No. 5 LSU stumbles at Texas A&M, 38-23, to close regular season

LSU will still play for an SEC championship next week, but not within having first stumbled its way out of the College Football Playoff conversation Saturday.

The No. 5 Tigers (9-3, 6-2) struggled to get Texas A&M (5-7, 2-6) — and particularly junior running back Devon Achane — off the field in the first half or find enough answers in the second half to avoid a 38-23 loss in College Station to end the regular season.

Achane rolled to career highs of 38 carries and 215 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns.

And Texas A&M converted 10 of its 15 third-down attempts, including seven of eight in the first half to dictate the pace with three long scoring drives: 90- and 72-yard touchdown marches with a 58-yard push for a field goal in between.

The first multi-score game of senior running back John Emery Jr.’s career helped provide the Tigers’ answers.

The Destrehan product carried nine times for a season-high 55 yards and three touchdowns, including tying the game at 7-7 in the second quarter and 17-17 in the third on 4- and 19-yard runs, respectively.

But a pivotal defensive play sparked by a Louisiana native midway through the third quarter moved the Aggies ahead for good.

Covington High product Edgerrin Cooper hit LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels on a third down and jarred the ball loose for the 27-yard scoop-and-score by senior defensive back Demani Richardson for a 24-17 advantage.

And coach Jimbo Fisher, the former Tigers offensive coordinator 16 years earlier, and company added 83- and 77-yard touchdown drives in the third and fourth quarters, respectively, en route to their season-high scoring outburst.

Freshman quarterback Conner Weigman found sophomore receiver Muhsin “Moose” Muhammad III for a highlight-reel, 21-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Achane added his second score of the night, another 10-yarder, to cap Texas A&M’s next possession with a 38-17 lead.

Emery’s third touchdown, a 3-yarder, pulled LSU back within 38-23.

But the Tigers’ only subsequent drive ended with a narrowly missed fourth-down pass to the back corner of the end zone.

Texas A&M entered the week having managed more than two 50-yard drives in just seven of their previous 11 contests.

The Aggies’ five such drives Saturday surpassed a previous season-best of four.

Weigman completed 12 of 18 passes for 155 yards and two scores to help complement Achane’s career night.

Muhammad hauled in all five of his targets for 94 yards and the touchdown.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels battled through one worrisome hit after another to finish with 189 yards on 21-for-35 passing and 84 yards on 12 rushes.

Sophomore receiver Malik Nabers secured seven catches for 69 yards.

The Tigers had clinched the SEC West two weeks earlier and will still face No. 1 Georgia (12-0, 8-0) in Atlanta next week.

But a third loss will effectively eliminate the already-outside hopes of sneaking into the College Football Playoffs when the committee announces the semifinal matchups next Sunday.

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