Danny Etling passed 347 yards and three touchdowns and No. 19 LSU beat Texas A&M 45-21 on Saturday night in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Etling, a senior playing his final game in Tiger Stadium, completed 19 of 30 passes and had six completions longer than 25 yards, including a 56-yarder on a short pass to running back Darrel Williams and a 49-yarder deep downfield to D.J. Chark.
Etling’s touchdowns went for 11 yards to Russell Gage, 10 yards to J.D. Moore and 6 yards to D.J. Chark as LSU (9-3, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) won for the sixth time in seven games to finish with its best SEC record since 2012.
The Aggies (7-5, 4-4) entered the game with questions swirling about the future of coach Kevin Sumlin, who has never had a losing season since taking over at A&M in 2012, but who will go a fourth straight year without as many as nine victories.
Nick Starkel passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns for the Aggies, who twice cut LSU’s lead to just six points in the third quarter. But he also was intercepted three times.
Christian Kirk caught seven passes for 78 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown which made it 27-21.
But LSU responded with a five-play, 71-yard touchdown drive that included Etling’s 33-yard completion to Gage and his scoring pass to Moore.
Gage, who also had a 31-yard catch, finished with 81 yards on just four receptions. Chark caught five passes for 86 yards.
Running back Derrius Guice rushed for 127 yards on 28 carries, including powerful 1-yard TD in which he willed his way across the goal line, twisting and churning through several tacklers. Williams rushed for 106 yards, highlighted by his 77-yard gain on a direct snap to set up Chark’s TD.
Etling’s outing represented his best day yet at LSU, where he transferred from Purdue.
Etling’s previous LSU high for yards passing was 324 against Texas A&M last season. His career-high remains 485 yards passing for Purdue against Indiana in 2013.
The game was filled with miscues, including three turnovers on the first four series combined.
On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Moore was stripped by Aggies’ cornerback Charles Oliver after a short catch and safety Armani Watts recovered.
Three plays later, LSU cornerback Andraez “Greedy” Williams intercepted his fifth pass this season.
Two plays into A&M second series, running back Keith Ford fumbled on a hit by cornerback Kevin Toliver II and linebacker Donnie Alexander scooped and returned the ball 33 yards, setting up a field goal to make it 6-0.
While LSU led 20-0 in the second quarter, the Tigers squandered chances for more. One drive inside the A&M 10 stalled with a failed run on third-and-1, followed by Jack Gonsoulin’s shanked field goal attempt. When Gonsoulin missed again from 48 yards late in the second quarter, LSU had outgained the Aggies 321-91.
The Aggies took momentum into halftime, converting a fourth-and-4 play and completing a 31-yard pass to Kirk to set up Trayveon Williams short touchdown run, which made it 20-7.
Texas A&M: The Aggies came in having won two straight and with a chance to finish equal with LSU and Mississippi State at 5-3 in the SEC. Instead, the Aggies looked anemic and out of sorts on offense much of the game, and their defense eventually wore down.
LSU: The Tigers, who outgained the Aggies 601-282 in total yards, largely dominated and had only themselves to blame for the Aggies getting close in the third quarter. But LSU didn’t tighten up and continued to play relentlessly until finally pulling away for a convincing victory that should help secure a bid to one of the more attractive bowls around New Year’s Day.
Texas A&M is bowl eligible and finds out its destination when bids are announced on Dec. 5. LSU also awaits its bowl fate on Dec. 5.