Arlington, TX – The first week of the college football season is always filled with lopsided games.
This wasn't supposed to be one of them.
But almost everything, particularly the turnovers, broke in LSU's favor on Saturday night as the fourth-ranked Tigers rolled to a 40-27 victory over No. 3 Oregon in a game that wasn't as close as the final score.
Spencer Ware and Michael Ford combined to rush for 195 yards and three touchdowns, and Jarrett Lee passed for 98 yards and a touchdown while starting in place of suspended quarterback Jordan Jefferson.
The Tigers (1-0) scored 20 points off turnovers in the first three quarters to overcome a couple of early deficits and pushed its non-conference regular season winning streak to a national best 34 games.
Jefferson, who was supposed to be the starter for the third straight year, and linebacker Josh Johns were suspended indefinitely and are facing battery charges in connection with a bar fight last month.
After drawing so many negative headlines off the field, the Tigers created a positive one on it.
"As you all know, we've had a lot on our minds as a team coming into this game and we just kind of put that to the perimeter," said Lee. "It's not something that we wanted to happen, but you have to put it to the side and move forward."
Oregon Heisman hopeful LaMichael James seemed to suffer from cramps and rushed for just 54 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown, while Darron Thomas passed for 240 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
The Ducks (0-1) have dropped back-to-back games after losing the national title to Auburn in January.
They were without talented cornerback and kick returner Cliff Harris, who was arrested in June for speeding and suspended for a game. They could have used him.
The game turned quickly in LSU's favor after it scored two quick touchdowns off turnovers in the third quarter.
First, defensive end Sam Montgomery stripped running back De'Anthony Thomas for a fumble that was caught in mid-air by safety Eric Reid. The Tigers converted it into Ford's five-yard touchdown run for a 23-13 lead.
Thomas then fumbled the ensuing kickoff after a nice return, with safety Craig Loston knocking the ball loose from behind. The Tigers needed just six plays and 38 yards to make it 30-13 on Ware's one-yard rush.
"Those are self-inflicted wounds. You can't play against a good football team like we did tonight and turn the football over the way we did," said Oregon head coach Chip Kelly.
"The drops, turnovers, and the penalties are what killed us. Against a team like that, you're not going to win the game."
After a 32-yard Drew Alleman field goal gave LSU a 20-point lead, Thomas and the Ducks went 68 yards and the quarterback found Josh Huff lunging in the back of the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown to make it 33-20.
But Ford later ripped off a 16-yard touchdown run for LSU, while Thomas scored on a late four-yard rush for Oregon.
Earlier, after the teams exchanged field goals and Oregon took a 6-3 lead, LSU corner Tyrann Mathieu wrapped up Kenjon Barner on a punt, forcing a fumble, and picked the ball up himself in front of the goal line for a touchdown and 9-6 lead (Alleman missed the extra point attempt)
An LSU penalty gave the Ducks a first down at the Tigers' four-yard line and James rushed for a touchdown two plays later to give Oregon a 13-9 lead.
Lee led a 13-play drive and found Rueben Randle 1-on-1 in the front of the end zone on the left side for a 10-yard touchdown and 16-13 LSU lead at halftime.
The game was played at Cowboys Stadium, marking only the third time two top- five teams opened the season on a neutral field...LSU leads the all-time series 3-1...Oregon is 4-6 all-time against SEC teams...The Ducks are 16-5 in season openers since 1991.