LSU’s offense had its share of struggles on Saturday, but the defense forced five turnovers and the sixth-ranked Tigers scored 24 unanswered points to overcome a two touchdown deficit for a 24-19 win over No. 20 Texas A&M.
Jeremy Hill's 47-yard TD proved to be the difference in College Station
In its first trip to Kyle Field since 1995, LSU (7-1, 3-1) scored 21 points off turnovers to silence the fifth largest crowd in Texas A&M history and earn its first win in College Station since 1987.
Jeremy Hill carried for more than 100 yards in the second half and finished with a career-high 127 yards rushing. Last week, Hill's 50-yard fourth-quarter score gave LSU a victory over No. 3 South Carolina. This week, a 47-yard touchdown run with 3:12 remaining put LSU ahead 24-12 and proved to be the difference.
Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2) had the Tigers on their heels in the opening quarter but could not hold off LSU's defensive front. The Aggies scored the game's first 12 points but did not score again until they were down 12 with 77 seconds remaining.
Texas A&M outgained LSU, 410-316, but turnovers doomed the Aggies.
Johnny Manziel, a redshirt freshman, completed 29-of-56 passes for 276 yards but was picked off three times. He was also sacked three times and hurried four more by the LSU defense that focused on containing the mobile signal caller and limited him to 27 yards on 17 carries.
Manziel led the Aggies down the field 75 yards in 12 plays on their opening drive to give them a lead for the 12th straight game. He completed 4-of-6 passes and Christine Michael capped it off with a 2-yard scoring run. The extra point hit the left upright and Texas A&M led 6-0.
The Tigers caught a break on the Aggies second drive when a throwback pass to Ben Malena negated a 34-yard touchdown pass due to a personal foul. The Tigers were able to hold A&M to a 32-yard field goal and it was 9-0.
After the 12 play, 63-yard drive, Texas A&M had a 161-3 advantage in total offense.
LSU responded by picking up a couple of first downs and hitting on three consecutive passes. Zach Mettenberger , however, closed out the second drive with two straight incomplete passes and was sacked on third down to force another Brad Wing punt. LSU missed a big scoring opportunity when Mettenberger misfired on a pass to Odell Beckham that could have gone for a touchdown.
The Tigers punted their next three possessions and the LSU defense forced the Aggies to punt twice before Bertolet nailed a 50-yard field goal to go up 12-0 with 7:24 remaining in the half.
Following another LSU punt, Manziel made the first of several mistakes on the day. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis’ unit stood strong again and got the ball back for the Tigers when Jalen Collins picked off a Manziel pass on a 3rd and 6 pass.
"Defense just had to get their feet set and understand what was going on," LSU coach Les Miles said. “Get the comfort of the scheme and the habit of throw and how to chase that quarterback. He's a gutsy, tough guy."
After the Collins pick, LSU started with its best field position of the day at its own 42. A pass interference call on Tony Hurd on third down kept the drive alive and got the Tigers down to the A&M 42.
A big fourth down gamble by Miles where Spencer Ware took the snap and pitched to Michael Ford for a 13-yard gain extended the drive. Ford took a pitch from Mettenberger on the next play and got the edge for a 20-yard touchdown run that was aided by a big block by Jarvis Landry on the corner. Drew Alleman’s extra point cut it to 12-7 with 2:33 left in the half.
Rather than sit on the ball and run out the clock, Texas A&M went into its two-minute offense. After five-straight passes, Manziel handed off to Melena who was hit by Ronald Martin and fumbled. Lamin Barrow came up with the loose ball and the Tigers were in business again.
The Tigers took over at the A&M 41-yard line and following their second fourth down conversion of the game they moved to the Aggie 29. Following an incomplete pass to Landry, Mettenberger hooked up with Kadron Boone for a diving 29-yard score on a slant and go route with 11 seconds left in the half and the Tigers went into the half with a 14-12 advantage.
"There's really no reason to panic when you get down," Mettenberger said. "You just have to keep grinding away, keep focusing and keep believing. We did that and right before the half we got two quick possessions and two quick touchdowns."
LSU received the second half kickoff and the Tigers went three and out for the fourth time in the game.
Neither team could muster much offense until LSU converted its first 3rd down conversion of the game when Mettenberger found James Wright midway through the third quarter.
The drive stalled at the 32-yard line and a big substitution infraction on the Tigers pushed a 49-yard field goal try back five yards. Miles elected to kick anyway with the wind at his back and the 54-yard field goal try from Alleman was wide right.
Texas A&M had a chance to take the lead early in the fourth quarter but a 52-yard field goal by Bertolet was wide right.
The miscue by the Aggies allowed LSU's offense to get back in gear. The Tigers wore down the Texas A&M defensive line with its running attack, but two "Wildcat" runs with Ware under center netted 1 yard and the Tigers settled for a 28-yard field goal by Alleman that extended the lead to 17-12.
A 76-yard kickoff return to the LSU 16 by Texas A&M's Trey Williams shifted the momentum back to the Aggies momentarily, but Manziel was harassed by the Tiger defense and unable to gain a first down. Bertolet compounded the problem by pulling another field goal to the right, this one from 31 yards.
Two series later, an interception by Tharold Simon led to Hill's 47-yard touchdown run on LSU's first play from scrimmage that gave the Tigers a two touchdown advantage.
"Early, we were reacting to balls thrown, and later we were reacting to intent of the quarterback," Miles said. "We were just making better plays and there were some adjustments made by our defensive staff in terms of calls and change of personnel."
Texas A&M rallied to score with 77 seconds remaining but was unable to get an onside kick.
LSU is off next week and will return to action on Nov. 3 when it faces No. 1-ranked Alabama in Tiger Stadium.