LSU gets all it can handle in win over Towson
Neither Tiger Stadium nor LSU’s third-ranked football team showed the Towson University Tigers what all the fuss is about.
It’s not supposed to rain in Tiger Stadium, but it did for most of Saturday afternoon and pretty much up until kickoff.
Sellout crowds of more than 90,000 are supposed to make Death Valley one of the most intimidating venues in college football, but the stadium was half empty and the crowd was half asleep for much of the night.
One of the highest-ranked teams in the NCAA’s top classification isn’t supposed to have trouble with a team from the next-highest classification known as the FCS, even one ranked No. 12 as Towson is, but LSU did.
About the only thing that went according to form was the outcome — an uninspired 38-22 nonconference victory that improved LSU’s record to 5-0 as it prepares to head to No. 11 Florida next week to begin a stretch of seven straight Southeastern Conference games. Towson is 2-2.
“We didn’t play like we gave them the credit that they deserve,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I thought we played down to our opponent. I must not have prepared them well.
“I can tell you that we are looking forward to turning our attention to Florida. It was a very somber locker room (after the game).”
The LSU locker room probably wasn’t a whole lot of fun at halftime either, even though LSU was leading. The Tigers had to score 10 points in the final three minutes of the second quarter to take a modest 17-9 lead. It never relinquished the lead, but it never pulled away, either.
LSU continued to get in its own way. A week after being penalized nine times for 80 yards and losing two fumbles in a 12-10 victory at Auburn, it lost three of its five fumbles and was penalized 10 times for 69 yards. It has turned the ball over eight times and been penalized 42 times for the season.
“I can’t say that we made improvement,” Miles said. “I’d have to say it was the same style of football that we played last week. Am I alarmed? Yes, absolutely. It’s time that we recognize that we cannot continue to go down this same path.”
Odell Beckham Jr. finished with five catches for 128 yards, including touchdowns of 27 and 53 yards from Zach Mettenberger, who finished 15-of-26 for 238 yards, but was inefficient for much of the game.
J.C. Copeland’s 1-yard touchdown run produced the only third-quarter points and Beckham’s second touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter finally put LSU in control even as Towson kept coming back.
Terrance West’s second 1-yard touchdown run of the game ended a 64-yard drive and cut LSU’s lead to 31-16 with 8:58 left in the game. Michael Ford, who had one of LSU’s three lost fumbles, scored on a 4-yard run before Towson’s Grant Enders threw a 9-yard touchdown to Gerrard Sheppard at the end of an 80-yard drive.
“It is uncharacteristic at the end of a game that a defense like ours would be driven on,” Miles said.
Towson wound up with more first downs (19) than LSU (18) and its 291 yards were 108 more than Auburn managed against LSU. The 22 points represented a touchdown more than the most LSU had allowed previously (14) in victories against North Texas and Idaho.
“I’m extremely conflicted,” Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. “I hate losing, and you don’t line up to lose. That being said, I don’t think it’s humanly possible to be more proud of these players than I am.”
If Towson was going to be shell-shocked, it probably would have happened when Russell Shepard took a handoff and bolted 78 yards for a touchdown on LSU’s second possession.
But it didn’t happen as Towson forced a punt on LSU’s next possession, then took the ball away on the one after that as Jordan Dangerfield recovered Kenny Hilliard’s fumble at the LSU 38.
Towson drove to a fourth-and-1 at the LSU 4, and lined up to go for a first down. Then the environment seemed to be a factor for the first time as the crowd got noisy and tight end Cory Kirby committed a false start. D.J. Soven kicked a 26-yard field goal to cut LSU’s lead to 7-3 early in the second quarter.
Kirby helped LSU out again on Towson’s next offensive play as he fumbled when hit by Kwon Alexander, and Tharold Simon recovered for LSU at the Towson 36. But Towson yielded just 3 yards in three plays and LSU got no points out of it when Drew Alleman was wide left on a 51-yard field goal attempt.
LSU managed 10 points from five possessions that started in Towson territory.
After an exchange of punts, Mettenberger was sacked by Tye Smith and fumbled. Bryton Barr recovered for Towson at the LSU 45. It was Mettenberger’s third lost fumble in two weeks and fifth turnover in five games.
Enders’ 43-yard run on a quarterback keeper set up West’s 1-yard touchdown run. That gave Towson a 9-7 lead after Soven missed the extra point.
“I’m not sure if they were too familiar with our school and where we are from,” Enders said. “I think and I hope that after the game they will realize the difference between FCS and FBS football is not that big.”
It certainly wasn’t on this damp, quiet Saturday.
“The 12th guy wasn’t really there,” LSU tight end Chase Clement said. “The fans really do play a big part and also get you motivated out there. So it was just kind of a dead feeling. But you know, it was raining, and you have to understand the circumstances. We still love them.”
Just how much love the pollsters show LSU will be learned Sunday, when the new polls come out.
LSU dropped from No. 2 after its uneven performance against Auburn.
“It’s frustrating the way we played,” LSU safety Eric Reid said. “I give credit to Towson for playing a great game. We have to get better.”