Much like in its opener against Mississippi State, No. 8 LSU couldn’t get out of its own way in Saturday’s 34-24 win against Syracuse.
The Tigers continuously shot themselves in the foot with penalties, wiping out touchdowns, turnovers and third-down conversions. LSU’s 14 penalties for 120 yards allowed Syracuse to stick around, and the Orange rallied around walk-on backup quarterback Zack Mahoney to keep it close well into the fourth quarter in front of a raucous Carrier Dome crowd.
However, Syracuse (3-1) didn’t have an answer for the nation’s leading rusher, Leonard Fournette. LSU’s star running back rushed 26 times for 244 yards and two touchdowns to keep a sluggish offense moving, allowing LSU to survive Syracuse’s upset bid.
What the win means for LSU: This was a second extremely sloppy effort in three games. LSU (3-0) was clearly the superior team – Syracuse didn’t even have 100 yards of offense until the third quarter – but the Tigers’ multiple mistakes allowed the Orange to hang around. Ten late points made the scoring margin look like this was a more comfortable victory than it actually was. The Tigers simply must play cleaner games if they are to make good on their College Football Playoff hopes.
What the loss means for Syracuse: The Orange were underdogs by more than three touchdowns entering the game, but they were extremely competitive against a top-10 team. LSU linebacker Deion Jones intercepted a tipped Mahoney pass (he finished 16-of-38 for 154 yards, three touchdowns and one interception) to help LSU put away the win in the fourth quarter, but Syracuse was certainly in it to that point. Once the Orange get quarterback Eric Dungey back in the lineup, this is a team that could still make some noise in conference play.
The game turned when…: LSU led just 24-17 in the fourth quarter when Travin Dural hauled in a 51-yard bomb from Brandon Harris on third-and-9 from the LSU 38. Harris lofted an 11-yard touchdown pass to Malachi Dupre on the next play to give the Tigers a double-digit lead. They turned a Mahoney interception on Syracuse’s next possession into a field goal and suddenly LSU was up 34-17 with five minutes remaining.
Top play: LSU was up just 7-3 at halftime – and that’s with Syracuse missing a field goal as time expired in the opening half – but the Tigers got a field goal and a huge special-teams play to take their first double-digit lead. Tre'Davious White broke a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown that gave LSU a 17-3 advantage midway through the third quarter.