RUSH||Etienne,Trevor 21 yd rush||4/75/01:28||24-21|
|3||07:16||TD||RUSH||Mertz,Graham 1 yd rush||5/23/02:16||24-28|
|4||10:27||TD||RUSH||Etienne,Trevor 5 yd rush||13/75/06:51||38-35|
LSU Field Goals:
|TOTAL||1-1||LONG OF 28|
LSU All Purpose Yards:
|4||Perkins Jr.,Harold (LB)||8||6||1||1||0||0||1||1|
|30||Penn III,Greg (LB)||6||2||0||0||0||0||0||0|
LSU Punt Returns:
LSU Kick Returns:
LSU Team Stats By Quarter:
LSU Scoring Summary:
|1||11:59||TD||RUSH||Williams,Josh 1 yd rush||7/75/03:01||7-0|
|2||11:52||FG||Ramos,Damian 28 yd Field Goal||7/79/02:46||10-7|
|2||08:21||TD||RUSH||Daniels,Jayden 85 yd rush||1/85/00:13||17-7|
|3||11:05||TD||RUSH||Jackson,Kaleb 5 yd rush||6/81/02:32||24-14|
|3||06:09||TD||RUSH||Daniels,Jayden 51 yd rush||4/75/01:07||31-28|
|3||02:18||TD||PASS||Cain,Noah 6 yd reception thrown by Daniels,Jayden||5/70/02:01||38-28|
|4||09:14||TD||PASS||Thomas Jr.,Brian 37 yd reception thrown by Daniels,Jayden||3/75/01:13||45-35|
|4||02:25||TD||PASS||Thomas Jr.,Brian 7 yd reception thrown by Daniels,Jayden||7/49/04:09||52-35|
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