AUSTIN — Joe Burrow was nearly perfect in the second half against Texas.
He had to be.
With Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger matching him nearly blow for blow, Burrow and No. 6 LSU's new, wide-open offense could afford to make no mistakes. They didn't, and Burrow delivered all the big throws for the Tigers in a wild 45-38 win over the No. 9 Longhorns Saturday night in one of the biggest nonconference matchups of the season.
Burrow passed for 471 yards and four touchdowns, the last one to Justin Jefferson for 61 yards with 2:27 to play in a game that saw Texas storm back from a 20-7 halftime deficit and the teams trade seven touchdowns in the second half.
"Man, he was so fired up," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. "The kid is a baller. He lives for that moment and I'll tell you what, those were some tough plays"
Burrow was razor sharp after halftime when he was 15-of-18 passing for 251 yards and two touchdowns. The final touchdown to Jefferson came on a third-and-long when Burrow stepped up to avoid a blitz and fired the pass. The completion was good enough for a first down and Jefferson did the rest when he broke a tackle and burst up the sideline to the end zone.
"I think if they get the ball back, it would have been a different story," said Orgeron, who was watching Ehlinger riddle the Tigers defense. "A phenomenal call, a phenomenal catch, a phenomenal play."
Jefferson finished with three touchdown catches and was one of three LSU receivers with more than 100 yards.
"They (Texas) were playing so well, I told the guys, we gotta get 40 and we'll win," Burrow said. "We had over 500 yards. It could have been 600, 700."
The touchdown put LSU (2-0) up by 14 but Ehlinger brought Texas back again with his fourth touchdown pass and second on the night to Devin Duvernay. LSU didn't put the game away until Texas came within inches of recovering an onside kick with 22 seconds left.
Ehlinger finished with 401 yards passing and four touchdowns for the Longhorns (1-1).
The win will give LSU some big early momentum in the long-term goal of reaching the College Football Playoff, but the rough SEC schedule still looms.
"I think it's a big statement, but obviously we want to play better," Orgeron said.
Texas coach Tom Herman said he'll immediately get his team to focus on the Big 12.
"This is Game 2 of a marathon," Herman said. "All our goals are still out there."
After the game, Herman and Burrow had a long embrace on the field. Herman was an assistant at Ohio State when he recruited Burrow to the Buckeyes but then left to take the head coaching job at Houston. Burrow spent three years at Ohio State before transferring to LSU.
Burrow also made a point to talk with Ehlinger, who kept bringing Texas back.
"He's a super tough guy. I was honored to be on the same field with him," Burrow said.
LSU: The new offense is humming after two games. But the defense - and the players who taunted Texas before the game - gave up big plays and long touchdown drives with poor tackling. The Tigers secondary was gashed often in the second half, most notably by Texas slot receiver Devin Duvernay, who bowled over Tigers defenders again and again. Duvernay's 44-yard catch and run up the middle for a touchdown on 4thand-3 early in the fourth quarter kept Texas in the game.
LSU also gave up multiple pass interference penalties that help keep Texas' long touchdown drives going.
Texas: A poor start was overshadowed in the wild second half but it was important. The Longhorns blew two big chances for touchdowns in the first quarter. Eight plays inside LSU 10 yielded no points as both drives were stuffed at the goal line. Tailback Keaontay Ingram dropped a wide open touchdown pass from Ehlinger.
Herman had no regrets over not kicking field goals early.
"We play to win. That's why we went for it on the goal line. It's that simple," Herman said. "Our whole mantra in that game was to empty the chamber and play to win."
LSU will likely stay where it is because there's frankly not much room to move up. Don't expect Texas to fall very far. The Longhorns fought back in what could have been a blowout coming out of halftime.
LSU now knows what it has in freshman kicker Cade York. The Texan booted field goals of 33, 36 and 40 yards. The last one ensured the Tigers would keep a two-possession cushion with the Longhorns offense heating up.
Kickoff temperatures were hovering around 100 degrees and LSU players had trouble with cramps all night. The cramps often seemed to hit just as Texas drives were gaining momentum. The home crowd booed when it thought an LSU player was stalling. Texas players didn't seem to have the same cramping problems.
Herman was asked if LSU's cramping halted his team's momentum.
"Yes," he said.
When asked if he thought LSU players were doing it on purpose, "I have no idea."
LSU: Host FCS opponent Northwestern State on Sept. 14
Texas: At Rice on Sept. 14. The Longhorns are 41-1 against the Owls since 1966.