It was close but no cigar tonight for the West Virginia Mountaineers as the eye of the LSU Tigers (the huge tiger eye is hands down the sweetest midfield insignia in the nation) stayed focused on, and pulled out a close victory over WVU 20-14. This one was a struggle from the start, as LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw an interception to WVU corner back Keith Tandy just as LSU was driving into Mountaineer territory. A few series later, WVU fullback Ryan Clarke would return the favor by fumbling deep in LSU territory. Clarke’s fumble help set up the only score of the first quarter which was a Stevan Ridley1 yard touchdown run. It’s also worth noting that Noel Devine went down temporarily with a toe injury in the first quarter.
The turnovers continued for the Mountaineers in the second quarter as Gino Smith was intercepted by Tyron Mathieu. Matthew’s interception ultimately lead to a 49 yard Josh Jasper field goal which extended LSU’s lead from 7 to 10 points. LSU tacked on 7 more compliments of a 65 yard punt return by their All-SEC corner back, Patrick Peterson, which made the score 17-0 in favor of the Tigers. The Mountaineers did have one bright spot at the end of the half as Smith connected with his ole high school buddy, Stedman Bailey, on a 5 yard touchdown pass. With that touchdown pass, the LSU lead was cut from 17 to 10 points.
The momentum stayed with WVU as the defense began the third quarter by intercepting their 2nd Jefferson pass (Ian Smith) and returning it all the way to the LSU 30. Two plays later, Smith found Jock Sanders wide open just 4 yards past the line of scrimmage and Sanders ran the other 9 and cross the goal line for the Mountaineers 2nd touchdown of the night. At this point, the Mountaineers had scored 14 unanswered points to counter the 17 unanswered LSU had in the first half and this was just a 3 point game heading into the 4th quarter. Heck, I even sat up a little more and got out from underneath my blanket for what I was sure would be an exciting final 15 minutes.
Well, needless to say only 3 more points found their way onto the scoreboard compliments of a 23 yard Jasper field goal. At the end of the night, special teams and LSU’s team speed defensively were the deciding factors. Special teams wise, WVU kicker Tyler Bitancurt had his first field goal attempt blocked and flat out missed his second attempt. Doing the simple math here, that’s 6 points off the board that the Mountaineers desperately needed tonight. Sticking with the special teams theme, remember that LSU scored on a 65 yard punt return that put 6 points on the board that the Tigers would end up winning by. Other than Tavon Austin’s 18 yard reception in the 3rd quarter, the bubble screens and slants that ate Maryland up last week had little or no effect on the super fast LSU defense. Not only were the Tigers able to shut down the bubble screens and slants, they were the first WVU opponent to pressure Smith through four quarters.
The Mountaineers have a bye week coming up and I think they can take some positives into their week off. For starters, the Mountaineer defense did force two turnovers andheld LSU to 13 offensive points (7 of those came on a drive of fewer than 10 yards). Also, quarterback Gino Smith, in spite of tonight’s game, is having an excellent season and is just 81 yards shy of passing for 1,00o on the season. It’s a longtime between now and October 9th, but over these next 13 days, the Mountaineers and head coach Bill Stewart will have something cooked up for UNLV when the Rebels come to Morgantown.
About the Author
Written by Jason Lee
Born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia, I've been a sports fan probably since I was about 9 years old! A 2002 graduate of Mount Union College (Alliance, OH), I've had the opportunity to cover some great high school football on the radio in both Ohio (working with WHBC in Canton) and in West Virginia (I currently work with Bristol Broadcasting in Charleston). I also keep an on-line journal/blogs on my own website.