JACQUES TALK: LSU’s Daniels electrifies fans with plays never seen before
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - As people, we often gravitate to those who inspire us and make us feel good.
When I was a kid in the late 80′s, watching the Chicago Bulls to see the iconic Michael Jordan soar was must see entertainment. The same held true for the former Chris Jackson, now Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who electrified packed houses at the PMAC and made opposing defenders look foolish for the LSU Tigers on the hardwood. 35 years after it happened I still get a rush seeing Tommy Hodson hit Eddie Fuller with that 11-yard touchdown pass on 4th and 10 to beat Auburn and make the earth shake in Death Valley. And yes, an impromptu stop on YouTube to quickly glance at an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo from decades back, might have me engrossed for ten minutes or more, wondering how the late lord of strings actually made his magic.
In the present moment, LSU’s Jayden Daniels is captivating many of us with play nothing short of breathtaking, delivering the kind of highlights I don’t think we’ve ever seen from a Tigers’ quarterback before. Never in the history of the program has an LSU signal caller been able to sprint down a sideline with such graceful propulsion and dust an opposing defense for an 85-yard touchdown run, as Daniels did against the Florida Gators Saturday night. Later Daniels would drop back to pass, then surge ahead into the heart of the defense, before bouncing it outside for another 51-yard scoring jaunt. He almost looked like a speedboat blowing past canoes during LSU’s 52-35 shootout victory.
Watching Daniels from the press box often during the last two seasons has been something to behold. He never seems to be running all that hard or expending that much energy, yet glides away from would-be tacklers with a stunning, almost taunting grace. Football is a team game, but what we witnessed from Jayden Daniels against Florida is the closest thing to a one-man-show that you’ll ever see in bigtime college football.
When the clock hit zero, Daniels had become the first player in FBS history to pass for at least 350 yards and rush for at least 200 yards in the same game. He would actually tally 606 yards of total offense - 372 yards passing and 234 yards rushing - with 5 touchdowns accounted for along the way, as a sold-out Tiger Stadium roared with delirious approval. Daniels’ improvement as a passer - a passer no longer hesitant to pull the trigger - has been incredible. After averaging just 208.1 yards through the air during the 2022 season and throwing just 17 touchdown passes in 14 games, Daniels is averaging 316.4 yards per contest through the air this season, with 30 TD strikes in just 10 games. He’s thrown just four interceptions in 273 attempts. And what’s crazy is Daniels’ rushing numbers have actually gone up, racking up 918 yards on the ground with 8 scores this year, after gaining 885 yards and 11 touchdowns a season ago.
I’ve been told a lifelong dream for Daniels is being a Heisman Trophy finalist. He’s got two regular season games remaining in his LSU career to impress the voters, both in Death Valley, starting with next weekend’s contest against Georgia State. While the Tigers will not win a national championship or even play for a conference championship in 2023, being a spectator of this dazzling kid has been a great pleasure. I certainly hope at the least, Daniels is invited to New York City before all is said and done.
And the momentum certainly appears to be in No. 5′s corner. The question has quickly shifted from “can Jayden Daniels be a Heisman Trophy finalist?” to “can Jayden Daniels WIN the Heisman Trophy?”.
Like Joe Burrow, Daniels started his collegiate career somewhere else, transferred to Baton Rouge and made incredible leaps from year one, to year two with the LSU Tigers. Truly a case of going from “pretty good” to “sensational”.
Could the program once deemed a quarterback killer produce two Heisman Trophy winners at the position in just five years? That would be something behold.
Regardless of the answer, Jayden Daniels has inspired. Some fans, once disappointed he was returning this year, will now be very saddened he’s leaving.
And certainly the questions media guys like myself had about Daniels have been answered and answered very loudly.
Let’s just savor the final stretch of this human highlight machine’s LSU journey.
Jayden Daniels is certainly a Tiger who will never be forgotten.
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