After sneaking into the top-10 following a big win in their season opener, the ninth-ranked LSU Tigers kick off the home portion of their schedule on Saturday night against the UAB Blazers.
UAB started its 2013 campaign on the road, and even though it held a 14-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter versus Troy, it faltered down the stretch and eventually lost in overtime, 34-31. The Blazers had an opportunity to get on the board first in the extra session but botched their field goal attempt, which allowed Troy to boot the game-winning field goal.
"We are focused on getting ourselves better," UAB head coach Garrick McGee said on playing such a high-profile game. "We have to spend the next couple of days studying the film and figuring out who we are. I think it is a really good thing for our kids to play in that type of environment (at LSU)."
LSU's highly-anticipated campaign began at the Fourth Annual Cowboys Classic against No. 20 TCU, and it stepped up to claim an impressive 37-27 triumph for its 11th straight season-opening win. The Tigers are in the midst of the nation's longest non-conference, regular-season winning streak, which currently sits at an FBS-record 42 games.
"I certainly enjoyed that victory," LSU head coach Les Miles said following the opener. "I think it was a sloppy opener at times for us. Things that we could do to improve certainly have made a very, very significant difference in this game. But all in all...it's nice to start the season (1-0)."
UAB won the only previous outing between these two teams, claiming a 13-10 triumph on a last-second field goal in 2000 at Tiger Stadium.
Despite its season-opening loss, UAB pieced together a fine offensive showing versus Troy, racking up 453 total yards, although it was hindered by a lack of success on third down (2-of-14).
Most of the Blazers' success was thanks to Jamarcus Nelson, who enjoyed a historic evening with a school-record 367 all-purpose yards. Nelson was a monster as a receiver, tallying 10 receptions for 199 yards and two touchdowns, and he also returned a kickoff 97 yards for a score (also a school record).
While overshadowed by Nelson's performance, sophomore quarterback Austin Brown had an excellent game as well, completing 19-of-29 passes for 301 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Darrin Reaves, a First Team All-Conference USA selection in 2012, was solid out of the backfield, turning 23 carries in 110 yards for his fourth-career 100-yard game. Jamari Staples was fantastic in his team debut with six receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown.
There was much less to cheer about on the defensive side of the ball for the Blazers, however, as they yielded nearly 500 yards to Troy and allowed Corey Robinson to complete an NCAA-record 93.8 percent of his passes (30-of-32).
Jake Ganus tallied a career-best 11 tackles, two of which where for a loss, and he also forced a fumble. Diaheem Watkins registered the team's only sack.
While the LSU offense struggled with consistency in its opener, there was still plenty to be proud of by game's end. The Tigers finished with 448 yards of total offense, converted 13-of-19 third downs, and scored on all six of their trips to the red zone.
Zach Mettenberger wasn't his sharpest, as he completed just 50 percent of his passes (16-of-32), although he finished with 251 yards and a touchdown. He came up with big plays on third down as well, which pleased his head coach.
"We're throwing the ball for bigger plays," Miles said. "We're being able to convert on third downs. I think that's one of the real successes of the offense at this point."
With Jeremy Hill serving a suspension, the Tigers turned to Terrence Magee and Alfred Blue to share the load in the backfield. Magee was the more effective runner, turning 13 carries into 95 yards and two touchdowns, although Blue (19 carries, 89 yards) was strong in his own right.
For the first time since 2002, LSU had two receivers eclipse the 100-yard mark. Jarvis Landry hauled in eight balls for 109 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, and Odell Beckham tallied 118 yards on five receptions.
The Tigers defense surrendered a handful of big plays on the night, but otherwise held the Horned Frogs in check to the tune of just 259 yards. The unit excelled in pass coverage, holding TCU's quarterbacks to just 145 yards on 28 attempts.
Jalen Mills tied a team-high with five tackles and also picked off a pass in the third quarter, which led to an LSU touchdown. Danielle Hunter logged 1.5 TFL, 0.5 sack and a forced fumble.