WVU couldn't maintain momentum
MORGANTOWN - Quarterback Geno Smith set West Virginia records with 38 completions, 65 attempts and 463 passing yards and the Mountaineers offense did a lot of things other teams just don't do to top-ranked LSU's defense.
Yet the 22nd-ranted Mountaineers did a lot to themselves and spoiled Smith's night and the offense's 533 total yards with a list of errors that contributed to the 47-21 defeat.
"There were a couple times I though we had momentum," Coach Dana Holgorsen said after his first loss as a head coach. "We did some good things offensively and defensively, but you can't beat a good team by doing that. You can talk about 500 yards if you want to. The only thing I'm going to talk about is four turnovers."
Those turnovers led to 20 points for the Tigers. There were also 10 penalties for 73 yards. Five came before the snap. WVU had three false starts and two delays of game after having no pre-snap penalties the first three games.
Field position was critical, too. WVU was hurt by punts that covered 14, 32 and 27 yards and decisions to let LSU punts roll into the WVU red zone and toward the goal line. LSU's average starting field position was its own 48-yard line. WVU's was it its own 15.
"That was definitely important because Coach Holgorsen had to change up his play calls," said Tavon Austin. "He had to change the speed we had on the field and put the big fellows in. They're a fast team on defense, so that made it a lot harder."
Five WVU drives started inside the 10. LSU's touchdown drives were 58, 50, 61, 1, 57 and 55 yards - and that doesn't count the 99-yard kickoff return touchdown, the second special teams touchdown the Mountaineers have allowed.
LSU's Brad Wing punted six times. He averaged 48.7 yards per punt and all six went inside the 20. Austin didn't return any of the punts. He let balls roll and be downed at the 3, 4, 5 and 9 and waved for a fair catch at the 11 and 8.
"He was kicking them high and they looked like they were coming in short all the time, but they were coming in deep," said Austin, who also had a pass bounce off his helmet in the first quarter that led to an interception and a Tigers touchdown. "That was by far on me for not catching the ball."
* * *
AFTER THE loss to then-No. 2 LSU, West Virginia is 0-16 in its history against teams ranked Nos. 1 or 2 in the Associated Press poll. Of those 16 losses, seven have been at home - once each to LSU, Notre Dame and Ohio State and twice each to Miami (Fla.) and Penn State.
* * *
SMITH'S BIG night did more than break WVU records. It also put a significant dent in the Big East record book.
Smith's 65 attempts tied the conference record set by Louisville's Brian Brohm against Syracuse in 2007. The Mountaineer junior had 38 completions, which is fourth in Big East history. Brohm's 45 completions in that aforementioned game is the standard.
Smith 463 passing yards is the new WVU record, and it ranks tied for sixth in Big East history. Brohm owns the record there, too, with 555 in that big game against the Orange in '07.
Smith has three of the top four Big East passing yardage days this season with 463 (LSU), 388 (Maryland) and 371 (Norfolk State). B.J. Daniels of USF threw for 382 in a Sept. 17 win over Florida A&M.
* * *
FOR THE third time in four games, WVU (3-1) turned up with a goose egg in the forced turnovers category. The Mountaineers have only three takeaways in 2011, and only seven of the 120 major college teams have fewer.
WVU is one of nine teams that hasn't recovered a fumble. LSU, meanwhile, is plus-8 on the season after getting four takeaways in the win in Morgantown.
"That might be the difference in the game, if we can get a turnover," said WVU senior cornerback Keith Tandy, referring also to his team's frustration on field position in the loss to the Tigers. "If we get a turnover then we can flip the field and help our offense and give them a short field.
"They way they were moving the ball, they pretty much had their way with (LSU). If we could have gotten them close, they probably would have scored and that would have helped."
The Mountaineers also went another game without a sack, and have only one (by end Bruce Irvin) in four games. They are tied for last nationally with Indiana, Minnesota, UAB and San Jose State for quarterback takedowns.
* * *
BOWLING GREEN comes to Mountaineer Field for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday. It's one of those no-return games for which WVU is paying the Mid-American Conference school $775,000, the most in WVU history for a so-called "buy" date.
It's also the last one of those against an FBS program on a Mountaineer home schedule into the future.
WVU is 31-4-1 against MAC teams all-time (while those schools were in the conference; it doesn't include a 24-12 record against recent MAC entry Temple).
All four losses were to Ohio University. WVU hasn't lost to a MAC foe since dropping a 17-7 decision to the Bobcats at Peden Stadium in 1949.
* * *
THE 47 points scored by the Tigers were the most by a West Virginia opponent since Virginia won the 2002 Continental Tire Bowl, 48-22, in Charlotte, N.C. It also was the most on WVU's home field by a foe since earlier that 2002 season, a 48-17 loss to Maryland.
* * *
AS THE college football seasons heads toward Week 5, here's a fun fact:
The last three schools at which WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen has taught his wide-open air game are now ranked 1-2-3 in the nation in passing offense. The current ranking order is Houston (2008 and '09 with Holgorsen), Oklahoma State (2010) and WVU (2011). Each team features a quarterback tutored by Holgorsen and now ranked in the top 10 in passing offense.
Contact sports writer Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.