No. 22 West Virginia ventured into the eye of the Tigers Saturday night and came up short as No. 15 Louisiana State held on for a 20-14 victory.
Trailing by 10, 17-7, the Mountaineers picked off a second Jordan Jefferson pass-this one by Eain Smith-and found themselves in a position to pull out a victory over their SEC foes.
Sophomore quarterback Geno Smith made the Tigers pay for their mistake when he connected with senior Jock Sanders on a 13-yard scoring toss two plays later and when Tyler Bitancurt connected on the point after, WVU found itself down by only three, 17-14, with 12:29 left to play in the third quarter.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith throws against LSU during the first half.
That, however, would be as close as the Mountaineers would get as a 23-yard field goal by LSU's Josh Jasper on the first play of the fourth quarter would be the final points of the game as the Tigers held on for a 20-14 victory.
Missed opportunities and turnovers were the story of the first 30 minutes of action as No. 22 WVU failed to take advantage of an early LSU miscue while the Tigers made their Big East opponent pay dearly for its two mistakes of the half, scoring 10 points en route to taking a 17-7 lead into the locker rooms at the intermission.
A Keith Tandy interception at the WVU 22 not only thwarted a Tiger drive, but ignited a 9-play drive which culminated with a Bitancurt 28-yard field goal attempt at the LSU 11.
However, a strong rush up the middle proved costly as Bitancurt's attempt was blocked, giving the hosts the ball at their own 20 and turning the momentum in favor of the Tigers.
WVU defense, which limited LSU to 81 total yards in the first half, forced a punt five minutes later.
But, on a third-and-10 from the WVU 12, backup tailback Ryan Clarke fumbled with the Tigers recovering the ball at the Mountaineer 7 with 2:18 left in the quarter.
Another strong showing by the prevent unit found the SEC's representative with a fourth-and-goal at the 1.
But, this time the defense was unable to keep the Tigers out of the end zone as Stevan Ridley made West Virginia pay for its mistake with a 1-yard plunge.
Josh Jasper, who would later connect on a 49-yard field goal after an LSU pick of a Smith pass, added the point after and the hosts led 7-0 with 26 ticks left on the clock.
The Tigers' final score of the half came on a 60-yard punt return by Patrick Peterson with 9:55 left until the half.
West Virginia would finally get on the scoreboard with 48 seconds left in the half when Smith connected with high school teammate Stedman Bailey on a 5-yard scoring toss to culminate a 10-play, 53-yard drive.
Bitancurt added the PAT and Mountaineer fans finally had something to cheer about as West Virginia went to the locker room trailing by 10, 17-7.