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LSU-A&M was even better than the records and aftermath suggest

Behind the insanity of Saturday night’s instant classic were lots of players making huge plays in huge moments.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Texas A&M Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M’s seven-overtime, 74-72 win over LSU on Saturday night was maybe the best game of the year (hopefully we get a lot more contenders for that crown in the coming weeks) and will almost certainly be remembered as the craziest.

Bad calls! Bang-bang calls that might have been bad, but it’s hard to tell!

The highest-scoring FBS game ever!

Heavily Zapruder’d post-game fight!

There was a lot going on here.

There was so much going on that it distracts us from how amazing the actual game was.

Let’s recap:

1. Still looking for its first win over LSU as a conference rival and since 1995, A&M took a 17-7 lead late in the first half.

2. LSU’s Cole Tracy made his first of a few huge field goals, a 47-yarder at the halftime buzzer, and LSU scored midway through the third quarter to tie.

3. A&M took the lead again, but Devin White forced a Trayveon Williams fumble early in the fourth quarter, and Michael Divinity took it 58 yards to tie again.

4. After an A&M three-and-out, Lanard Fournette ripped off a 46-yard run that set up a go-ahead, 14-yard score from Joe Burrow to Foster Moreau with 6:41 left.

5. A&M drove to the LSU 37 in response, but a Kellen Mond scramble on fourth down came up a couple of yards short, and LSU got the ball back with 2:32 left.

6. In need of basically one first down to ice the game, LSU managed only five yards in three rushes. A&M took over at its 22 with 1:29 left and no timeouts. This had been an interesting, back-and-forth game before the flood of oddities began.

7. The oddities began. Mond threw the game-clinching interception, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron got a Gatorade bath, and ... the play was called back because Mond’s knee ever-so-briefly touched the ground when he was gathering the snap.

8. On fourth-and-18 from the A&M 39, Mond hit Quartney Davis for 20 yards and a first down. The first down line on the SEC Network broadcast was off, however, so every viewer watching thought Davis came up a half-yard short, and that LSU just got screwed. The chains said otherwise. Peter Burns was correct here:

9. After a 22-yard completion to Kendrick Rogers, Mond just barely gets the ball spiked (perhaps with an illegal formation) before the last second ticks off of the clock.

10. On the final play of regulation, Mond and Davis connected for a 19-yard score to send the game to OT.

From there came the normal, back-and-forth action that college overtimes are designed to produce, except there was a whole lot of it. LSU took the lead in the first, third, fifth, and seventh OT periods, and A&M took the lead in the second, fourth, and sixth, before an A&M two-point conversion made the difference in OT No. 7, tying for the longest in FBS history. Plus we had some more wacky, bang-bang calls and then a confusing fight.

It was an exhausting mess. But it distracted us from all the things that made this game exhausting and wild even before OT.

With the advanced box score as our guide, let’s see what else we may have either forgotten or not noticed at all about Saturday night’s marathon:

SB Nation college football stat profiles

1. A&M’s path to victory was ... unlikely

The Aggies’ post-game win expectancy — a number that pools the most predictive stats from a given game and says “With this output, you could have expected to win this game X percent of the time” — was just 36 percent.

They were outdone from an efficiency standpoint (success rate: LSU 47 percent, A&M 43), and the number of fumbles and passes defensed for both teams suggested that LSU should have had a positive turnover margin. Instead, it was even.

These sound like pretty trivial things, but when you win the efficiency and expected turnover battles, your odds of winning the game are high. And that is, of course, without talking about any sort of shaky officiating that may or may not have occurred (okay, it occurred).

2. Joe Burrow was the LSU run game

The announcers were harping on this in overtime, so you were probably aware, but ... damn:

  • Burrow: 23 non-sack carries, 131 yards, 57 percent success rate
  • Nick Brossette, Fournette, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire: 21 carries, 112 yards, 43 percent success rate

Take out Fournette’s long run, and the backs averaged 3.3 yards per carry. This highlighted one of LSU’s 2018 contradictions: this is a run-heavy, power-oriented offense that can’t run. In this game, however, coordinator Steve Ensminger figured out a way around it. After averaging just 5.7 non-sack rushes per game through 11 games, Burrow ran and ran and ran. And it mostly worked.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Texas A&M
LSU running back Joe Burrow
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

3. Kellen Mond only made big passes

All year, A&M’s QB has showed toughness in his ability to make mistakes and keep pushing forward. He nearly led A&M to a comeback win over Clemson in Week 2, and he made plenty of big passes in wins over Kentucky and South Carolina. This was his damnedest performance of the season.

  • The national average for success rate on standard downs in 2018 is 46 percent. A&M’s against LSU was 42.
  • The national average for success rate on passing downs in 2018 is 31 percent. A&M’s was ... 45.

A&M’s offense was actually better in second- or third-and-long than on, say, second-and-medium or third-and-short. And this actually got exaggerated in overtime.

  • Mond in regulation: 19-for-38 for 214 yards and two touchdowns
  • Mond in overtime: 4-for-11 for 73 yards ... and four touchdowns


He was otherwise 0-for-7. Kendrick Rogers will be remembered for his two overtime touchdowns — one in particular — plus the one on the second-to-last play of regulation. The other four times Mond targeted him were all incompletions. Some people just enjoy adverse circumstances.

4. Devin White and Jacoby Stevens played the game of their lives

White and Divinity have been the stars of the LSU defense this year, combining for 119 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and 31 run stuffs. But while Divinity was mostly quiet aside from his fumble return, White and sophomore safety JaCoby Stevens were everywhere. They combined for 26 tackles, eight TFLs, a sack, a breakup, and a forced fumble. LSU recorded 21 havoc plays (TFLs, FFs, or passes defensed) in 107 snaps; White and Stevens had nearly half of them.

5. Trayveon Williams hopefully spent most of Sunday in bed

He earned it. Granted, his fumble was costly, but you can overlook that when you see the rest of his line: 35 carries, 198 yards, two touchdowns. His scores gave A&M leads of 7-0 and 24-17, and he was forced to carry the Aggies through most of regulation thanks to Rogers being mostly invisible and really only receiver Quartney Davis having a semi-efficient day through the air.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Texas A&M
Trayveon Williams’ face scores the go-ahead touchdown.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

LSU’s defense hits quite hard. This was a heavy load to carry.

6. A moment of appreciation for Cole Tracy

Remember in the 2011 LSU-Bama game, when the Crimson Tide, who had already had field goal woes all evening, were pushed backward and forced to attempt a 52-yard field goal in the first overtime period? Remember how Cade Foster missed that attempt quite badly?

This game — this amazing, layered marathon of a game — wouldn’t have made it past the very first overtime period if Tracy, the Assumption College transfer who’s nailed a seemingly countless number of big kicks this year, hadn’t drilled a 50-yard field goal through the uprights on the very first possession of OT. A false start penalty and an Otaro Alaka sack of Burrow pushed the Tigers back, and with the way regulation had ended, it felt like that was that. Tracy had other ideas.

Davis’ fourth-down catch late in regulation...

Tracy’s bomb ...

Alaka’s big sack ...

Tory Carter’s two out-of-nowhere receptions for LSU in the fifth OT ...

Rashard Lawrence’s stuff of Williams on a first-and-goal carry from the 1 (which eventually led to a FG instead of a TD) in the first OT ...

Kingsley Keke’s tackle of Burrow on third-and-goal in the fourth OT ...

It took both so many huge performances and also so many random, huge plays by random individuals to make a game this impressive, last this long.