BATON ROUGE - Max Johnson connected with Jaray Jenkins for a 28-yard touchdown with 20 seconds to play, as the LSU Football team stunned No. 14 Texas A&M, 27-24, with an 85-yard game-winning drive on the final Saturday night in Tiger Stadium of the 2021 season.
LSU (6-6, 3-5 SEC) led for the entire evening until Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC) scored a touchdown on a 32-yard catch-and-run that put the Aggies ahead 24-20 with 7:33 remaining.
The Tigers became bowl-eligible with the victory. Postseason announcements are expected on the Sunday following the Dec. 4 SEC Championship game.
In his postgame press conference following the game, Ed Orgeron announced that tonight would be his final game as head coach of the LSU Tigers. Orgeron said that Offensive Line Coach Brad Davis will be the interim head coach for the duration of the 2021 postseason. On Oct. 17, it was announced that Orgeron and the Tigers would part ways following the 2021 season.
Johnson's final-minute drive ensured Orgeron would go out a winner. The sophomore quarterback completed 5-of-7 passes for 86 yards on the game-winning drive that took 1 minute, 38 seconds. On third-and-10 from the Aggies 28, Johnson stood in the pocket and took a hit just as he released a pass toward the right sideline and into the path of a streaking Jenkins, who caught it at the 5 and touched down just past the goal line.
The crowd erupted as the Tigers took a 26-24 lead, and Cade York tacked on his 118th-consecutive PAT for the final margin.
Orgeron, the 2019 National Championship head coach, finished 51-20 during his five-plus season tenure after taking over the 2016 squad as the interim head coach on Sept. 25, 2016.
Johnson completed 22-of-38 passes for 306 yards with three touchdowns, while Jenkins caught eight passes for 169 yards with touchdowns of 45 and 28 yards. Wide receiver Trey Palmer had a 61-yard touchdown catch-and-run and finished with five receptions for 64 yards. Freshman receiver Malik Nabers added six catches for 51 yards.
Tyrion Davis-Price led LSU with 84 rushing yards on 19 carries, becoming the 15th Tiger to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a single season.
York continued his all-America campaign with field goals of 50 and 47 yards. York has made 15-of-18 field goals in 2021 including 5-of-7 from at least 50 yards.
LSU's defense kept the Aggies at bay for much of the contest, helping the Tigers take a 17-7 halftime lead after allowing 6 net rushing yards.
The Tigers recorded nine tackles for loss including four sacks of quarterback Zach Calzada. Butkus Award finalist linebacker Damone Clark led the Tigers with 10 tackles including 2.5 sacks and a quarterback hurry.
LSU outgained Texas A&M, 412-296.
LSU took the opening kickoff and moved 44 yards in 13 plays, with the drive finishing on a 50-yard field goal by Cade York. The kick marked the 15th career field goal for York of 50+ yards and his fifth in that range this season.
The Aggies managed one first down on their opening possession, but the LSU defense forced a punt that was fair caught by Trey Palmer at the Tigers' 14-yard line.
From there, LSU advanced to the Texas A&M 43-yard line, but the drive stalled there and Avery Atkins' punt was downed at the Aggies' 12. Texas A&M, however, gained just three yards in three plays, and after an Aggie punt, the Tigers regained possession at their own 34.
LSU rolled 66 yards in four plays to the end zone, as quarterback Max Johnson connected with wide receiver Jaray Jenkins on a 45-yard touchdown pass to give the Tigers a 10-0 lead at the 14:12 mark of the second quarter.
The score extended LSU's streak of completing at least one TD pass to 41 straight games. Johnson moved into eighth place on LSU's career passing TD list with 33.
Texas A&M got on the scoreboard with 4:31 remaining in the second quarter when quarterback Zach Calzada fired a 13-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Moose Muhammad III. The touchdown capped a seven-play, 73-yard march for the Aggies and narrowed the deficit to 10-7.
A sack of Calzada by LSU defensive Jacquelin Roy helped to keep the Aggies bottled up deep in their own territory late in the second half, and after a Texas A&M punt, the Tigers gained possession at their 38 with 1:06 left before halftime.
LSU capitalized on the opportunity, as on the second play of the drive, Johnson hit wide receiver Trey Palmer on a 61-yard catch-and-run TD, allowing the Tigers to take a 17-7 lead into the locker room. The score was Johnson's 34th career touchdown pass, moving him into a tie for seventh on the all-time LSU list with Jamie Howard (1992-95) and Jordan Jefferson (2008-11).
LSU dominated the first half statistics, outgaining the Aggies in total yardage, 243-118, and limiting Texas A&M to six rushing yards.
On its second possession of the second half, the Aggies drove 63 yards in 10 plays, and the march was culminated by Seth Small's 33-yard field goal, reducing the Tigers' lead to 17-10 at the 8:09 mark of the third period.
Later in the quarter, after an LSU punt, the Aggies had the ball at the Tigers' 47-yard line, but Calzada threw three incomplete passes and Texas A&M was forced to punt.
LSU took over at its own 12-yard line, and the Tigers drove 59 yards on nine plays, capping the march with York's 47-yard field goal. The drive, which was highlighted by running back Tyrion Davis-Price's 29-yard dash to the Aggies' 43, gave LSU a 20-10 advantage at the 2:29 mark of the third quarter.
The Aggies responded by marching 75 yards in seven plays, completing the drive on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Calzada to wide receiver Jalen Preston, narrowing the gap to 20-17 with 14:22 left in the game.
The Tigers managed one first down on the ensuing drive, but were forced to punt the football back to the Aggies, who gained possession at their own 36 with 12:26 remaining in the contest. The LSU defense, however, again rose to the occasion and forced a Texas A&M punt after three Calzada passes fell incomplete.
After the Aggies' defense stopped a drive deep in LSU territory, Texas A&M took over at the Tigers' 45 and scored in six plays, as Calzada eluded a heavy rush and found Preston, who weaved his way through the secondary to completed a 32-yard scoring play. The catch and run gave the Aggies a 24-20 lead with 7:33 on the clock.
After a terrific play on third down by Clark forced a punt, LSU regained possession at its 15-yard line. The Tigers picked up first downs with an 11-yard reception on fourth down by tight end Jack Bech, a 31-yard catch by Jenkins to the Aggies 39, and 11 yards to Nabers to the 28. With 26 seconds to play, Johnson stood in the pocket and hit Jenkins in stride at the 5-yard line and crossed the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown.
After York's PAT, LSU led 27-24 with 20 seconds to play.
A dropped pass and two sacks by LSU's Clark ended the Aggies' evening at its 20-yard line.