Prolific offensive showing can't overcome turnovers
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- If Saturday's game against No. 1 ranked LSU served as a measuring stick for West Virginia, it's clear the passing game is gold.
Quarterback Geno Smith set school records for completions (38), attempts (65) and passing yards (463) against what may be the premier defense in the country.
LSU capitalized on four turnovers to beat West Virginia, 47-21, but was outgained, 533-336, in total offense.
Ranked No. 2 on Saturday, LSU moved up to No. 1 in The Associated Press poll after the win.
"We can move the ball against anyone. Basically, that's how we feel," said West Virginia offensive lineman Don Barclay. "They're a great defense, probably one of the best we'll see all year."
Of course, the number that stings for the Mountaineers is the four turnovers that cost them the game on a night when the audience numbered well beyond the flag-waving masses at Mountaineer Field.
"You can talk about 500 yards if you want to, but the only thing I'm going to talk about tomorrow is four turnovers," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said in his postgame remarks.
Against LSU's aggressive defense the Mountaineers turned the ball over three times in the first half: a fumble on a reception, an interception when Smith's pass deflected off the helmet of Tavon Austin into the hands of a defensive back, and then the back-breaker.
With 37 seconds to play before halftime, cornerback Tyrann Mathieu batted down a screen pass by Smith and returned it 16 yards to the 1. LSU scored a touchdown two plays later to build a 20-point lead.
The turnovers negated what was a remarkable passing game by Smith and his offense.
Fighting out of a 20-point hole, Smith engineered two scoring drives to get within six points before a special teams breakdown resulted in an LSU touchdown and squelched the comeback.
In all, Smith threw five passes of 20 yards or more, got excellent pass protection from the offensive line and distributed the ball to nine receivers.
Austin led the way with 187 yards on 11 receptions.
"I thought the pass protection was fantastic and Geno had time, and we had some guys get open and make some plays," said Holgorsen. "The offensive game plan was not a problem. Turning the ball over four times is a problem and [LSU] has something to do with that. They have a pretty good defense."
NOTES -- Campus police are investigating a break-in of the Mountaineers football locker room. The break-in apparently happened late Saturday night. A police spokesman said more details should be available today. ... Holgorsen said he expects RB Andrew Buie to return to the lineup for Saturday's game against Bowling Green.
First Published September 26, 2011 12:00 am