ATLANTA -- Big plays were the difference for LSU on Saturday night, as the Tigers held on for a 30-24 victory over North Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
Here’s an instant analysis from the game:
How the game was won: After the Tigers’ Stevan Ridley fumbled the ball away with 1:08 to play, LSU weathered two North Carolina throws into the end zone from the 6-yard line in the final seconds. LSU’s Jai Eugene had the coverage on the first throw into the end zone, and Stefoin Francois had the coverage on the final throw.
Turning point: North Carolina got back in the game when Jheranie Boyd got behind the LSU defense for a 97-yard touchdown catch to pull the Tar Heels within 30-17 in the fourth quarter.
Player of the game: Without junior cornerback Patrick Peterson, the Tigers would have been in real trouble. He set an LSU record with combined return yards. He had an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown and also set up two other touchdowns, one with a 47-yard kickoff return and another with a 37-yard punt return.
Stat of the game: After falling behind 10-7, LSU scored 23 unanswered points to take a 30-10 lead into halftime and didn’t score again. Three of the Tigers’ touchdowns were from 50 yards or longer.
Unsung hero of the game: While Peterson was the guy who might have saved LSU, sophomore receiver Russell Shepard provided a big assist. Shepard had a 6-yard touchdown catch for LSU’s first touchdown and also put the Tigers ahead to stay with a 50-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Second guessing: When Ridley fumbled the ball with 1:08 to play, the Tar Heels were out of timeouts. Why were the Tigers even running plays at that point. Why not kneel the ball down?
What it means: Despite the win, LSU still has major question marks. The Tar Heels were without 13 players, most of those starters, and the Tigers simply couldn’t put them away. LSU was unable to consistently run the ball and couldn’t get off the field defensively when it needed to in the second half. Simply, the Tigers were lucky to escape.