Offensive surge hides flaws in LSU’s win over Furman

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. goes high to pull in the touchdown pass as Furman cornerback Reggie Thomas and Furman safety Marcus McMorris defend in the end zone. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. goes high to pull in the touchdown pass as Furman cornerback Reggie Thomas and Furman safety Marcus McMorris defend in the end zone.

“The game started sloppy. If we don’t turn the ball over two times in the first half, the first half is more inclined to what we would like. The second half, the offense took control and the defense played like it was supposed to. In the end, it looked like it’s supposed to.” LES MILES, LSU coach

The LSU football team accumulated the third-most yards in school history as it defeated outmanned Furman 48-16 in its homecoming game Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

Neither the yardage nor the final score, though, was indicative of how the game went, at least for a half.

The 672 yards were the most gained by a Tigers team since 2000 and helped mask a performance that featured some familiar problems.

The Tigers had three turnovers — two of which led to 10 Paladins points — as they continued without a turnover-free game through nine contests.

They had trouble getting off the field as they allowed a pair of 13-play drives for Furman’s other two scores, which was consistent with inconsistent defensive play this season.

In addition, an injury to the most reliable Tiger — place-kicker Colby Delahoussaye — preceded his first two missed kicks of the season.

There was plenty of sloppiness to go around, but when it was all said and done, LSU had two 100-yard rushers (Jeremy Hill and Terrence Magee, who each scored two touchdowns) and the defense allowed just three field goals and pitched a second-half shutout.

“The game started sloppy,” coach Les Miles said. “If we don’t turn the ball over two times in the first half, the first half is more inclined to what we would like. The second half, the offense took control and the defense played like it was supposed to. In the end, it looked like it’s supposed to.”

LSU had a 200-yard receiver in Odell Beckham Jr., whose two touchdowns offset his muffed punt that led to a Paladins field goal that left the Tigers with a mere 20-16 halftime lead.

Zach Mettenberger completed 16 of 24 passes for 328 yards as Beckham finished with 204 yards on six catches. But Mettenberger also threw two interceptions, his second consecutive multi-interception game as he threw three in a 27-24 loss at Ole Miss a week earlier. Prior to last week, he had had just one multi-interception game in his career.

It was the first time LSU has had a 300-yard passer, 200-yard receiver and two 100-yard rushers in one game.

The No. 13 Tigers (7-2) extended their FBS-record winning streak against nonconference opponents to 45. They improved to 22-1 in games following a defeat in Miles’ nine seasons.

LSU, which has played every Saturday since Aug. 31, is the last team from a BCS automatic-qualifying conference to get an open date. It plays at No. 1 and Southeastern Conference West Division leader Alabama on Nov. 9.

“Sometimes we wish (the open date) could have come a little earlier,” Beckham said. “You get beat down playing in the SEC. It takes a toll on your body.”

The Paladins of the FCS Southern Conference, who haven’t beaten an SEC opponent since topping Vanderbilt in 1963, are 3-5.

Magee sparked the second-half offensive outburst as his 33-yard run set up his 1-yard touchdown and a 27-16 edge after the first possession of the third quarter.

The lead grew to 34-16 later in the quarter when Mettenberger tossed a 7-yard completion to freshman fullback Melvin Jones, who was pressed into action due to injuries to J.C. Copeland and Connor Neighbors.

Magee’s 39-yard touchdown run and Mettenberger’s 63-yard touchdown pass to Beckham completed the scoring in the fourth quarter.

“Terrence Magee is a talented guy, and he deserves snaps,” Miles said.

Late in the game, Miles was able to pull more starters and inserted freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings, who ran three times for 9 yards and completed 1-of-2 passes for 12 yards LSU gained 394 of its yards after halftime as Magee finished with 108 yards on seven carries. Hill had 143 yards on 14 carries.

“In the second half, LSU physically took over the game with their offense,” Furman coach Bruce Fowler said. “We just had trouble stopping the run.”

The Paladins demonstrated early on that they planned to be more than salve on LSU’s wounds from the loss to Ole Miss.

On the Tigers’ first possession, Reggie Thomas intercepted a Mettenberger pass and ran 74 yards for a touchdown.

LSU responded with a four-play drive that ended with Hill running 55 yards for a touchdown, but that didn’t faze the Paladins. They answered with Ray Early’s 46-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead.

Hill’s 4-yard touchdown run gave the Tigers a 13-10 lead after one quarter and Mettenberger’s 37-yard pass to Beckham shortly thereafter made it 20-10.

Early’s 31-yard field goal got Furman within seven and the Paladins were in position to tie the score right before halftime as they reached the LSU 1 after Beckham muffed a punt. It was the second such miscue by Beckham this season as he mishandled a punt that led to a third-quarter tie-breaking touchdown in a 44-41 loss at Georgia on Sept. 28.

But they committed a false start, threw an incompletion with five seconds left and settled for Early’s 23-yard field goal and a 20-16 halftime deficit.

“We were kind of down a little bit (at halftime),” LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander said, “but we knew we were going to come back and play LSU football like we did.

“We played a little more physical in the second half. We came out and played good defense and good offense.”