Without three offensive starters, No. 9 LSU used running back Keiland Williams to the tune of 116 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers defeated Louisiana Tech, 24-16, on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
LSU (8-2) came alive defensively in the second half, holding Louisiana Tech (3-7) to 93 yards of total offense after giving up 229 in the first half and trailing at halftime, 13-10.
“Defensively, it looked like our defense in the second half,” said head coach Les Miles. “In the first half we kind of felt like they felt like we weren’t going to be tested.”
Williams shouldered the load for LSU and handled the job well after Charles Scott's regular season ended last week with a collarbone fracture. Behind Williams in the Tigers backfield, Stevan Ridley added 26 yards on eight carries while freshman Russell Shepard ran four times for 24 yards.
Starting in place of injured Jordan Jefferson, LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee finished 7-of-22 passing for 105 yards with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell in the first quarter. LaFell had a team-high two catches for 54 yards.
“I think we did not play sharp certainly,” Miles said. “I didn’t like how the defense started the game. Offensively, we had some opportunities to make some big plays, and we didn’t.
“We started a new center (P.J. Lonergan), a second-team quarterback (Jarrett Lee), operated with new running backs and slugged through a victory. Certainly I enjoyed the finish and the numbers. I do not like how we played. I think we can play better.”
Louisiana Tech starter Ross Jenkins completed 16-of-31 passes for 143 yards. Running back Daniel Porter tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first half and added 64 yards rushing. Tyrone Duplessis led the Bulldogs with 65 yards on 17 carries.
Louisiana Tech outgained LSU, 322-246, while holding the ball for 36:20. However, the Bulldogs committed 10 penalties for 100 yards and punted six times.
After forcing Tech to punt on the opening possession, the Tigers put points on the board after a nine-play, 47-yard drive. On third-and-20, the Bulldogs were called for pass interference even though LSU wide receiver R.J. Jackson caught an 18-yard pass from Lee. The automatic first down helped the Tigers move into the redzone, where the drive stalled on two incomplete passes. Josh Jasper made a 35-yard field goal with 9:08 left in the first quarter to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
Louisiana Tech answered with a field goal of their own on the ensuing drive, advancing to the LSU 13. Matt Nelson hit a 30-yard attempt to tie the game at 3-3 with 4:23 left in the quarter.
LSU regained the lead with a quick 79-yard drive that included a 14-yard catch by tight end Mitch Joseph and a 25-yard run by Williams. Lee finished the drive with a 38-yard catch and run by LaFell, who dove into the endzone from three yards out and LSU led 10-3 with 1:55 left in the quarter.
In the second quarter, the teams traded punts before Louisiana Tech marched 43 yards in 11 plays to cut the lead to 10-6 with a 33-yard field goal by Nelson.
The Bulldogs again worked their way into LSU territory with a variety of running plays. Catches of 11 and 16 yards by Morris and Dustin Mitchell gave Tech a first-and-goal at the 7. On fourth-and-2, from the 1-yard line, Porter shifted behind center, took the snap and stepped toward the line of scrimmage. He then pulled up and threw a jump pass to Morris for a touchdown as time expired in the half. Tech's 13-10 halftime lead was believed to be the first time LSU has trailed the Bulldogs since 1904.
In the second half, starting at their 41, the Tigers overcame a personal foul by Lyle Hitt when Lee completed a 19-yard pass to wide receiver Chris Mitchell on third-and-18. Williams added runs of 12 and 4 yards, and 15 yards were added to the second run for a personal foul on Louisiana Tech. Lee again connected with LaFell for a 16-yard gain to the Bulldogs 3-yard line where Williams scored his first touchdown. With 6:59 to play in the third quarter, LSU led 17-13.
Williams and Shepard then helped the Tigers put the game out of reach with the running game. Deep in Louisiana Tech territory, Shepard peeled of consecutive runs of 14 and 3 yards before Williams scored from the 9 by bouncing off the left end and beating the defenders to the goal line. Jasper's PAT put LSU ahead 24-13 with 7:01 remaining.
Louisiana Tech added a 36-yard field goal from Nelson but the onside kickoff was recovered by LSU and the Tigers prevailed for a 24-16 victory.
LSU (8-2, 4-2) returns to action next Saturday when the Tigers travel to Ole Miss (7-3, 3-3).