The third-ranked LSU Tigers will play their final non-conference game of the regular season on Saturday night, as they play host to FCS foe Towson.
Towson, which also goes by the nickname Tigers, is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association and comes into this contest sporting a 2-1 record following a 41-21 season-opening loss to FBS opponent Kent State, a 20-17 win over conference rival William & Mary, and a 46-17 rout of St. Francis (PA). The Tigers are currently ranked 12th in this week's Sports Network FCS poll, and they will return to CAA action next week at James Madison.
LSU is 4-0 for the sixth straight season, and the Tigers are 30-0 in non- conference, regular season games under current head coach Les Miles. LSU has also won an NCAA-record 40 straight non-conference games during the regular season, a school-record 20 straight home games, and 17 consecutive regular season games overall. The Tigers had a scare last week however, as they slipped past Auburn on the road, 12-10, in what was their SEC opener.
LSU, which has won 25 straight games in the month of September, hasn't lost at home to a non-conference opponent since suffering a 13-10 setback to UAB in 2000.
This game marks the first time LSU will have played Towson, or any member of the CAA for that matter.
Balance has been the key in the early going for the Towson offense, as the team averages 196.3 ypg rushing and 201.7 ypg passing. As a result, the Tigers scratch out nearly 30 ppg, and they've done the bulk of their scoring early by putting up 60 points in the first half of games compared to just 27 following intermission.
Most of the offensive production comes from two players, as QB Grant Enders is completing 74.7 percent of his passes with four TDs and three INTs, while RB Terrance West has amassed 251 yards and found the end zone five times. The team has two receivers with double-digit catches to this point, as Erron Banks and Spencer Wilkins have combined for 23 grabs, 280 yards and a TD.
In last week's rout of St. Francis, West scored three TDs in the first half, and in the process became the school's all-time rushing TD leader with 33. It's a remarkable achievement considering it was just the 14th game of the super sophomore's college career. WR Derrick Joseph returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score, as the Tigers put up 43 points before intermission. Enders went an efficient 14-of-18 for 179 yards, two TDs and one INT, helping his team outgain the Red Flash, 441-233.
The Towson defense is led by safety Jordan Dangerfield and his 20 tackles, and while the unit has collected 15 TFL and nine sacks thus far, it has notched only one turnover. Despite allowing 25.0 ppg, the Tigers have done a tremendous job in limiting the opposition to just 107.0 ypg and two TDs through the air.
The Tigers continued their dominance in the passing game, holding St. Francis to a mere 54 yards last week. Dangerfield and Bryton Barr both tallied eight stops in the game, and Romale Tucker had a pair of sacks.
The LSU offense is generating 442.0 ypg this season, using a potent rushing attack (247.5 ypg, 13 TDs) to do the bulk of its damage. The aerial game adds support by producing 194.5 ypg, although with only four passing scores, QB Zach Mettenberger (63-of-93, 778 yards, two INTs) could certainly stand to up his game. Landry Jarvis heads the receiving corps with 17 grabs for 160 yards, but his one TD pales in comparison to the three turned in by Kadron Boone, who only has seven total catches on the year.
Despite outgaining host Auburn, 351-183, the LSU offense found it difficult to get into a rhythm last weekend. RB Michael Ford scored the team's only TD of the game, and he finished with 41 yards on only eight carries. The club's leading rusher was Spencer Ware with 90 yards on 16 totes. As for Mettenberger, he hit 15-of-27 passes for 169 yards. And while he didn't throw an INT, he did fumble twice.
The LSU defense is ranked in the top 10 nationally in several statistical categories, including run defense (third, 56.8 ypg), total defense (fourth, 199.5 ypg), pass defense (eighth, 142.8 ypg), and scoring defense (eight, 10.3 ppg). The team boasts nine players with double-digit tackles thus far, including Kevin Minter who leads the way with 25. Micah Eugene has three of the unit's eight sacks, and both Jalen Mills and Ronald Martin have a pair of picks.
Auburn was held to 2-of-12 on third-down conversion attempts, and managed only 86 net rushing yards against LSU's ravenous defense. The visitors were credited with 14 TFL, and they held AU speedster Onterio McCalebb to a paltry 24 yards on 11 carries. In the passing game, LSU stood tall in allowing just 97 yards and coming up with a pair of INTs.
DE Sam Montgomery finished with a career-high 3.5 TFL, including one for a safety in the first quarter and a sack late in the third. Montgomery now has 25.5 TFL and 13 sacks for his career.
Miles knows there is little margin for error when it comes to winning in the SEC, and while this week's opponent shouldn't pose much of a threat, playing fundamentally sound football is always the goal.
"First of all, anytime you come down to Auburn and you get a victory on the road, it's a great win, and if I look back in the times of being here in many different scenarios, this was just like a traditional LSU-Auburn game. Nothing routine about it," He continued, " We were sloppy. It's interesting, we practice the ability not to have penalties, but what happens is guys lose their poise. This is a tremendous lesson for us which is something that we'll certainly be able to teach from in a very aggressive manner."