Published September 21, 2011
| Sports Network
Morgantown, WV – The second-ranked LSU Tigers of the SEC and ranked West Virginia Mountaineers of the Big East Conference will collide in what should be a physical battle from Morgantown.
LSU owns the nation's longest non-conference, regular-season winning streak, which currently stands at 35 games. The Tigers, who are 3-0 this season, have won their last four outings against non-conference Top-25 teams. They faced a league foe the last time out and managed to knock off Mississippi State by a 19-6 final.
"I told the team the defense needed to come in and play the way they did to have the success that we came to have and they did," said LSU head coach Les Miles after the win over the Bulldogs. "I felt like the intensity of the defense was strong and that really ended up being the tale of the day."
West Virginia is flying high under the guidance of first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen. Last week, the Mountaineers improved to 3-0 with a thrilling 37-31 triumph over Maryland on the road.
"You know, a big win for the Mountaineers," said Holgorsen. "If there was a single thing that we tried to get accomplished, it was just to hit the field with some excitement, start the game fast."
The Tigers and Mountaineers met for the first time ever last season, and LSU won by a 20-14 final in Baton Rouge.
After racking up a total of 89 points through the first two games, LSU was held in check by Mississippi State. The Tigers managed only one offensive touchdown in the clash, and they were limited to 3.9 yards per rushing attempt. Also, they finished just 4-of-12 on third-down conversion attempts but still managed to keep possession of the ball for nearly 38 minutes.
The LSU defense was nothing short of dominant against MSU, holding a talented group of Bulldogs to 193 total yards and zero touchdowns in front of their own crowd.
"It was a dogfight," said LSU safety Eric Reid after the win over Mississippi State. "We knew it was going to be a dogfight. This was their first home game, so we knew their fans would come in excited and loud."
Through three games, the Tigers are generating 36.0 ppg and 344.7 total ypg. They have twice as many rushing touchdowns (eight) as passing scores, but the fact that they are gaining only 3.8 rushing ypc suggests that there is plenty of room for the ground attack to improve. Spencer Ware and Michael Ford have combined for 444 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. As for the passing attack, Jarrett Lee has completed 67.8 percent of his attempts for 444 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Keep an eye on Rueben Randle at receiver, as he averages 19.1 yards per catch and has two scores thus far.
Opponents are scoring just 12.0 ppg against LSU, and that average would be far lower had the club not faced an explosive Oregon team in the season opener. The Tigers are yielding a mere 207.7 total ypg and are surrendering an anemic 1.6 yards per rushing attempt.
Switching focus to West Virginia, it piled up 480 total yards against Maryland last week, thanks in large part to the play of quarterback Geno Smith. The signal caller finished with a staggering total of 49 pass attempts, completing 36 of those for 388 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Tavon Austin finished with 11 receptions for 122 yards, while Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney reached the century mark as well.
The biggest play of the game for West Virginia was made by the defense, as safety Eain Smith came up with an interception at the six-yard line with just over a minute remaining as Maryland was threatening to take the lead.
"I just tried to make a play for my team," said Smith after the game.
So far this season, West Virginia is generating 42.0 ppg and 434.7 total ypg under the guidance of Holgorsen, a true offensive guru. The fact that the Mountaineers are only managing 78.7 rushing ypg at a clip of 2.6 ypc speaks to just how much the team depends on Smith and the passing game to move the ball and score points. The quarterback has completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 1,008 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception, and Austin has 20 catches already.
WVU is yielding only 18.7 ppg and 316.3 total ypg, having performed admirably against both the run and the pass thus far. The Mountaineers are giving up just 3.9 rushing ypc and 9.0 passing yards per completion.