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LSU coach Brian Kelly had the last laugh Monday in a 63-7 victory over Purdue to finish 10-4 in his first season as head coach of the Tigers. He inherited a program that went 5-5 and 6-7 the previous two seasons and had just 39 players on scholarship for its bowl last season.
Remember when ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith went after Kelly a few days after the Tigers lost to Tennessee, 40-13, at home on Oct. 8?
It was rough.
“I’m hearing the players ain’t fond of him,” Smith said. “The administration ain’t fond of him. The fans ain’t fond of him. The town ain’t fond of him.”
There may have been a player or two or more not fond of him. That always happens with new coaches, but saying the administration, fans and city of Baton Rouge were not in his corner was very inaccurate. Sure, some fans were upset with the opening loss to Florida State and the way they lost to Tennessee, but most were still behind him.
LSU’s Brian Kelly Finishes 10-4
Soon, virtually everyone with any connection to LSU was behind Kelly as he directed the Tigers to four straight wins after the Tennessee loss, including a 45-20 win over No. 7 Ole Miss and a thrilling 32-31 overtime victory over No. 6 and hated Alabama. Kelly and LSU stubbed their toes in a 38-23 to a bad Texas A&M team.
But he still won the SEC West before falling to Georgia, 50-30, and finished with the most lopsided bowl victory in LSU history.
“Our guys handled it well today and played at a high level,” Kelly said after crushing Purdue. “For me, it was fun to watch them play today because they played with great desire. Really proud.”
Kelly became the first LSU coach to win double-digit games in his first season since Les Miles went 11-2 in 2005. But Miles inherited the No. 1 recruiting class in 2003 and No. 2 in 2004 from previous coach Nick Saban along with most of the starters from a 9-3 team in 2004. Former LSU coach Curley Hallman probably could have won seven games in 2005 at LSU with Saban’s players.
Kelly, on the other hand, inherited a program in shreds from previous coach Ed Orgeron. Those 39 scholarship players lost the Texas Bowl to Kansas State, 42-20, last year to finish 6-7.
The Tigers Dominated Purdue From The Outset
The Tigers decimated Purdue (8-5) from the opening moments and outgained the Boilermakers, 594 yards to 263. LSU also became the first team in 25 years to have three players throw touchdown passes in a bowl game. Starting quarterback Jayden Daniels hit 12 of 17 passes for 139 yards with a touchdown and rushed six times for 67 yards. He also caught a touchdown.
Backup quarterback Garrett Nussmeier completed 11 of 15 for 173 yards and two touchdowns. And wide receiver Malik Nabers completed 2 of 2 passes for 50 yards with a touchdown and caught nine passes for 163 yards.
The only part of the game Kelly might have been upset with was his players celebrating in the Cheez-It bed for a penalty late in the game. Call it a power nap. One of Kelly’s assistants chewed out the players involved in that.
Purdue wide receiver Deion Burks fell hard on the back of his head at the end of a play late in the game. He was strapped head to toe on a stretcher and taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center. He did flash a thumbs up as he was being rolled off the field and spoke to doctors. Burks is a redshirt freshman from Belleville, Michigan.