West Virginia offense struggles, gains only 177 total yards in loss to Tigers
Published: Sunday, September 26, 2010
Updated: Sunday, September 26, 2010 22:09
West Virginia survived the noise of Death Valley, but it was no match for Stevan Ridley.
Needing six points to the tie the game in the fourth quarter, the Mountaineer offense failed to pick up a first down on their final two possessions and allowed the LSU running back to gain 32 yards on his final two drives and run out the game clock, allowing the No. 15 Tigers to escape with a 20-14 victory in front of 92,575 fans at LSU's Tiger Stadium Saturday night.
It was the second-largest crowd West Virginia has played in front of in its history.
"At the end of the day, (LSU's) talent had more to do with it than the crowd," said WVU offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen. "The guys across from us made it tougher than the atmosphere."
After being held to 80 yards of total offense and just two first downs in the opening half, the Tigers gained 150 yards in the second half thanks to Ridley. The junior gained 88 second-half rush yards against a WVU defense that entered eighth in the country in rush defense.
The junior rushed for runs of 16 and 12 yards to pick up first downs late in the third quarter leading to a 23-yard field goal four seconds into the fourth quarter by LSU kicker Josh Jasper, extending his team's lead to six points and ending the game's scoring.
"Ridley is a great player and a strong kid," said WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. "Our hats are off to him."
Ridley scored the game's first touchdown with 27 seconds left in the first quarter. One possession after West Virginia's Tyler Bitancurt's 28-yard attempt was blocked by LSU corner Patrick Peterson, WVU fullback Ryan Clarke fumbled at the Mountaineers' 10-yard line, giving LSU the ball at WVU's 7-yard line.
Four plays later, on a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, Ridley scored for a 7-0 Tiger advantage.
"If you don't hit him low and hard, he's going to get yards after the hit, and that's what he did today," said WVU defensive lineman Chris Neild of Ridley. "He ran really hard today and it showed."
The LSU defense, meanwhile, held the Mountaineers to 60 yards of total offense in the second half, 30 of which came on two plays in WVU's opening drive of the third quarter, which ended in a 13-yard pass from West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith to receiver Jock Sanders.
West Virginia's only drive of more than five plays in the second half was a 10-play, 44-yard possession with 10:41 left in the fourth quarter which resulted in Bitancurt's second missed field goal of the game – a 48-yard attempt that would have cut the LSU lead to three.
The Mountaineers didn't pick up another first down in the game.
"I felt confident in the defense on the field," said LSU head coach Les Miles. "I felt like the game was really in control."
West Virginia was without running back Noel Devine for much of the first half and sparingly in the second half after the senior bruised a toe on a late hit out-of-bounds in the first half. Devine finished with 37 yards rushing on 14 carries, the senior's second-lowest total as a starter.
West Virginia finished with 177 yards in the game, the least amount by a Mountaineer team since 2003 against Maryland.
Following a Jasper 49-yard field goal three minutes into the second quarter, West Virginia was forced to punt from its own 12-yard line. The kick was returned 60 yards for a touchdown by Peterson – his second punt return for a touchdown this season.
The Mountaineers finally got on the board with 48 seconds before the half when Smith found Stedman Bailey for a five-yard touchdown, cutting the LSU deficit to 17-7.
"LSU is a team whose big thing is getting pressure on the quarterback," Smith said. "They sent a lot of blitzes.
WVU dropped to 3-1 on the season while LSU improved to 4-0, despite committing 12 penalties for 120 yards. It was the Tigers' 31st consecutive win over a non-conference opponent while LSU improved to 26-1 during Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium under head coach Les Miles.