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Saturday, January 8, 2011
Instant analysis: LSU 41, Texas A&M 24

By Chris Low

LSU rallied from an early 10-0 deficit to defeat Texas A&M 41-24 on Friday night in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

Here’s an instant analysis from the game:

How the game was won: It wasn’t LSU’s best start, as Texas A&M returned the opening kickoff 69 yards to set up a touchdown and added another field goal to jump out to a quick 10-0 lead. The Tigers never flinched, though. They settled down defensively in the second half and had one of their most dominant games of the season up front offensively in terms of running the football, finishing with 288 rushing yards. They outscored Texas A&M 35-7 to break the game wide open and take a 35-17 lead in the early stages of the third quarter.

Turning point: After LSU took a 21-17 lead in the second quarter, Tigers freshman safety Eric Reid intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass and returned it 34 yards to the Aggies’ 2-yard line. LSU turned that pick into a touchdown three plays later and never looked back. Reid’s interception was one of three by LSU freshmen.

Star of the game: LSU senior receiver Terrence Toliver tied a Cotton Bowl record with three touchdown catches, including a 42-yarder and 41-yarder. He finished with five catches for 112 yards.

Star of the game II: After throwing just four touchdown passes all season long, LSU junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw three touchdowns in the win over Texas A&M and also rushed for a touchdown. All four of his touchdowns came during the Tigers’ decisive 35-7 run.

Star of the game III: LSU freshman defensive back Tyrann Mathieu was all over the field for the Tigers with 5.5 tackles, a key sack and pass breakup. He also had a big hit and fumble return for a touchdown that was negated by a penalty late in the game.

Stat of the game: LSU freshman running back Spencer Ware had a total of 73 rushing yards coming into the game, but exploded for 102 yards on 10 carries against Texas A&M.

What it means: The Tigers (11-2) capped the season with one of their more complete performances, scoring the most points Texas A&M has given up all season. It’s the fourth time in six years that Les Miles has led LSU to at least 11 wins in a season. There’s sure to be some more chatter about whether or not Miles will go to Michigan, but this is a team with plenty of talent returning and should be right there among the favorites to win the SEC championship in 2011.