BATON ROUGE, La. -- In the second quarter Saturday, with LSU's offense trying to climb out of a miserable funk, Odell Beckham, Jr., got open behind the Towson defense.
The only receiver out for a pass on the play-action throw, he got free on a post pattern anyway and ran with nobody near him toward the back of the end zone, just in front of, and smack in between, Tiger Stadium's iconic double goalposts. The pass from Zach Mettenberger wasn't perfect -- Beckham had to turn and extend over his head to make a stumbling catch -- but he did haul it in nicely for a 27-yard touchdown, his first of the season.
With it, the dark clouds over Tiger Stadium and the LSU passing game seemed to lift.
He added another touchdown on a 53-yard bomb from Mettenberger in the fourth quarter of the 38-22 win, capping a night in which he seemed to put the troubles of a bad game a few weeks earlier against Washington behind him and, perhaps, shook LSU's passing offense to life.
"It's definitely a confidence builder," said Beckham after he caught five passes for a career-high 128 yards and also added a 30-yard punt return. "You have to take it as a learning experience and keep working every single day."
Beckham has had to learn to deal with the humility of a bad performance this season. Coming off a freshman season where he was second on the team in receiving with 41 catches for 475 yards and two touchdowns, the New Orleans native had struggled since the season's second game, when he fumbled the opening kickoff and dropped three passes during the Tigers' otherwise near-flawless 41-3 blowout of Washington.
The Towson game was the first all season where Beckham led the Tigers in receiving, a sign that he was getting back to his old self.
"Receiver, it's all about confidence," Metterberger said. "He had a great week of practice. He came into the week with confidence."
Self-confidence is not something that had been lacking for Beckham. He quickly made a name for himself as a true freshman in 2011, passing by many older receivers to become the Tigers No. 2 receiver and the starter opposite Rueben Randle. He was a reliable secondary target for both Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee when defenses focused their attention on Randle.
Mettenberger said Beckham's natural self-confidence was part of his freshman success and he saw it again against Towson.
"The kid with swagger when he first got here, he really showed that in the game and we're going to need a lot more of that this year," Mettenberger said.
Regaining it was all about work, LSU coach Les Miles said.
"I think it's his approach to game week," Miles said. "He comes to each practice in a want to get better and looking at the specific techniques, the little things. He comes to work and he works hard."
The upcoming schedule will give Beckham and the Tigers plenty of reason to keep working. Starting with Saturday's game at Florida, the Tigers face four ranked SEC opponents in their next five games. An offense that has sputtered at times is feeling the urgency to find itself.
The Tigers are 12th in the SEC in pass offense (203.2 yards per game) and has struggled with pass protection issues, miscommunications in pass patterns, bad routes, and Mettenberger's own mistakes.
When Beckham caught his first touchdown against Towson, LSU was trailing 9-7 and before the drive, the offense had a frustrating stretch of five drives producing a mere 28 yards. After his stumbling catch, the malaise around the passing game seemed to lift. The Tigers scored 31 points in the game's final 33 minutes, starting with Beckham's touchdown with 2:53 left in the first half.
The bad offensive vibe was such that when Mettenberger's pass appeared that it might be tough to catch, a slight groan from the crowd conveyed a stadium that didn't necessarily expect Beckham, with his still recent drop problems, to haul it in.
But he did. And a sparse crowd that had recently had reasons to moan, and even boo in response to the LSU passing game, roared.
Beckham, the son of a running back who played for the Tigers in the early 1990s, won some confidence in himself and from a stadium sprinkled with Tigers fans waiting for a passing offense stuck in neutral to start producing. Does that mean it's ready for the tough stretch upcoming, starting with Florida?
"You just have to keep working," Beckham said. "You have to get better every day at practice. that's something we preach, it's something I do.
Beckham came to LSU with natural confidence. After losing it, he had to work to regain it.
Now that it's been found, he's not about to stop working at it.