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West Virginia falls to LSU

| Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010

BATON ROUGE, La. - Down by 17 points in the first half, West Virginia stood in "Death Valley" without Noel Devine and looked right into the tiger's eye Saturday night.

The Mountaineers gave it their best shot, but LSU didn't flinch.

No. 22 West Virginia came up short in a 20-14 loss at No. 15 LSU.

"That was a tough one to lose," said WVU head coach Bill Stewart. "That will stick with me for a long time."

West Virginia turned the ball over twice in the first half, which led to 10 LSU points. The Mountaineers also gave up a touchdown on a punt return. Unlike its nonconference win at Marshall, West Virginia couldn't overcome its early mistakes.

West Virginia (3-1) scored 14 consecutive points in the second and third quarters to cut the LSU lead to three, but the Mountaineers were unable to fully finish off the comeback in front of the second-largest crowd (92,575) to ever watch WVU play.

Down by six with 3:57 to play, the Mountaineers took over at their own 8. WVU went three-and-out and punted with less than three minutes to play.

"Those guys just play good defense,” said WVU receiver Stedman Bailey. "They sent blitzes and were able to pressure the quarterback."

LSU sealed the victory with two first downs that enabled it to run out the clock.

"We just couldn't get off the field at the end of the game. We couldn't get the ball back," Stewart said.

The Tigers took a 17-point lead in the first half with Devine, WVU's starting running back, out of the game. He bruised a toe on his right foot on the Mountaineers' second drive and would return for only one drive the rest of the half. In that span, the WVU offense struggled.

"I feel like they really couldn't stop our offense. Like I said, the points that they scored were from our turnovers, and they just capitalized," Bailey said.

Backed up in its own end with Devine in the backfield, the Mountaineers turned to fullback Ryan Clarke. He was stripped of the ball by LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis, and it was recovered by cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and returned to the WVU 7. Four plays later, LSU running back Stevan Ridley scored from one yard out to take a 7-0 lead.

WVU turned the ball over again on its next drive. On a third down in Mountaineers' territory, Smith threw an ill-advised pass toward tight end Will Johnson, and it was intercepted by Mathieu at the Mountaineers' 41. Josh Jasper hit a 49-yard field goal to give LSU a 10-0 lead.

After a WVU three-and-out, LSU cornerback and Heisman Trophy candidate Patrick Peterson found a way through the Mountaineers' punt coverage and found the end zone for the second time this year - this time from 60 yards - for a touchdown to make it 17-0.

Peterson also blocked a field goal on the Mountaineers' second drive.

"We lost that game in every phase ... offense, defense and special teams," Stewart said.

The Mountaineers, however, were able to create some momentum before the intermission. WVU converted a fourth-and-1 at the LSU 9, and quarterback Geno Smith found receiver Stedman Bailey three plays later for a 5-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 17-7 heading into the half.

The Mountaineers came up big on defense to start the second half. Reserve safety Eain Smith jumped in front of a pass, picked it off and sprinted down the sideline into LSU territory. Two plays later, Smith found Jock Sanders in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown pass to cut LSU's lead to 17-14.

The Tigers put together a seven-minute drive near the end of the third quarter that stalled inside the Mountaineers' 10-yard line. LSU got a 22-yard field goal from Jasper to make it 20-14.

On WVU's next drive, Tyler Bitancurt missed a 48-yard field goal to the left.

Smith completed 14 of 29 passes for 119 yards. Devine, who returned in the second half, finished with 39 yards on 14 carries.

"A loss is never a good thing, but you learn from a loss," said senior nose tackle Chris Neild. "Things that we will learn from this loss will really help us out a lot for the rest of the season."

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