LSU stumbles past Towson 38-22

Todd Politz
Russell Shepard dives into the end zone for a 78-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against Towson.

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 one 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 one-yard touchdown runs.