MORGANTOWN -- West Virginia's offense is good enough to gain a lot of yards and score a lot of points. Sometimes it happens in a hurry. Sometimes it can go bad just as fast.
Inspired by their ability, the Mountaineers decided to throw a pass on third-and-19 from their own 25-yard line with 43 seconds to go in the first half Saturday. It was tipped and then intercepted by cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and returned to the 1-yard line. The Tigers scored two plays later and took a 27-7 halftime lead on their way to a 47-21 victory.
LSU (4-0) moved up one spot to No. 1 in the Associated Press poll Sunday while the Mountaineers (3-1) dropped six places to No. 22.
"I don't know how you can call anything else other than handing the ball off in the middle or throwing a screen out on the edge," Coach Dana Holgorsen said of the play call.
The Tigers had a lead and momentum and then took a risk for which they were rewarded. Geno Smith completed a 3-yard pass to Ivan McCartney on third-and-9, but right guard Tyler Rader was called for holding. Rather than let WVU punt from its 38, LSU accepted the 10-yard penalty, knowing Mountaineers punter Corey Smith had struggled.
The Mountaineers, with three timeouts, but 75 yards between them and the end zone, called a run play that also gave Smith the right to change the play at the line of scrimmage. WVU had LSU outnumbered on the left side with three receivers and two defenders, one of which was a safety more than 10 yards off receiver Tavon Austin.
Smith changed the play to a quick screen to the Austin.
"I think if I would have gotten one or two blocks, I would have had a big play," Austin said.
Mathieu sneaked in behind defensive end Sam Montgomery and blitzed from the left side. He stopped suddenly when he saw Smith square up to throw. Mathieu jumped and hit the ball with his right hand and then caught it on the move at the 17. Smith and Austin made the tackle.
"I didn't see him," left tackle Don Barclay said. "The guy made a great play."
Holgorsen didn't mind Smith checking out of the run to a pass, but he didn't like Smith's execution on the throw considering Mathieu was showing a blitz before the snap.
"We knew he was going to do that," Holgorsen said. "That's on Geno. If he thinks he can get it over him, then get it over him. He was aware that kid was pretty good and when he blitzed he was going straight up the field. It's something Geno needs to do a better job of."