BATON ROUGE, La. — Unhappy as Les Miles was with two turnovers in the first half which helped an overmatched foe keep it close through halftime, the coach could only criticize his team so much.
Odell Beckham Jr., Terrence Magee and Jeremy Hill still had their share of long, explosive scoring plays, LSU’s offense piled up nearly 700 yards and the 13th-ranked Tigers walked out of Death Valley with a comfortable 48-16 romp over Furman on Saturday night.
“We cannot continue to play like we played in the first half. I think our team understood and I think the coaches made the point that, basically, ‘Let’s focus and let’s go play,” Miles said. “Eventually we caught speed and played like we’re supposed to.”
Beckham caught six passes for 204 yards and two scores, Magee added two second-half touchdowns, including one from 39 yards out, and Hill highlighted a 143-yard night with a 55-yard scoring run for LSU (7-2), which held a tenuous 20-16 lead at halftime before outscoring the Paladins (3-5) 28-0 in the second half.
Hill said LSU’s mood in the locker room at halftime “wasn’t anything serious or panicking. We already knew what we were capable of. … You can see in the second half, if we don’t turn the ball over, what we’re capable of doing.”
Hill finished with an average of 10.2 yards on 14 carries. Beckham’s TDs went for 63 and 37 yards, he also had a 53-yard catch and run to set up Hill’s 4-yard score in the first half. Magee finished with 108 yards on only seven carries, a whopping average of 15.4 yards per carry.
“In the second half, physically, they were just able to take over the game with their offense,” Furman coach Bruce Fowler said. “We just had trouble stopping the run and when you mix in the pass that is an offense that is hard to stop. We just kind of got run down.”
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger passed for 328 yards and three scores, but threw two interceptions, the first of which was returned 76 yards by Reggie Thomas to give Furman a 7-0 lead. Late in the third quarter, Mettenberger found fullback Melvin Jones for a 7-yard TD.
Mettenberger said his first interception resulted from a miscommunication with Beckham. The second, Miles noted, was tipped and probably not the quarterback’s fault. After throwing three interceptions a week earlier in a loss at Mississippi, Mettenberger appeared frustrated when asked if he was forcing some passes against Furman.
“I don’t know. You tell me,” Mettenberger said. “We will see what y’all think when you watch the game film.”
Hank McCloud rushed for 78 yards for Furman, while quarterback Reese Hannon was 16 of 28 for 104 yards and was intercepted once.
Yet, as close as the Paladins stayed in the first half, they wound up being outgained by LSU 672-198 in total yards.
The Tigers, who played in each of the first nine weeks of the season, finally get a week off before visiting No. 1 and unbeaten Alabama on Nov. 9.
The sloppiness plaguing LSU in the first half included Mettenberger’s first interception, a personal foul penalty that led to a field goal, a missed field goal, missed extra point, and Beckham’s fumble on a punt return that led to another field goal.
After Furman took the first lead, the Tigers quickly tied it on Hill’s long TD run. Furman then went back up 10-7 on Ray Early’s 46-yard field goal.
Hill’s second TD put LSU up 13-10, but kicker Colby Delahoussaye missed the point-after.
With LSU leading 20-13 late in the half, the Paladins were given the ball within striking distance of a tying TD when Beckham muffed a knuckling punt. A couple plays later, Furman had a first-and-goal on the 1 with 1:19 left in the quarter. But with no timeouts, the Paladins were stuffed on first down and then committed a false start, leaving them only enough time for one incomplete pass before Early had to come on for a field goal on third-and-goal.
That was as close as it got.
“We know that we were not playing good in the first half and we needed to pick it up,” Beckham said. “That’s exactly what we came out and did.”