It (ball security) is the first thing I put on our practice schedule every week. I promise you it’s not something that has escaped us in any way.” LES MILES, LSU coach
If you want to play running back for the LSU football team, you’re going to need speed enough to run away from defenders and power enough to run through some.
But the thing you may need most of all is a sincere appreciation for possessing the football.
That explains coach Les Miles’ disdain Saturday night after third-ranked LSU lost three of five fumbles in a 38-22 win over FCS opponent Towson. Two of the three were lost by running backs.
“It’s the first thing I put on our practice schedule every week,” Miles said of ball security. “I promise you it’s not something that has escaped us in any way.”
Problems keeping hold of the ball were the most glaring shortcoming Saturday for an offense that was lethargic and mostly ineffective for the second week in a row.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger finished with a career-high 238 yards and threw two touchdown passes, but the first-year starter was off the mark most of the night in completing 15 of 26 attempts. He also lost a fumble — his third turnover in the last two weeks.
Meanwhile, the LSU offensive line had a hard time keeping his jersey clean.
Miles moved true freshman Vadal Alexander into the lineup at right tackle and slid senior Alex Hurst to left tackle, but it couldn’t keep the heat off Mettenberger. Towson got to the LSU quarterback for three sacks totaling 15 yards.
Despite taking over three quarters to put Towson away, the LSU offense still had some bright spots.
Russell Shepard broke off a 78-yard scoring run in the first quarter, taking a handoff from Mettenberger out of the shotgun, using his speed to break free and lunging for the pylon in the south end zone.
Odell Beckham had three catches for 128 yards, scoring on passes of 27 and 53 yards.
Mettenberger had his moments, too — impressing Miles with his ability to put bad plays behind him and move on to the next possession undeterred.
“If something happened bad, he came back out and made something good happen,” Miles said.
“If you’re looking for a resilient characteristic in your quarterback, you saw that.”
But the Tigers have plenty of work to do as they prepare for a five-game stretch that includes four ranked opponents.
One is ball security.
Before sophomore Kenny Hilliard and junior Michael Ford lost fumbles Saturday, LSU running backs had gone 225 carries without losing a fumble.
“That’s definitely unacceptable,” Ford said.