LSU football: How did Jayden Daniels play? 5 questions after Tigers' win over Miss. St.
BATON ROUGE - LSU football grabbed its biggest win to date in the Brian Kelly era on Saturday, defeating Mississippi State 31-16 to open SEC play.
The Tigers' defense was superb from start to finish, flummoxing coach Mike Leach and his Air Raid scheme. LSU's offense struggled early but improved as the game went along.
Here are five questions surrounding LSU that need to be answered following the win.
How should we evaluate Jayden Daniels' performance?
With a healthy dose of pessimism. Daniels played better in the second half, but his inability to quickly find receivers and keep his eyes downfield anytime he left the pocket was painfully noticeable, particularly in the first half.
When LSU's offense went more uptempo in the second half, the results improved. The pace softened up Mississippi State's defense and allowed Daniels to find his primary target or check down quicker.
But relying on tempo this much to help Daniels and the offense is dangerous. It makes the attack more one-dimensional and places more pressure on the Tigers' defense.
Did the freshmen offensive tackles play well?
Right tackle Emery Jones and left tackle Will Campbell were spectacular. According to Pro Football Focus, neither allowed a single pressure and led the way in a strong performance for the offensive line in pass protection.
Jones was particularly impressive, as he was inserted into the starting lineup with right guard Anthony Bradford out (last week's right tackle Mile Frazier was bumped to guard). Considering that Jones came to LSU as a guard and Saturday was his first start, his performance went beyond what anyone could have imagined.
Campbell, meanwhile, has been a starter since the opener but has steadily improved since allowing three pressures against Florida State.
How did LSU's defense shut down Will Rogers?
By applying pressure up front and forcing Rogers to make deeper throws.
When he was pressured, the Mississippi State quarterback only mustered three completions on nine dropbacks. He had a 29.2 NFL passer rating in those situations and his average depth of target was just 2.2 yards.
LSU also took away Rogers' short game, as he completed just 6 of 14 pass attempts from 0-to-9 yards. So it forced him to make deeper throws that more often than not weren't caught, as he completed 5 of 12 attempts that went 10 or more yards.
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Who had some of the key performances in the secondary?
Jay Ward had an incredible performance, but Mekhi Garner and Major Burns were also beyond exceptional in coverage.
Ward led the team in tackles (11) and had the game-clinching interception. But Garner and Burns combined to allow just three receptions on 12 targets. Rogers' NFL passer rating when targeting Garner was just 43.8, while with Burns it was even lower at 39.6.
Both players also weren't afraid to get physical in coverage and neither of them surrendered any big plays.
Why did the running game improve in the second half?
LSU struggled to get any formal running game going in the first three quarters, as the running back corps had only 22 rushing yards.
But LSU's offensive line eventually wore down Mississippi State's front. And with the Tigers still only up by eight with four minutes and 50 seconds left to play, it was Armoni Goodwin's 47-yard touchdown run up the middle that sealed the victory.
"What was evident to me was our physical conditioning," Kelly said. "In the third and fourth quarter, we were able to control the line of scrimmage. And when everybody knew we needed to run the football ... we ran the football effectively."
Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.