Big plays, big mistakes and a big-time college football atmosphere were in the air Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.
But in the end, LSU had too many big-play moments and held off TCU 37-27 in front of 80,230 in attendance.
Jarvis Landry’s 20-yard touchdown reception from Zach Mettenberger gave the 12th-ranked Tigers a 10-point lead with just over six minutes remaining and TCU’s offense, which began with Casey Pachall and finished with Trevone Boykin, couldn’t mount another comeback.
LSU outgained TCU 450 yards to 267. The Tigers rushed for 199 yards, including 5.6 yards per carry. The Horned Frogs’ offense was not nearly as efficient, no matter who they had playing quarterback.
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“I don’t think there’s any doubt we can play with them,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “We got stronger in the fourth quarter. We can’t make mistakes. I’m proud of my team. I thought they played hard. Everybody who says we can’t compete against the SEC is wrong.”
TCU’s season opener was supposed to put the Horned Frogs’ quarterback battle to bed. Instead, it might have made it stronger. Boykin replaced Pachall after the senior, playing in his first game since leaving the team last October, was intercepted on the Frogs’ first possession of the second half.
Boykin led TCU on a 10-play, 77-yard scoring drive to pull the Frogs back to within 23-17 with just under nine minutes remaining in the third quarter. Boykin rushed for 14 yards on the drive before B.J. Catalon raced down the right side 26 yards for a score.
Again, the Tigers answered with a touchdown of their own, capping a 68-yard drive with Terrence Magee’s 3-yard scoring run to put the Tigers up 30-17.
“We controlled the game the entire game,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “There are some things we need to fix. The things that we did right we need to do over and over again.”
TCU’s defense came up big, however, forcing a fumble and recovering at the LSU 6. Waymon James scored on a 5-yard run to pull TCU back to within 30-24 early in the fourth quarter.
Early in the second half, it looked like the Tigers were going to run away with the momentum. Magee took a handoff on the Tigers’ fourth play of the second half and rumbled 52 yards down the left sideline to give the Tigers a 23-10 lead and what seemed a like an insurmountable lead for the struggling TCU offense under Pachall.
LSU took the opening kickoff 69 yards before settling for a 23-yard field goal. Tigers quarterback Mettenberger completed his first three passes, including a 16-yard completion to Jarvis Landry to the Frogs’ 35. Magee followed with a 6-yard rush before Beckham’s 17-yard run put the Tigers on the TCU 12. Mettenberger’s pass to DeSean Smith in the end zone was broken up by TCU’s Kevin White on third-and-4 to hold LSU to a field goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, TCU’s Brandon Carter, who broke his hand the first week of August camp, was stripped of the ball on the return and the Tigers recovered at the TCU 10. The Frogs’ defense stepped up again and held LSU to a Colby Delahoussaye field goal, this time from 28 yards.
On TCU’s first offensive series, Pachall took the field at quarterback, while Boykin lined up at receiver for the first two plays. Pachall’s first two passes were incomplete, although one of them was wiped out by an LSU penalty.
He quickly connected with his next three passes, including twice to Carter for gains of seven and three yards.
TCU moved the ball 71 yards and Pachall looked swift on a 13-yard run on third down to put the Frogs on LSU’s 32. He hit Carter in stride for a 26-yard completion on another third down to set them up at the LSU 11. But Boykin, in at quarterback, was dropped for a 4-yard loss and TCU had to settle for a 21-yard field goal from Jaden Oberkrom.
LSU responded with an 80-yard, seven-play drive highlighted by back-to-back completions of 26 and 44 yards from Mettenberger to Odell Beckham.
The second reception came against cornerback Kevin White and set the Tigers up at the TCU 7. J.C. Copeland barreled in from 1 yard to put the Tigers up 13-3 early in the second quarter.
The momentum seemed one-sided for the Tigers but Catalon changed that in a flash. He took the next kickoff 100 yards and ran untouched for a score. It was the longest kickoff return for a Frog since a 105-yard return in 1933. But it didn’t translate into any offensive momentum for TCU as the Tigers’ defense clamped down.
Both defenses stepped up in the second quarter, forcing punts on the others’ next two possessions. LSU drove 75 yards on the final possession of the first half and scored on a 23-yard field goal to take a 16-10 lead at the break.