By Dave Morrison
Midway through the fourth quarter of No. 16 West Virginia’s highly-anticipated matchup with No. 2 LSU, a slow moving fog filtered into the stadium.
It was fitting.
At times West Virginia seemed lost in the fog.
West Virginia committed four turnovers and surrendered a back-breaking 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to Morris Claiborne near the end of the third quarter as the Tigers turned back the Mountaineers 47-21 Saturday night in front of 62,056 fans and a national television audience.
“We got beat by a good football team tonight,” coach Dana Holgorsen, who suffered his first loss at WVU, said. “If I would have scripted it, I probably wouldn’t have scripted it this way. They’re a smarter football team than we are. We had four turnovers, they had none. We had twice as many penalties. And the special teams were completely lopsided.”
While LSU flexed its high-ranked muscle at times, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith continued his early-season assault on the record books.
Smith completed 38 of 65 passes for 463 yards, all WVU records. The previous records were set by Marc Bulger in 1998.
He was also intercepted twice in the first half.
LSU converted those two first-half interceptions into touchdowns and led 27-7 at the break.
West Virginia at least made it momentarily interesting in the second half
After LSU’s Drew Alleman missed a 30-yard field goal on the first possession of the second half, WVU went the distance, Smith hitting Tyler Urban with a 12-yard dart to make it 27-14.
Two possessions later, West Virginia cut it to one possession.
Smith’s 72-yard completion to Tavon Austin set up the Mountaineers deep in LSU territory.
A 19-yard pass to Dustin Garrison on third-and-12 was followed by Garrison, a true freshman, scoring from 1-yard out to make it 27-21.
Smith threw for 217 yards in the second quarter alone.
But LSU burst that momentum when Claiborne returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and a 34-21 lead.
LSU got the ball back on downs at its own 43, and the Tigers finished off the drive when Michael Ford burst through the Mountaineers’ defense for a 15-yard touchdown and an insurmountable 40-21 lead.
The Tigers added a touchdown run by Alfred Blue late in the game to make it 47-21.
The Tigers rushed for 186 yards and threw for 180, but mainly on the strength of Smith’s right arm, the Mountaineers held a 533-367 advantage in total yardage.
Spencer Ware had 95 yards to lead LSU and Michael Ford added 85 and a pair of touchdowns.
Quarterback Jarrett Lee, who had four touchdowns passes entering the game, completed 16 of 28 passes for 180 and three touchdowns, all in the first half.
The Mountaineers found themselves down 27-7 at the half, a victim of three turnovers and poor field position.
The Mountaineers averaged starting their seven drives at the 15, and three times started inside their own 5, courtesy of LSU punter Brad Wing.
In a 13-0 hole early, West Virginia cut it to 13-7 when Smith connected with Bailey on a 20-yard score with 12:30 to go in the first half. Bailey caught the short pass, shed a would-be tackler, and went into the end zone untouched to cap a 73-yard drive.
WVU, which picked up the tempo on the drive, converted a big fourth-down when Smith found Tavon Austin and three plays later Bailey scored.
But LSU got it back, when, on a third-and-1, Lee bamboozled the Mountaineer defense and went deep to Odell Beckham Jr. on a 52-yard hookup that put LSU up 20-7 with 6:57 remaining in the half.
Late in the half, Tyrann Mattieu intercepted Smith when he tipped the ball in the air to himself, pulled the ball in and scampered to the WVU 1-yard line.
It took LSU two plays to put it in the end zone, Lee throwing to Chase Clement for the score to put LSU up 27-7 with 26.8 seconds left.
LSU wasted little time, getting on the board on their first possession after a personal foul penalty and a 14-yard punt sat it up at the Tigers’ 42.
Lee hooked up with Rueben Randle on an 11-yard touchdown after the Tigers converted two third-and-long conversions.
After failing to convert on Brad Starks fumble, LSU did convert on a Geno Smith interception, although the ball hit Tavon Austin squarely in the hands before bounding high into the air and into the arms of Brandon Taylor who was playing center field.
Michael Ford finished off a quick 50-yard drive with a 22-touchdown run with 1:49 left in the first quarter to give the Tigers a 13-0 lead.
No. 2 LSU 47, No. 16 WEST VIRGINIA 21
LSU 13 14 7 13 — 47
West Virginia 0 7 14 0 — 21
LSU—R.Randle 11 pass from Lee (Alleman kick), 10:05.
LSU—Ford 22 run (run failed), 1:49.
WVU—Bailey 20 pass from G.Smith (Bitancurt kick), 12:30.
LSU—Beckham 52 pass from Lee (Alleman kick), 6:57.
LSU—Clement 1 pass from Lee (Alleman kick), :27.
WVU—Urban 12 pass from G.Smith (Bitancurt kick), 8:40.
WVU—Garrison 1 run (Bitancurt kick), 1:16.
LSU—Claiborne 99 kickoff return (Alleman kick), 1:00.
LSU—Ford 15 run (pass failed), 9:55.
LSU—Blue 18 run (Alleman kick), 3:03.
First downs 19 28
Rushes-yards 41-186 22-70
Passing 180 463
Comp-Att-Int 16-28-0 38-65-2
Return Yards 59 0
Punts-Avg. 6-48.7 6-38.7
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-2
Penalties-Yards 5-45 10-73
Time of Possession 33:22 26:38
RUSHING—LSU, Ware 23-92, Ford 12-82, Blue 2-21, Shepard 1-3, Team 2-(minus 4), Peterson 1-(minus 8). West Virginia, Garrison 10-46, Alston 4-14, Ve.Roberts 5-9, G.Smith 2-5, Team 1-(minus 4).
PASSING—LSU, Lee 16-28-0-180. West Virginia, G.Smith 38-65-2-463.
RECEIVING—LSU, R.Randle 6-53, Ware 3-18, Beckham 2-82, Shepard 1-16, Boone 1-5, Wright 1-3, Peterson 1-2, Clement 1-1. West Virginia, Austin 11-187, Bailey 8-115, McCartney 6-59, Garrison 4-26, Urban 3-33, Starks 3-24, De.Brown 1-10, Milhouse 1-8, Ve.Roberts 1-1.