COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — With a five-game winning streak and a certainty of playing in the Southeastern Conference title game next week, LSU’s No. 6 only had to worry about undercutting Texas A&M to secure their hopes to stay alive for the college football playoffs.
Instead, Devon Achane had a career-best 215 yards with two touchdowns, and Texas A&M stunned LSU 38-23, almost certainly knocking the Tigers out of contention for the CFP.
“They did some incredible things and I don’t want this loss to diminish what they’ve achieved this year,” said LSU coach Brian Kelly. “It wasn’t a step backwards. That was a hit on the way and they will learn from it.”
Conner Weigman threw two TD passes for the Aggies (5-7, 2-6 SEC) and Demani Richardson returned a fumble for a score. The game was tied at 17-all in the third quarter before A&M went on to score 21 straight points.
“It shows what a team we can be,” said Achane. “Just to show that it wasn’t the season we wanted, it was that we beat a top (10) team.”
LSU (9-3, 6-2, No. 5 CFP) had already won the SEC West and secured a chance to play undefeated No. 1 Georgia for the conference title, and a win there would put the Tigers in the can bring playoffs. But with three losses, it probably won’t be enough to beat the Bulldogs.
“We just weren’t our best today,” Kelly said. “I’d love to give you one reason why we weren’t our best, but we just weren’t and we had to get better.”
Kelly said he doesn’t think his team overlooked the Aggies.
“We just needed more juice, more fire and we just seemed to lack that today and that’s on me,” Kelly said.
The Aggies, who opened the season at No. 6 but failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2008, had a strong end to their disappointing season. They won consecutive games for the first time since September after slipping in six games last week with a win over UMass.
“It’s no secret,” said Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher. “Just do your job. There is no magic formula.”
Achane rushed for 119 yards and scored before halftime to give A&M a 17-10 lead.
“Their best players played at their level today,” Kelly said. “We did not make it. Our best players had to make great games and that’s where we failed.”
LSU opened the second half with a nine-game 71-yard drive that was capped by a 19-yard run by John Emery Jr. for a 17-17 tie.
But Edgerrin Cooper beat Jayden Daniels, forcing him to fumble on LSU’s next drive. Richardson grabbed it and rushed 37 yards for his second touchdown of the season to put A&M 24-17 ahead with about seven minutes left in the third quarter.
“I think there was some momentum swing,” Kelly said. “I don’t know if we ever really recovered from that.”
The Aggies extended the lead to 31-17 in the first game of the fourth quarter when Moose Muhammad one-handed a 21-yard TD catch.
A 10-yard run by Achane, who returned after missing two games with a foot injury, made it 38-17 with about eight minutes left.
A roaring crowd of more than 93,000 fans packed Kyle Field and some began rushing onto the field with about 17 seconds remaining, causing a delay. It was a stark contrast to last week when most of the crowd was empty after half-time on a wet and cold day.
These fans and several thousand more flocked to the field as time ran out.
Daniels threw for 189 yards and ran for 84 more and Emery had three touchdowns for the Tigers, who lost their first game since losing 40-13 at home to Tennessee on Oct. 8.
Emery cut the lead to 38-23 with a 3-yard run about 6 1/2 minutes to go, but the 2-point conversion missed.
Daniels came close to merging with Jaray Jenkins in the end zone in fourth place on LSU’s next possession, but Tyreek Chappell knocked the ball out of Jenkins’ hands. The Aggies then ran out the clock.
THE TAKE AWAY
LSU: With their playoff chances nigh nonexistent, the Kelly’s Tigers need to get past them fast if they hope to match the Bulldogs.
Texas A&M: The Aggies have shown they have plenty of talent to compete with teams at the top of the SEC. The question is why Fisher’s team couldn’t put it together earlier in the year. The Aggies had not won an SEC game since beating Arkansas on Sept. 24.
Achane said after the game that he hasn’t yet decided whether to return for his senior season or draft for the NFL draft.
“It’s going to be a very difficult decision,” he said. “I love the 12th man so I’m going to take this up with Coach Fisher and my parents.”
LSU: Plays Georgia in the SEC championship game next Saturday.
Texas A&M: Will try to put this disappointing season behind us.
AP College Football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25. Sign up for AP’s college football newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2