Travin Dural

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Lack of offense dooms No. 5 LSU in Lambeau loss to Wisconsin

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Two years ago, LSU and Wisconsin met in Houston for the front end of this odd home-and-home. The Badgers built a 24-7 lead and lost 28-24. For most of the second half, it appeared history would repeat itself. The Badgers built a 13-0 lead and watched it slip away in a matter of six plays. But a late field goal and an even later interception allowed Wisconsin to secure a 16-14 upset of No. 5 LSU at Lambeau Field.

Wisconsin owned the first half, and continued that dominance into the second, forcing a three-and-out on LSU’s first possession, then stuffing the ball 58 yards in five snaps to notch the game’s first touchdown — a five-yard Corey Clement jaunt to put Wisconsin up 13-0 at the 10:47 mark of the third quarter.

The Badgers forced another punt on their next defensive possession, the fifth of the day, but Wisconsin quarterback Bart Houston (looking extreeeemly Bart Houston, with his t-shirt sleeves descending below his jersey sleeves) did the one thing he absolutely, positively could not do: a forced interception on 3rd-and-long from deep in his own territory. Tre’Davious White zigged and zagged across the field to put LSU on the board with an 18-yard pick six at the 5:28 mark of the third quarter.

LSU took advantage of the momentum on their next possession as quarterback Brandon Harris finally sprung to life, finding Leonard Fournette for a 31-yard connection and Travin Dural for a 10-yard touchdown, giving the Tigers a 14-13 lead.

The teams traded punts on their next five possessions before Wisconsin took the lead with 3:47 to go on a 47-yard Rafael Gaglianone field goal.

On the ensuing possession, LSU (0-1) moved from its 25 to the Wisconsin 35 with plenty of time for a game-winning field goal, but Harris through an interception to the chest of Wisconsin defensive back D’Cota Dixon with 57 ticks to go. The pick was a fitting end for LSU, as its offense let the defense and special teams down for the previous 59 minutes as well. For the day the Tigers mustered only 14 first downs and 257 total yards. They converted 2-of-10 third downs and snapped the ball just 50 times to Wisconsin’s 71, dooming their defense to spend 37 of the game’s 60 minutes on the field. Fournette managed 138 yards on 23 carries and three receptions for 38 yards, but failed to dominate the game the way his numbers indicated. Harris connected on 12-of-21 passes for 131 yards with a touchdown and two picks.

Wisconsin (1-0), meanwhile, managed just enough offense to get out of its own way. The Badgers survived not only Houston’s pick six, but also another Houston interception near the LSU goal line and a turnover on downs at the LSU 23. For the day, Houston hit 19-of-31 passes for 205 yards, while Clement rushed 21 times for 86 yards.

LSU’s loss is a rare moment of September weakness, both for itself and the SEC. Today’s result marks LSU’s first regular season non-conference loss since dropping the 2002 opener to Virginia Tech, and just the SEC’s fourth setback in 18 opening week neutral site games. It’s also the first time an SEC team has lost to a Big Ten foe with College GameDay in town to hype the contest; the SEC was 5-0 before today.

LSU LB Beckwith and CB White returning in 2016: Tigers return senior-loaded roster (and Fournette)

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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With the deadline to declare for the NFL Draft approaching in a matter of hours, LSU has announced two players will be returning to Baton Rouge next season. Linebacker Kendell Beckwith and cornerback Tre’Davious White will come back for one more season in 2016, providing LSU with a pair of solid starters on defense to rely on once more.

“These are special guys,” LSU head coach Les Miles said in a released statement. “They have a real fondness and enjoyment for this football team. They are leaders; Kendell makes all the calls from the Mike linebacker spot and Tre’Davious wears No. 18, which has always been the mark of a leader. Decisions like this aren’t easy to make. These guys took their time, got all of the information necessary to make a real educated and quality decision.”

Miles also noted the obvious. LSU is returning a pretty loaded senior class for the first time in a while. LSU has sent plenty of talent on to the NFL, and that will still be the case, but LSU has commonly been one of the schools sending off a decent number of underclassmen through the NFL Draft process. Beckwith and White join wide receiver Travin Dural, center Ethan Pocic, defensive end Lewis Neal, defensive tackle Christian LaCouture and defensive back Rickey Jefferson in deciding to return to LSU in 2016. In LSU’s entire senior class of 2016, 12 have started at least one game for the Tigers.

“Anytime that you have a senior dominated team, you recognize that you are going to play with leaders, and guys always play their best year of football when they are most mature,” Miles said.

Also keep in mind LSU will also return running back Leonard Fournette for his junior season. LSU all of a sudden once again looks to have the kind of team that can make some real noise in the fall, especially if it is motivated to finish the job it could not in 2015. After starting 7-0 last season, LSU ran into a wall against Alabama and lost three straight games to fall from College Football Playoff lock to the Texas Bowl against Texas Tech. LSU opens the 2016 season against Wisconsin in Lambeu Field and could have a decent shot at getting to the bye week with another perfect record, which would include home wins against Mississippi State and Ole Miss in addition to road wins at Auburn and Florida. Then a chance for redemption would come on November 5 when Alabama comes to town.

Start taking a hard look at LSU. With the senior-heavy roster returning, another year for Fournette and a schedule that sees Alabama coming to Baton Rouge, there should be plenty of reason to start throwing them in the way-too-early playoff conversation.

No. 4 Alabama again the class of the SEC in blowout of No. 2 LSU

Associated Press
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There was a six minute period Saturday night when it appeared No. 2 LSU could play with No. 4 Alabama. Trailing 10-0, the Tigers mounted a six-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 40-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Harris to Travin Dural to pull within 10-7, pushed the Tide backwards six yards on three plays on their next possession, then moved 45 yards to notch a game-tying field goal with 2:22 remaining before the half.

Those six minutes belonged to LSU, and the other 54 belonged to Alabama. The Crimson Tide manhandled LSU, winning 30-16 in Tuscaloosa and claiming their fifth-straight triump in this hotly contested series.

Alabama’s defense swallowed Heisman Trophy favorite Leonard Fournette for the entire evening, limiting him to only 31 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries. The inability to get Fournette going in turn stifled LSU’s entire offense, as Alabama defenders blanketed LSU pass-catchers, which limited Harris to just 128 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception on 6-of-19 passing.

Meanwhile, Tide running back Derrick Henry posted the type of night Fournette could not, rushing a career-high 38 times for 210 yards and three touchdowns. Jake Coker was a typically efficient 18-of-24 passing for 184 yards, and Kenyan Drake added 10 carries for 68 yards.

After LSU tied the game at 10-10, Alabama notched a 55-yard Adam Griffith field goal just before the half, and then extended that momentum into the third quarter, as a pair of Henry scoring jaunts pushed the lead to 27-10.

Griffith added a 30-yard field goal with 12:45 remaining to nudge the score to 30-10, and LSU scored three minutes later with a one-yard Fournette plunge.

Instead of mounting a comeback, LSU watched Henry put the game away. The Tigers, in fact, never touched the ball again as Alabama consumed the final 9:18 with a 12-play, 80-yard drive.

In the end, Alabama out-gained LSU 434-182, held a 28-12 first downs edge and snapped the ball 79 times to LSU’s 45.

The win, coupled with Ole Miss’s loss earlier Saturday, put Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) firmly in control of its destiny to meet Florida in the SEC championship game, needing only wins at Mississippi State (next week) and Auburn (Nov. 28) to win the SEC West for the second straight year and third time in the last four years. LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC) would need to win out against Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M while waiting on another Alabama loss.

And, as the Tigers saw up close and personal Saturday night, that isn’t likely to happen.

No. 4 Alabama leading 13-10 over No. 2 LSU at the half

Associated Press
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A back-and-forth first half in Tuscaloosa saw No. 4 Alabama hit the locker room with a 13-10 lead over No. 2 LSU.

After a scoreless first quarter, Alabama appeared to put the game out of reach when Adam Griffith knocked in a 22-yard field goal and Derrick Henry followed with a two-yard touchdown run, giving the Tide a 10-0 lead at the 8:51 mark of the second quarter.

But the LSU offense, which to that point had achieved a 37-yard heave from Brandon Harris to Travin Dural and precisely nothing else, awakened. The Tigers moved 75 yards in six plays, capped by a 40-yard scoring strike from Harris to Duval, to get on the board, then tied the game with a six-play, 45-yard field goal drive.

Alabama reclaimed the lead, aided by an LSU kickoff out of bounds, with a six-play, 28-yard march punctuated by a 55-yard Griffith field goal with 14 ticks remaining.

The LSU offensive numbers still haven’t been pretty. Harris has completed 3-of-9 passes for 90 yards and a score (meaning he’s 2-of-7 for 13 yards outside those throws to Duval) with four carries for 25 yards. Leonard Fournette rushed nine times for only 9 yards in the half.

Jake Coker completed 9-of-14 passes for 86 yards, while Henry rushed 15 times for 90 yards and the score.

LSU will receive to open the second half.

 

No. 14 LSU leading No. 25 Mississippi State at the half

Associated Press
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No. 14 LSU has completely dominated No. 25 Mississippi State’s inexperienced offensive line, dominating the line of scrimmage as the Tigers lead 14-3 at the break in Starkville.

Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott, transcendent against LSU a year ago in Baton Rouge, has completed 11-of-20 throws for just 88 yards while being credited with five carries for minus-17 yards. Overall Mississippi State has rushed 14 times for only 21 yards.

Mississippi State was shut out until a 43-yard Westin Graves field goal with 43 seconds to play before the half.

LSU, meanwhile, has had no trouble running the ball. Leonard Fournette powered in from one and 26 yards out in the first quarter, providing LSU’s only scoring of the half. He rushed 13 times for 60 yards and both of those scores.

Brandon Harris played well in his first half as a full-time starter, completing five of eight throws for 56 yards, plus a touchdown to Travin Dural that was called back due to penalty.

LSU will receive to open the second half.