BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Jayden Daniels accounted for 606 total yards and five touchdowns and became the first quarterback in FBS history to have at least 350 yards passing and 200 yards rushing in a game as No. 18 LSU defeated Florida 52-35 on Saturday night.
Daniels continued to make his case for the Heisman Trophy, leading the Tigers (7-3, 5-2 SEC) to touchdowns on five consecutive second-half possessions, completing 17 of 26 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns, and running 12 times for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
“If (Daniels) didn’t win (the Heisman Trophy) tonight he has got to be the leading candidate,” LSU head coach Brian Kelly said. “Unless the Heisman is just about popularity. If you want to be the most popular then fine, but he is the best player in college football.
“He did something tonight that no one has ever done. If that doesn’t make you the leading candidate, then maybe the Heisman isn’t really for the best player.”
In concussion protocol throughout the week leading up to the game after an injury suffered last week against Alabama, Daniels was quick to credit his teammates and supporting cast.
“God created me to be tough and get through stuff quickly,” he said. “This was my first concussion to get over and I did everything they said I needed to do to play and progress daily. It all worked out.
“I try to be as patient as I can in the pocket and let plays open up, but when I see a lane open up, I’m going to be decisive and take it.”
Florida (5-5, 3-4 SEC) took its only lead in the third quarter 28-24 on a 21-yard touchdown run by Trevor Etienne and Graham Mertz’s 1-yard run.
But Daniels scored from 51 yards out on the ground and then on LSU’s ensuing possession found Noah Cain for a 38-yard touchdown pass to make it 38-28.
His career night continued into the fourth quarter when he connected with Brian Thomas for a 37-yard touchdown to make it 45-35.
Daniels connected with Thomas again late in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Thomas had 150 yards on six catches and a pair of scores.
LSU took a 10-point lead early in the second quarter. Damian Ramos had a 28-yard field goal and Daniels added an 85-yard touchdown run, the longest in LSU history for a quarterback, to make it 17-7.
“Usually those guys tire out,” Kelly said of his quarterback’s long run. “Smokey the Bear usually jumps on his back at about 30 yards and lactic acid kicks in and they are gone. (Jayden) kept going. He’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s the best playmaker in the country. I’ve watched them all.
“You can say whatever you want, we are 7-3 and whoever else is undefeated. That doesn’t mean anything. What matters is who is the best player and he is the best player. A night like tonight kind of solidifies that.”
Both teams scored on their opening possessions. LSU took a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by Josh Williams to cap a 7-play, 75-yard drive.
Florida answered, going 75 yards in 8 plays, tying the game at 7 when Mertz found Eugene Wilson for a 9-yard touchdown.
Etienne led the Gators, rushing for 99 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.
FLORIDA: The Gator defense struggled to contain the high-powered LSU offense, giving up a season-high 702 yards.
LSU: The Tigers continued their dominance over Florida, winning their fifth consecutive game in the series, the longest streak in a rivalry that dates to 1937.
A week after losing their quarterback to a controversial hit in a loss on the road against Alabama, LSU senior safety Andre’ Sam was ejected for targeting on a hit on Florida running back Montrell Johnson near the end of the first half.
Wearing the same number as former Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, Mertz broke Tebow’s school record of consecutive passes without an interception with 204 attempts on the Gators first drive of the second half.
FLORIDA: Travels to No. 14 Missouri on Saturday.
LSU: Plays host to Georgia State on Saturday.
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