Sep 30, 2012 12:54 AM by LSU Sports Information
BATON ROUGE -- On a damp night in Tiger Stadium, third-ranked LSU overcame three fumbles and 10 penalties to defeat Towson, 38-22, on Saturday.
LSU (5-0, 1-0 SEC) finished off its final non-conference matchup in anything but style, struggling to find offensive rhythm in the first half but getting big plays to overwhelm its Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
A 78-yard first-quarter touchdown run by LSU's Russell Shepard and touchdown passes of 27 and 53 yards from quarterback Zach Mettenberger to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. highlighted the otherwise-forgetful first meeting between the teams.
"First, you have to give credit to the Towson Tigers," LSU head coach Les Miles said. "I told our team that they were a good football team. I insisted that we prepare well. We did. I thought our practice week was good. We didn't play like that though. We didn't give them the credit that they deserved.
Towson (2-2), ranked No. 12 in its division, proved a formidable foe. The Tigers took advantage of LSU's mistakes -- and a less-than-raucous atmosphere -- to lead LSU for a brief time and hang with the Southeastern Conference powerhouse into the fourth quarter.
"I am extremely conflicted," Towson head coach Rob Ambrose said. "I hate losing. I know everybody that watches this or reads this might think that's insane, considering who we played. I don't care. You don't line up to lose. With that being said, as a head coach, as an alum, as a father, I don't think it's humanly possible for me to be more proud of these players, or more proud of the fans that came down here."
LSU outgained Towson, 396-291, but put the ball on the ground five times -- its most since 1997 -- and lost three of the fumbles.
Mettenberger had one of the fumbles which led to a Towson go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter. The junior quarterback overcame a rough start to finish 15-of-26 passing for 238 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked four times but did not throw an interception.
Shepard's lone run was enough to lead LSU rushing, while Michael Ford had a team-high 11 rushes for 76 yards and a touchdown. Spencer Ware had 36 yards, while Kenny Hilliard had 23 yards. Both Hilliard and Ford had fumbles lost, while Ware's was recovered near the Towson goalline by Chase Clement.
"I thought that we played down to our opponent," Miles said. "I thought that if we don't turn the ball over or throw the ball on the ground and we protect our quarterback that this thing looks like it is supposed to be. It is uncharacteristic at the end of the game that a defense like ours would be driven on. I must not have prepared them well. I can tell you that we are looking forward to turning our attentions to Florida."
Beckham Jr. had a game-high 128 yards receiving on five catches with two scores. Wide receiver Kadron Boone added three receptions for 33 yards.
Towson quarterback Grant Enders completed only 13-of-33 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked three times but used his legs to give LSU trouble. He led Towson with 86 yards rushing on 12 carries including a 43-yarder to the LSU 1 after Mettenberger's fumble in the second quarter.
Running back Terrance West, who won the Jerry Rice Award as the FCS's top freshman in 2011, added 79 yards on 22 carries with two 1-yard touchdown runs.
Towson won the toss, deferred its choice until the second half. The visiting Tigers kicked short to Nic Jacobs who returned 11 yards to the 29 where LSU started it first drive.
Two quick passes from Mettenberger to Boone gave the Tigers a first down to the 45. After Ware's 11-yard run put LSU in Towson territory, a pair of incomplete passes forced LSU to punt from the Towson 39.
Wings punt was unable to be stopped short of the goal line and Towson started its drive at its 20. After a quick three-and-out and a 54-yard punt by Towson's R.J. Peppers, LSU began its second drive at its 22.
The home-standing Tigers got on the scoreboard first with a quick, inside handoff to Shepard who dashed up the middle for a 78-yard touchdown run. LSU led 7-0 with 10:24 remaining in the first quarter.
The teams traded three-straight punts and gained only two first downs before LSU made its first mistake of the game on its side of the field.
After picking up first-down yardage at the LSU 38, Kenny Hilliard coughed up the ball and it was recovered by defensive back Jordan Dangerfield. It was the first fumble lost by an LSU running back in 225 carries, but an omen of what was to come.
Early in the second quarter, Towson converted the turnover into points when D.J. Soven hit a 26-yard field goal. Towson trailed 7-3 with 13:34 left in the half.
Though its offense remained out of sync and punted for the third time, LSU came up with a turnover of its own when linebacker Kwon Alexander ripped the ball away from tight end Cory Kirby and Tharold Simon recovered at the Towson 36.
However, LSU managed only three yards and Drew Alleman's 51-yard field goal was wide left.
Towson gained a first down on the ensuing drive but a sack by LSU linemen Anthony Johnson and Lavar Edwards forced a punt.
Beckham Jr. returned the punt 30 yards into Towson territory. But, just when LSU looked like it would assert its dominance, Mettenberger was sacked by Tye Smith 12 yards behind the line and fumbled. Towson's Bryton Barr recovered at the LSU 45, setting up a 43-yard scramble by Enders to the LSU 1.
A 1-yard touchdown run by West and a missed PAT put Towson ahead, 9-7, with 5:15 remaining in the half.
The lead was short-lived, however. Mettenberger helped LSU overcome a holding penalty by connecting with tight end Chase Clement for 27 yards on second-and-16. After Ware recovered his own fumble at the 27, Mettenberger answered the Towson score with a perfect 27-yard touchdown pass to Beckham Jr.
The play-action pass gave LSU a 14-9 lead with 2:52 remaining in the half.
After a touchback, LSU's defense quickly earned another stop with Edwards' second sack of the game, and Peppers' punt of only six yards gave LSU possession at the Towson 22.
Hilliard gained at first down to the 11, but LSU managed only six yards before settling for a 23-yard field goal by Alleman.
Despite outgaining Towson, 207-110, LSU only led 17-9 at the half.
With a 22-yard pass to Tom Ryan and a 15-yard run by West, Towson started the third quarter by moving into LSU territory. However, a false start penalty on third-and-10 made Soven try a 53-yard field goal that came up just short.
After the change of possession, LSU gained first downs on three-straight plays -- a 22 yard run by Michael Ford, a 13-yard pass to Beckham Jr. and an 11-yard run by Ford -- and looked to be rolling over the tiring guests. Ford fumbled after a 6-yard gain on the next play to stymie other drive, this time in the opponent's redzone.
Both teams went backward on the next two drives, but a muffed punt return by Jordan Love was knocked away by LSU's Micah Eugene and recovered by Jarvis Landry at the Towson 8-yard line.
This time, LSU took advantage of the Towson mistake with a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback J.C. Copeland on third down. With 5:56 remaining in the third quarter, LSU led 24-9.
Towson gained a first down, but another short punt gave LSU the ball on its 30. After slipping down on second down, Mettenberger overcame a third-and-14 with a 17-yard pass to Boone. On third-and-6, the junior quarterback fired a 57-yard touchdown catch and run to Beckham Jr. that pushed LSU's advantage to 31-9.
Towson put together its most impressive drive of the evening, advancing 64 yards on 12 plays including a 1-yard touchdown run by West.
Towson trimmed the margin to 31-16 with 8:58 left in the game.
On the ensuing drive, Mettenberger connected with Beckham Jr. for 24 yards on third-and-10 to keep the drive alive, then found Jacobs for 21 yards to the Towson 26. The last of five-straight runs by Ford ended with a 4-yard touchdown run that pushed the LSU lead to 38-16.
Towson added a touchdown in the waning minutes against LSU's backups but the snap on the PAT was fumbled.
The announced paid attendance was 92,154.