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No. 15 LSU survives No. 22 West Virginia, 20-14

October 6, 2010
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

BATON ROUGE, La. - Patrick Peterson added another highlight-reel play to his Heisman Trophy resume, and offensively challenged LSU needed it.

Peterson returned a punt 60 yards for a score, and No. 15 LSU held on for a 20-14 victory over 22nd-ranked West Virginia on Saturday night.

The Tigers (4-0) again had to rely heavily on defense and special teams to remain unbeaten. Jordan Jefferson had a third straight game throwing for fewer than 100 yards and no touchdowns. He was also intercepted twice and was pulled for a series in the fourth quarter.

LSU coach Les Miles tried to look on the bright side of LSU's win but did not dismiss his club's lingering inability to move the ball through the air.

''I was just in locker room with an undefeated, 4-0 football team. A lot of teams would like to be in that position,'' Miles said. ''We just played our second nationally ranked team for victory. Our team is playing great on defense, very good on special teams. ... Our quarterback play has got to get better, it's just that simple. Our guys know it.''

Jefferson's second interception, picked by Eain Smith, set up Geno Smith's 13-yard scoring strike to Jock Sanders, which got WVU (3-1) to within 17-14 in the third quarter. But the closest the Mountaineers came to scoring after that was Tyler Bitancurt's missed 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Bitancourt also had a field goal blocked by Lazarius Levingston in the first quarter. Peterson was originally credited with that big play, too.

Must be force of habit in Baton Rouge because no Tiger has made more game-changers this season than LSU's star cornerback.

Stevan Ridley rushed for 116 yards, including 1-yard TD run for LSU, and Josh Jasper added field goals 49 and 23 yards.

WVU's Noel Devine, who had at least 111 yards in each of the Mountaineers' first three games, managed only 37 yards on 14 carries against the stingy Tigers' defense. Coach Bill Stewart said his star runner was struggling with a foot injury after being hit out of bounds.

''That was a tough one to lose, and it is going to stick with me for a long time,'' Stewart said. ''I do not like missing two field goals. I do not like giving up a punt return. I do not like us not handling the pressure'' on the quarterback.

Smith did not take a sack, but was forced to hurry several inaccurate passes before being blasted by hard charging LSU defenders. He finished 14 of 29 passing for 119 yards and two TDs, the first going for 5 yards to Stedman Bailey for West Virginia's first points at the end of the second quarter. He was intercepted once by freshman defensive back Tyrann Matheiu, who also recovered Ryan Clarke's fumble on the WVU 7 in the first quarter, setting up Ridley's TD - the only touchdown scored by LSU's offense.

Mathieu's interception set up Jasper's first field goal, and Peterson's slashing punt return made it 17-0 in the second quarter.

''He is fearless and he's got great confidence and ball skills and great speed,'' Miles said, lamenting that Peterson missed other chances to return punts because he was dehydrated and being given fluids by the training staff. ''When he's hydrated, he's the best in the country, arguably.''

After what was his second punt return for a score this season, Peterson struck a stiff-arming Heisman pose to the delight of the nearby student section and was flagged for excessive celebration.

Miles said Peterson ''felt as bad as anyone in that stadium when we had to kickoff from the 15.''

''He's the leader on the football team and a wonderful person, so I don't expect those issues to pop up again,'' Miles said.

At that point, Death Valley in a frenzy, but the feisty Mountaineers wouldn't wilt and LSU's offense lacked the firepower to put them away.

LSU finished with 230 total yards of offense, but the Tigers' defense bailed them out by holding West Virginia to 177 and getting two turnovers.

LSU backup quarterback Jarrett Lee played for one series and completed his only pass for 5 yards, but did not get a first down. Jefferson, who was booed several times, came back for LSU's final series, when the Tigers were able to run out the clock.