By Steve Habel, Senior Contributing Writer
AUSTIN, Texas – Saturday’s battle at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium between No. 9 Texas and sixth-ranked Louisiana State could have been a heavyweight prizefight, based on all the haymakers landed by the two teams.
In the end, it was the Tigers who landed the most, and most meaningful punches, as quarterback Joe Burrows threw for 471 yards and four touchdowns, three of them to Justin Jefferson, as Louisiana State outlasted the Longhorns 45-38 before a raucous crowd of 98,763.
The Tigers (2-0) led early thanks to two massive goal line stands, then rode the hot hand of Burrow in the second half to win a contest that more than lived up its pregame hype. It was the first game in Austin between non-conference teams ranked in the Top 10 since 2006, when No. 1 Ohio State defeated No. 2 Texas.
Burrow hit on 31 of his 39 passes while three receivers (Jefferson, 163; J’Marr Chase, 148; and Terrace Marshall Jr., 123) had more than 100 yards in catches in the win.
Sam Ehlinger passed for 401 yards and four TDs for Texas (1-1), in the loss with Devin Duvernay hauling in 12 throws for a career-high 154 yards and two of the scores.
The Tigers struck first, marching 71 yards in 11 plays to a 36-yard field goal by Cade York with 8:04 to play in the first quarter.
The Tigers denied Texas on fourth down from the LSU 2-yard line twice in the final five minutes of the first quarter, with the Longhorns’ Keaontay Ingram dropping a wide-open TD pass on the first, and Ehlinger being denied on a power run from the 1 on the second.
Texas jumped to a 7-3 lead five minutes into the second quarter when Ehlinger hummed a pass to Brennan Eagles for a 55-yard catch-and-run TD. LSU CB Kristian Fulton went for an interception on the play but the pass was a bullet and got through his hands before being snagged by Eagles, who sprinted clear down the sidelines for the score.
LSU responded with an eight-play, 75-yard drive to a 6-yard touchdown pass from Burrow to Justin Jefferson with 7:30 to play in the second.
After stopping Texas in the two-minute offense at the end of the first half, LSU needed just three plays and 26 seconds to hit paydirt again. Burrow rifled a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jefferson with 47 seconds to play in the second quarter to grant the Tigers a 20-7 cushion at intermission.
Texas used 19 plays to move 86 yards on its first possession of the second half to a 2-yard Ehlinger keeper that cut the LSU lead to 20-14. The Tigers responded with a 40-yard field goal from York on the ensuing possession to make it 23-14.
Ehlinger answered as well, as he fit a pass into the smallest of windows to freshman Jake Smith for a 20-yard TD that cut the LSU lead to 23-21 with 2:36 to play in the third quarter.
Terrace Marshall Jr. hauled in a 20-yard scoring pass from Burrow on the first play of the fourth quarter to give the Tigers a little more breathing room.
But that didn’t last long, as Ehlinger hit Devin Duvernay on a short pass on fourth down that turned into a 44-yard TD that brought the Longhorns back to within 30-28. It was a desperation play for Texas that hit the jackpot due to perfect execution by quarterback and slot receiver.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s 12-yard scoring run staked LSU advantage to 37-28. Texas’s Cameron Dicker’s 47-yard field goal with 3:59 to play cut the lead to 37-31.
Burrow and Jefferson then finished off Texas with a 61-yard touchdown pass with 2:27 remaining. Ehlinger hit Duvernay with a 15-yard TD with 22 seconds left, but it was too little, too late.