LSU pulls away from error-prone WVU
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – LSU was the better team on the field Saturday night at Milan Puskar Stadium, but West Virginia didn't help its own cause.
"We shot ourselves in the foot," Quarterback Geno Smith said. "We had bad field position and turned the ball over. That's not how you win the game."
Four turnovers, consistently bad field position and poor special teams play doomed No. 16 West Virginia to a 47-21 loss against No. 2 LSU.
West Virginia (3-1) easily held the advantage in total yards, 533-366, but the Mountaineers made fundamental mistakes, which cost them the game. They were minus-four in turnover margin and accumulated 10 penalties for 73 yards.
"They're a smarter football team than we are," head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We had four turnovers and they had none. We had twice as many penalties, and then the special teams were completely one sided, so those three things pretty much got them the victory."
LSU also dominated the field position battle all night. Punter Brad Wing pinned the Mountaineers inside their own 10-yard line five times on the night, and West Virginia's average starting position was its own 15.
It also made things tough on its defense. With LSU's average starting position of its own 48-yard line, West Virginia consistently had a short field to defend.
"Field position plays a big part in football," said West Virginia linebacker Najee Goode, who finished with eight tackles. "When you're behind in the count in field position, that hurts you a little bit, and that hurt us today."
Smith broke the school record for passing yards in a single game. The junior completed 38 of 65 passes for 463 yards and two touchdowns in front of a 62,056-sellout crowd, but he was also picked twice with both ending in LSU touchdowns.
The first interception went through the hands and off the helmet of junior receiver Tavon Austin and fell into the lap of LSU safety Brandon Taylor at midfield. Seven plays later, sophomore running back Michael Ford sprinted 22 yards for a score to put LSU up 13-0.
The second pick came in the last minute of the first half. Smith tried to set up a screen pass to Austin, but LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu read the play perfectly. Mathieu tipped the ball in the air, made the interception and returned it to the Mountaineer 1-yard line.
"It was a read play," Smith said. "I took it upon myself to throw it out there. I thought I could get it out to Tavon, but [Mathieu] made a good play."
Two plays later, LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee rolled out and hit receiver Chase Clement in the end zone to put the Tigers up 27-7 going into halftime.
The Mountaineers tried to make it a game in the second half, scoring touchdowns on two of their first three drives.
First, Smith hit Tyler Urban from 12 yards out for a score. Then, after the teams traded possessions, Dustin Garrison plunged into the end zone from 1-yard out making the gap, 27-21.
On the ensuing kickoff, LSU's Morris Claiborne broke several tackles on a 99-yard return for touchdown that put the Tigers up 34-21 and killed any momentum the Mountaineers generated.