ARLINGTON, Texas — Maybe LSU will go undefeated this year.
If the Tigers didn’t lose Saturday night despite some of their best efforts to give TCU a nudge, they might have missed their best opportunity to, as head coach Les Miles says, fail to achieve victory.
Not to worry, though.
The Tigers seemed in control most of the night in the Cowboys Classic season opener to beat TCU 37-27 — mostly impressive on both sides of the ball — but couldn’t shake the Frogs until the final minutes and didn’t absolutely, positively put the game away until running the final 5 minutes off the clock.
Miles was in a forgiving mood befitting a season opener.
“It was a sloppy game at times for us,” Miles said. “Things that we can do to improve certainly would have made a significant difference in this game.
“But all in all, you open on the road against a quality opponent, you put up yards, you make the mistakes you make, but you win and you get the opportunity and you carry on.”
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger was calm, cool and mostly accurate with 251 yards in the air and the final touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry that finally allowed the Tigers to breathe a semi-sigh of relief.
LSU finished with 448 yards, converted 13 of 19 third downs and a 13-minute advantage in time of possession.
Starting running back Alfred Blue struggled at times, but still had 89 yards and Terrence Magee scored two third-quarter touchdowns with 95 yards rushing.
LSU’s retooled defense, meanwhile, held TCU to 259 yards
“That looked like LSU defense,” Miles said. “They were flying around.”
But it was the passing game that looked much different — and improved — over a year ago.
Landry had 108 yards on eight receptions and Odell Beckham added 116 on five catches as the Tigers passing game showed encouraging signs under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and a year-wiser Mettenberger.
“Cam had a strong debut,” Miles said. “There were a couple of dropped balls we’d like to have back and a ball on the ground (fumble). But we were much better on the offense (than last year)”.
It was the first time LSU has had two receivers go over the 100-yard mark wince 2001 when Josh Reed and Michael Clayton pulled it off.
Beckham also set up the final touchdown with a 75-yard kickoff return.
It was more of the Beckham and Landry show.
The Horned Frogs pulled within 30-27 with 7:35 to play, which got the outnumbered TCU crowd into a frenzy, with the smell of an upset in the air.
But Beckham streaked down the left sideline all the way to the 25-yard line and, facing third-and-five, Landry reached behind for a short catch and broke free to the end zone to finally seal an LSU victory that maybe should have been salted away by halftime.
“Their wide receivers are super talented,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
“I think they’re just getting started,” Miles said. “I think the chemistry (at wide receiver) is improved.
“We had a tall quarterback standing back there hitting his targets. I think Zach will have nights like that pretty routinely from this point forward.”
LSU had a lot of yards at halftime without much to show for it.
The Tigers outgained TCU 256-109 but led only 16-10.
Most of the problems came in the red zone — a sticking point last year, too — as LSU settled for Colby Delahoussaye field goals at the end of three impressive drives inside the Horned Frogs’ 10-yard line.
“I give TCU a lot of credit,” Miles said of the treys the Tigers settled for. “They changed their fronts (after LSU got in the red zone).”
They solved that riddle in the second half — scoring touchdowns on all three trips into the red zone — but found other ways to keep the pesky Horned Frogs within striking distance.
After LSU went up 30-17 late in third quarter and forced a TCU punt, Blue’s fumble at the Tigers’ 6-yard line set up a Frog touchdown and the Frogs got a cheap field goal after a 28-yard punt by Jamie Keehn set TCU on the LSU side of the field.
“Sloppy but an opportunity to correct and we’re still 1-0,” Miles said. “It’s nice to start the season that way.”