While overly disruptive celebration can often lead to a penalty flag during a college football game, the excessive celebration displayed by one Louisiana State star cost him more than just fifteen yards.
On the opening defensive series of his team’s loss to the Florida State Seminoles on Sunday evening, LSU sophomore defensive tackle Maason Smith jumped up to celebrate a stop made by defensive back Major Burns. Unfortunately, Smith then landed the jump awkwardly on his left leg.
Smith, who was named a Freshman All-American and Freshman All-SEC in 2021, was immediately taken out of the game. Further testing confirmed that he tore his left ACL in the fall and is now out for the remainder of the season.
“Obviously, we’re crushed for him because he was celebrating for a teammate on the play and trying to show his support,” LSU head coach Brian Kelly said after the game. “So anytime you suffer an injury under those circumstances, it’s extremely disappointing. He’s a great player… but it’s next man up now for us.”
In this case, the next man up will be Mekhi Wingo, a sophomore transfer from the University of Missouri. Wingo, who was also named Freshman All-SEC last year, replaced Smith during the game on Monday and recovered a key fumble late in the fourth quarter that seemed to put LSU, then trailing 24-17, in position to take the lead or send the game into overtime. Though the Tigers did ultimately score a touchdown on the last second in regulation, the team missed the point after try and lost a heartbreaker, 24-23.
“Mekhi is amazing,” Kelly continued. “He’s been a great leader. He won this week’s SWAT points again, and he played very well in the game.”
“It’s hard to compare anybody to Maason Smith, his size, his athleticism,” Kelly added, “but Mekhi Wingo is going to be Mekhi Wingo and what he does is extremely effective as a football player who gets now a bigger share of that work. It’ll be incumbent upon others to step up as well.”
Sunday night was Kelly’s debut as the head football coach of LSU. For the previous decade, Kelly had been the head coach of Notre Dame, and he led the Fighting Irish to two College Football Playoff appearances and one BCS National Championship Game.
LSU went undefeated and won a national championship in 2019 under former head coach Ed Orgeron, but then had two disappointing seasons. The Tigers finished 6-7 last year, and Orgeron was let go midway through the season, though he continued to coach the team. Kelly was announced to be his replacement on November 30.