LSU’s ferocious and unforgiving defensive front and Leonard Fournette being, well, Leonard Fournette was too much for a game Texas Tech squad as the 20th-ranked Tigers pulled away from the Red Raiders, 56-27 in the Texas Bowl Tuesday night.
Fournette opened the scoring with a two-yard touchdown plunge on LSU’s first possession. Texas Tech seemingly pulled even when Patrick Mahomes hit Jakeem Grant on a beautiful 46-yard lob on 3rd-and-10, but the Red Raiders’ ensuing two-point try failed. The one-point difference lasted all of 24 seconds when D.J. Chark, on his touch catch of the season, took a pitch and raced 79 yards for a touchdown.
The Bayou Bengals pushed the lead to 21-6 when Brandon Harris found Fournette for a 44-yard catch-and-dash score at the 6:41 mark of the second quarter.
The next seven possessions saw Texas Tech grab a handful of momentum and severely outplay LSU, much to the delight of the red and black Houston crowd. After Fournette’s touchdown, the Red Raiders marched 90 yards in nine plays, capped by a three-yard toss from Mahomes to Grant. Texas Tech forced a three-and-out on LSU’s next possession, and then another on the opening possession of the second half.
Texas Tech punted on its first touch of the third quarter, but Dakota Allen stepped in front of a Harris pass on LSU’s following possession, giving the Red Raiders three straight stops (not including an end-of-half possession). Mahomes capitalized with another third down touchdown pass, this one a 31-yarder to Reginald Davis at the 10:28 mark of the third quarter, pulling Texas Tech to within 21-20.
Unfortunately for Texas Tech and head coach Kliff Kingsbury, their Texas Bowl experience peaked at that moment.
LSU raced 75 yards in four plays, the last 43 on another Fournette touchdown run, then intercepted Mahomes off a deflection inside the Tigers’ red zone. Fournette scored again on the next possession, punctuating a four-play, 78-yard drive. After a three-and-out in which Texas Tech lost 13 yards, Harris capped a four-play, 64-yard drive with a 26-yard scoring dash, turning a 21-20 thriller into a 42-20 blowout in the span of 10 minutes.
The clubs traded scores to open the fourth quarter — another Mahomes-to-Grant pass for Texas Tech, another Fournette plunge for LSU — and LSU capped the scoring with a six-play, 65-yard drive ended by a two-yard Darrel Williams run.
LSU, who entered the night ranked 51st in total offense and 54th in scoring, ended the night with 638 yards of total offense on 10.3 yards per play with touchdowns on its last five full possessions. Fournette, of course, starred, rushing 29 times for a Texas Bowl record 212 yards and four touchdowns, plus a 44-yard touchdown reception. Harris hit 13-of-24 throws for 254 yards with a touchdown and a pick, and as a team the Tigers rushed 40 times for 384 yards and seven touchdowns.
Mahomes completed 28-of-56 throws for 370 yards with four touchdowns and one interception but, if possible, his performance out-shined his numbers. LSU virtually eliminated Texas Tech’s running game and sacked Mahomes six times, while forcing him to run for his life on the majority of his completions. Grant caught 10 passes for 125 yards and three touchdowns, and DeAndre Washington closed a stellar career with 11 carries for 37 yards and seven grabs for 81 yards.
LSU closed the season at 9-3, comforted in knowing the bulk of the roster — starting with Fournette — returns next season, which figures to make the Tigers a popular preseason top-5 pick for 2016. Texas Tech finishes at 7-6, comforted in knowing Mahomes returns to campus and the 2015 defense does not.