BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Jayden Daniels completed 10 of 11 passes for 137 yards, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another score in just five drives, and LSU built a 51-0 halftime lead over Southern before cruising to a 65-17 victory on Saturday night in the first matchup of the two universities from Louisiana’s capital city.
The lopsided triumph was the first at LSU (1-1) for coach Brian Kelly, who was lured away from Notre Dame after last season by a 10-year contract worth about $100 million.
Daniels’ scoring passes went for 17 yards to Jack Bech, 5 yards to Malik Nabers and 44 yards to Brian Thomas. The last of those ended the night for the senior quarterback, who won the starting job after transferring from Arizona State.
Southern (1-1), which a week earlier had opened up a 42-0 lead in a season-opening 86-0 victory against NAIA program Florida Memorial, saw the tables turn.
LSU scored five touchdowns in the first 10:16 of the game, including a 29-yard interception return by linebacker Micah Baskerville. The Tigers led 37-0 after Baskerville blocked Southern punter Robens Beauplan’s punt and the ball bounded through the end zone for a safety with 1:31 left in the first quarter.
After Southern fumbled the opening kickoff, Daniels scored the first TD of the game on his 18-yard scramble, which he finished by diving for the right pylon. LSU also scored on short runs by Josh Williams and Noah Cain in the first half. Armoni Goodwin rushed for a pair of short TDs in the second half.
Southern didn’t score until Benny McCray intercepted LSU backup QB Garrett Nussmeier — who attempted an underhanded throw while being dragged down — and ran free the other way for a 94-yard TD with 3:45 left in the third quarter.
Southern: The Jaguars looked overmatched, and it didn’t help that they had the misfortune of playing an LSU squad looking to respond emphatically to an emotional season-opening loss. Starting quarterback BeSean McCray completed half of his 14 throws for 42 yards without a TD and was intercepted once. The Jags lost four fumbles in all.
LSU: While Kelly had portrayed the preseason QB competition between Daniels and Nussmeier as a close one, there was a clear disparity in their performance. Making his first appearance this season, Nussmeier was intercepted twice and did not throw for a TD. He finished 13 of 23 for 183 yards, with 60 yards coming on a deep pass down the right sideline to Nabers.
The Southern marching band, known as the “Human Jukebox,” drew some of the loudest cheers of the night for its historic first performance in Death Valley. Band members impressively formed the halftime score of 51-0 without missing a step.
The LSU band also performed, as usual, before both bands joined together — to raucous applause — as they formed a heart and the local area code 225 while playing “Cupid Shuffle.”
Most of a sellout crowd of about 102,000 appeared to have remained in their seats for the much anticipated halftime show, and many of them were gone early in the third quarter.
Southern: Visits Texas Southern for its SWAC opener on Sept. 17.
LSU: Opens SEC play, hosting Mississippi State on Sept. 17.