Miscues Loom Large
MORGANTOWN – Jarrett Lee threw three touchdown passes, Michael Ford ran for two scores and No. 2 LSU made a case to be No. 1, beating No. 16 West Virginia 47-21 Saturday night.
The Tigers (4-0) converted two turnovers into scores, built a big early lead and withstood West Virginia’s strong comeback for its third victory against a ranked opponent this season, with all of three coming away from home. Every win so far has been by double digits.
Lee’s three TD passes tied a career high and matched his output of the three previous games. He finished 16 of 28 for 180 yards.
West Virginia (3-1) outgained LSU 533-366. West Virginia’s Geno Smith set school records for completions (38), attempts (65) and passing yards (463). But he was intercepted twice after making one in the previous three games.
For the second straight year, the Mountaineers (3-1) couldn’t overcome a double-digit halftime deficit to the Tigers.
And West Virginia couldn’t pad its resume with a victory against a Southeastern Conference opponent at a time when there’s been speculation the SEC might be interested in the Mountaineers as a 14th school. Texas A&M is set become the 13th member when it leaves the Big 12 next season.
West Virginia hadn’t given up this many points at home since a 46-44 triple-overtime victory against Louisville in 2005.
Pinned deep by superb punting from Brad Wing, who averaged 49 yards on six kicks, West Virginia time after time stared at needing to drive the length of the field. The Mountaineers started six possessions inside their 15.
West Virginia hoped to get off to a fast start, but for the third time this season, that didn’t happen.
LSU jumped ahead to stay with the help of two first-quarter turnovers and consistently won the battle of field position.
Just before halftime, Tyrann Mathieu batted a pass into the air, caught it at the West Virginia 17 and ran to the 1. Lee found Chase Clement in the end zone two plays later to put the Tigers ahead 27-7. Lee also had first-half scoring tosses of 11 yards to Rueben Randle and 52 yards to Odell Beckham.
But LSU missed a field goal and punted twice on its first three possessions after halftime, giving West Virginia a chance to close the gap.
Smith found tight end Tyler Urban from 12 yards out to cap an 80-yard drive on West Virginia’s first possession of the third quarter, then found Austin on a 72-yard pass play on the next series to set up Dustin Garrison’s 1-yard run to cut the deficit to 27-21 late in the third.
But Morris Claiborne returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, breaking two tackles along the way, to put LSU ahead by double digits to stay.
Smith broke Mark Bulger’s school records of 34 completions and 429 passing yards set against Missouri in the 1998 Insight.com Bowl. Gerald Fisher held the previous mark of 57 pass attempts against Maryland in 1951.
Austin caught 11 passes for 187 yards for the Mountaineers.