RABALAIS: Mathieu does it all in LSU victory


On the losing end of a burning couch outside some upset-happy West Virginia frat house, that’s where.
WVU’s Geno Smith may be the best quarterback LSU will face. The Tigers hope so.

But Mathieu is the best, most dynamic player LSU has. Former All-American Patrick Peterson wanted Mathieu to take over No. 7.

Peterson was a megawatt talent, but he never was the consistent game-changer Mathieu is.

LSU gets raves for its waves of refrigerator-sized linemen, bowling ball backs and willowy receivers. At a stocky 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Mathieu doesn’t fit the mold.

He just fills the gaps with enormous, momentum-altering plays when the Tigers need them most.

With his quick release and Berlin Wall-like offensive line, Smith shredded what had looked like an impregnable LSU defense for a WVU record 463 passing yards.

But Smith made some mortal mistakes.

His biggest: He didn’t see Mathieu coming on a corner blitz — or didn’t dream he could do what he did.

Leading 20-7 with less than a minute remaining in the first half, LSU forced West Virginia into a fourth-and-11 at the WVU 35-yard line. Inexplicably, Les Miles took a holding penalty over a punt.

Maybe his instincts told him Mathieu was ready to strike. Mathieu’s instincts certainly took over.

Flashing into the backfield, Mathieu tipped Smith’s pass into the air at the 17, grabbed it in stride and galloped to the 1. Two plays later, the Tigers scored on a pass from Jarrett Lee to Chase Clement en route to a 47-21 victory.

“We were aware of 7,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Tyrann Mathieu is a great player. I felt he was their best player in the first three games, and he was tonight.”

Right place, right time, seemingly every time. That’s Tyrann Mathieu.

In the first quarter, Mathieu stripped the ball from West Virginia receiver Brad Starks at the WVU 44.

It didn’t lead to points but did allow Mathieu to etch his name into LSU’s record book. He now has seven forced fumbles, tying the career school record it took Ali Highsmith four years to set.

Mathieu needed just 17 games.

“In big games, when you need a play, turn to No. 7 and he produces,” ABC announcer Kirk Herbstreit said.

Herbie harkened back to LSU’s season opener with Oregon when Mathieu had a strip and a score on a punt against the Ducks.

But that was an LSU home game, Texas style. This was in a gold-plated madhouse filled with West Virginia fans ripe to see their team pull off one of its biggest wins ever.

“It’s a live stadium, and that’s when Tyrann Mathieu plays his best,” Miles said.

The Mountaineers came close, but somehow the team that piled up 533 yards on LSU couldn’t come up with enough big plays.

In a game when numbers didn’t count much, No. 7 is a big reason No. 2 LSU is 4-0.