MORGANTOWN - A long day of football that began with the Saturday morning appearance of ESPN's GameDay turned into an even longer Saturday night for West Virginia University football fans as the Mountaineers -despite putting up a valiant effort -couldn't keep up with a talented No. 2 ranked LSU team, which left Morgantown with a 47-21 win, handing Dana Holgorsen his first loss as WVU's head coach.
The first possessions of both teams set the stage for what was to follow as West Virginia took the opening kickoff and after making one first down, turned over the ball to LSU on a 14-yard punt that set up the Tigers at their own 42. Nine plays later, LSU was in the end zone thanks to an 11-yard TD pass from Jarrett Lee to Rueben Randle just 4 minutes and 10 seconds into the game. It was 7-0 LSU and the home crowd was getting a little nervous over the quality of the opponent.
The rest of the first quarter was a disaster for the Mountaineer offense, which turned over the ball on its next two possessions -a fumble and an interception at midfield - the latter leading to LSU's second score, a 22-yard TD run by Michael Ford with 2:50 left in the period. Even though LSU missed the extra point kick, it still had taken a fast 13-0 lead.
West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey carries the ball as LSU’s Tharold Simon attempts to make a tackle during the first quarter Saturday in Morgantown.
Disaster nearly struck West Virginia again on the final play of the quarter as WVU again fumbled, but this time the Mountaineers fell on the ball to continue a drive that began at the West Virginia 27 and turned it into seven points when quarterback Geno Smith hit Stedman Bailey for a 20-yard TD with 12:52 in the half. The deficit was 13-7 and there was hope in the air.
But the only scores of the half both belonged to the Tigers as Lee hit Odell Beckham on a 52-yard bomb with 7:50 to go and an LSU interception just 45 seconds before intermission put the Tigers on the WVU 1-yard line and led to a 27-7 halftime lead.
Taking the second half kickoff, LSU might well have sealed the victory with a score on that drive. But the Tigers' kicking woes continued with a missed field goal.
N0. 2 LSU 47, No. 16 West Virginia 21
LSU 13 14 7 13 - 47
WVU 0 7 14 0 - 21
LSU: Rueben Randle 11 pass from Jarrett Lee (Drew Alleman kick) 10:50 1st
LSU: Michael Ford 22 run (kick failed) 2:50 1st
WVU: Stedman Bailey 20 pass from Geno Smith (Tyler Bitancurt kick) 12:52 2nd
LSU: Odell Beckham 52 pass from Lee (Alleman kick) 7:50 2nd
LSU: Chase Clement 1 pass from Lee (Alleman kick_ 0:31 2nd
WVU: Tyler Urban 12 pass from Smith (Bitancurt kick) 9:00 3rd
WVU: Dustin Garrison 1 run (Bitancurt kick) 1:16 3rd
LSU: Morris Claiborne 99 kickoff return (Alleman kick) 0:59 3rd
LSU: Ford 15 run (pass failed) 9:55 4th
LSU: Alfred Blue 18 run (Alleman kick) 3:03 4th
LSU: First downs: 19; Rushes-yards: 40-187; Passing yards: 180; Total yards: 367; Passing: 16-28-0; Fumbles-lost: 0-0; Penalties-yards: 5-45
West Virginia: First downs: 28; Rushes-yards: 22-70; Passing yards: 463; Total yards: 533; Passing: 38-65-2; Fumbles-lost: 2-2; Penalties-yards: 10-73
LSU: Rushing: Michael Ford 13-85, Alfred Blue 2-21, Russell Shepard 1-3, Jarrett Lee 1-(-3), Deangelo Peterson 1-(-8); Passing: Lee 16-28-0, 180 yards; Receiving: Odell Beckham 2-82, Rueben Randle 6-53, Spencer Waire 3-18, Shepard 1-16, Kadron Boone 1-5, James Wright 1-3, Peterson 1-2, Chase Clement 1-1
West Virginia: Rushing: Dustin Garrison 10-46, Shawne Alston 4-14, Vernard Roberts 5-9, Geno Smith 2-5; Passing: Smith 38-65-2, 463 yards; Receiving: Tavon Austin 11-187, Stedman Bailey 8-115, Ivan McCartney 6-59, Tyler Urban 3-33, Garrison 4-26, Brad Starks 3-24, Devon Brown 1-10, Willie Milhouse 1-8, Roberts 1-1
Next game: Bowling Green at West Virginia, Saturday.
WVU, getting the ball at its own 20, got a 20-yard gain from Tavon Austin to start the drive and needed just six plays to go 80 yards with Smith hitting Tyler Urban on a 12-yard score at the 9 minute mark to cut the deficit to 27-14 and breathe some new life back into Mountaineer Field.
West Virginia fans went from hopeful to downright giddy when WVU cut the lead to just six points, 27-21, with 1:16 to play in the quarter when a 72-yard Smith to Tavon Austin pass led to a 1-yard TD run by Dustin Garrison.
But LSU (4-0) stunned the crowd again when Morris Claiborne returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards to a Tiger TD and a 34-21 lead with 59 seconds left in the third quarter. At this point the game was three hours old, but no one was leaving the stadium for fear they would miss many more big plays.
But the next big play belonged to LSU, as the Tigers scored again, this time on a 15-yard TD run by Ford with 9:55 to go. It was 40-21 LSU and the Tigers once again were in command.
To make matters worse, the Tigers scored again with 3:03 to play on an 18-yard run by Alfred Blue, putting an exclamation mark on a dominating performanceand taking its biggest lead of the game, 47-21.
Smith completed 38 of 65 passes for 463 yards with Austin catching 11 passes for 187 yards.as West Virginia dominated the yardage but turned over the ball four times while LSU played error-free football.
The Mountaineers (3-1) will be home again next Saturday when Bowling Green comes to Morgantown.