It’s hard to believe the final home game in the first year of the Brian Kelly era is already in the books.
This year’s group of seniors took the field for the last time at Tiger Stadium on Saturday night as LSU rolled to a 41-10 win over UAB despite being a bit shorthanded. All in all, the Tigers honored 17 seniors, and the list of players leaving could end up being even longer than that.
With the win, LSU is now 9-2 on the year and will look to reach the 10-win threshold in next weekend’s regular-season finale on the road against Texas A&M. After that, it’s a date with Georgia at the SEC Championship in Atlanta.
Here’s what Kelly said after the final game in Death Valley in 2022.
“I told our team in our meeting before we come out to the stadium… I want to be able to come out in front of the media and talk about the growth of this football team, in particular the mental toughness that they have acquired over the year… Mental toughness to me and our team is accountability, it’s the ability to count on their teammates and themselves to do it the right way, to do their job the right way when it’s needed. That’s taken time, and they did that today is my point.
“When you look across college football today, there are many teams that struggled to put the best version of themselves out there, this team did that against a team that, if you listen to people talk, you’re supposed to beat them. It requires an accountability that you’re intentional in what you do, and you do your job when you’re supposed to do your job and you do it the right way, the way it’s been taught. I’m so proud of our mental toughness and their ability to do it the right way late in November against a team they’re supposed to beat. The wins have been nice, the individual achievements have been really neat, the SEC West championship, but I’m most proud of the mental toughness that this group has shown.”
On early offensive aggressiveness
“I don’t know that we were lacking confidence at all, we wanted to bounce back from what we felt was offensively less than our best game. I think Arkansas had something to do with it, but we had something to do with it. Jayden prepared really well, and you could make the case that this was his best game of the year. He pushed the ball downfield, vertically he saw things, he was assertive… I think that decisiveness, that assertiveness, and you could see it in his preparation this week.”
On slowing down UAB RB DeWayne McBride
“When we’ve been challenged with the great backs… this group has responded to those challenges. It’s a collection of a number of guys just buying in and doing their job. It goes back to what I said earlier, that accountability, you do your job. You don’t do somebody else’s job. And when you have a defense, and each one of them is doing their job, you play really good run defense, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
On team's efficiency
“We gave up the kickoff return, that’s another thing in itself, we’re so low in numbers on those teams, we’re running wide receivers down there. It’s difficult. You take that out, it arguably could have been our most efficient game on both sides of the ball.”
On status of Kayshon Boutte, Josh Williams
Boutte: “He wanted to play, he’s been out since Wednesday with the flu. This was an important game, he wanted to play, he just couldn’t go.”
Williams: “Josh is the knee, and I guess in some instances if we pushed him we could have gotten him ready, but we thought it was smart to really be safe with him and have him full go for next week.”
On Noah Cain's breakout
“Opportunity. It’s just a crowded backfield, and you look at that across college football there’s really good backs that sometimes don’t get the carries, but when they get their opportunity make the best of it. He did, we’ve always had faith in him. He’s a kid that wanted to come back to Louisiana, and it’s great to see him on this night, last opportunity in Tiger Stadium this year… have the kind of game that he had.”
On when he started seeing accountability on the team
“It’s been just a process for us that got better and better as we were consistent and built trust with the team. And that’s what this is about, you’re building trust, you’re building relationships and that takes time. It just doesn’t happen overnight. My first meeting I said, ‘You’re going to have to trust me, and it’s not going to happen today. It’s going to happen over my words and deeds, I’m going to have to back it up… that’s going to take time. My actions and what I do and how I do it to put you in the best position for you to be successful both as a student and as an athlete will take time, and my actions will help you trust me. So that takes time, and over the period of time we’ve been able to build that trust, and we’ve gotten to the point where the accountability level is where they can come out on a night like tonight and play one of their best games.”
On Jaray Jenkins' growth
“I’ve seen a lot of growth. I think it’s maturity in taking on responsibilities and wanting to leave a legacy that he was one of those leaders that was part of taking this team from last to first in one year. Literally, last to first. So that’s big, and I think that’s what he wanted to be a part of, and he feels really good about that.”
On blueprint current group of seniors leave behind
“They jumped in and gave me the opportunity to build this program with the right standards, we didn’t have to cut corners, we didn’t have to take three steps back. We were able to take steps forward every day. Some of them were small steps and some days we didn’t take any steps at all, but we never really had to take major steps back, and that’s attributed these seniors that we sent on to their last (home) game this evening.”
On team taking care of business despite elements
“Do their job when they need to do it the way we’ve asked them to do it, and laying it out that way and that simple. Weather elements don’t matter, conditions don’t matter, how you feel about any of those things, it’s being accountable, and the guy next to you knows that I can trust that he’s going to do his job. He’s not going to tap out, he’s going to be there. And that takes trust, and that takes a lot of the traits that we’ve been building. That’s why I’m so proud of what they accomplished tonight.”
On Armoni Goodwin, Charles Turner's status
(Asked if it’s true that Goodwin is out for the year, as ESPN broadcast first reported): “Yes.”
(On Turner): “He’s pretty beat up, we’ll have to see how he responds. I think (Marlon) Martinez played pretty well, I think he’s gonna respond really good on Monday. That was kind of a tongue-in-cheek joke. I think he’s going to be better on Monday because Martinez played really well.”
On what makes Matt House an elite defensive coordinator
“He has a great feel for the game, he can make big kind of adjustments. We came in at halftime and immediately my first thing is, where’s the tight end on the boot… He immediately drew up how he was delaying and coming underneath and we were just losing our eyes because we thought it was a run. Just those little nuances and being able to make those adjustments and seeing them in the box and just being one step ahead. He does a really good job in game analyzing what he needs to do to stay ahead of what the offensive coordinator’s thinking.”