- Gary Laney, Reporter, GeauxTigerNation
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- After Towson's 38-22 loss at No. 3 LSU Saturday, the visiting players gathered in the southeast corner of the end zone where a small contingent of fans from the suburban Baltimore school gave them a long, enthusiastic standing ovation.
On the LSU side? Not so much.
At various points during a second straight subpar performance by LSU, following last week's 12-10 win over Auburn, the home-standing Tigers got all they wanted from an FCS team that, while ranked No. 12 in its division, should not have been able to compete with LSU like it did.
The LSU fans sometimes let them know.
Many in the smallest Tiger Stadium crowd in memory, wearing ponchos to fend off the doldrums of a rainy night, booed the offense during a particularly frustrating stretch of first-half offensive ineptness. It was bad weather, a small crowd and a bad performance.
"Really, it was everybody, it was like we didn't want to be here," said receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who actually was one of the few Tigers who had a big game, catching two touchdown passes in a 128-yard night. "It was raining, whatever the case may be. But we can't ever have that attitude."
Especially not with the stretch the Tigers are about to face. LSU finished a weak nonconference schedule Saturday, but heads into a stretch where it goes to Florida, hosts South Carolina, visits Texas A&M then hosts Alabama and Mississippi State.
There's a good chance that every team LSU plays in that stretch will be ranked when the Tigers come calling. Being good enough to beat a ranked FCS team on a rainy night isn't going to cut it against those teams.
"We're not going to win at The Swamp if we play like we did today," quarterback Zach Mettenberger said bluntly.
How LSU played is what was alarming. After struggling at Auburn, LSU continued to be plagued by the same mistakes that cost them on the Plains.
The Tigers fumbled five times, losing three. The offense went dormant in a frustrating five-drive stretch when it managed 28 yards in the first half, the offensive line gave up four sacks (and has given up 11 on the season) and penalties (10 for 69 yards) continued to be a problem.
Add to the list of recurring problems were two new ones. LSU running backs, so reliable in a streak of 225 carries without a fumble, fumbled four times, losing two. Fumbles had been an issue with Mettenberger, who coughed up his third of the season Saturday. He was joined by three tailbacks who left the ball on the ground. Kenny Hilliard fumbled twice.
On defense, LSU uncharacteristically missed tackles and assignments, allowing Towson to drive the field twice for touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Towson gained 291 yards against a defense ranked No. 2 in the SEC coming into the night.
"To say that we made improvement, I can't say that," coach Les Miles said. "It was the same style of football that we played last week."
Some of it might have a little to do with the name on the other team's chest.
Towson wasn't the worst team on LSU's schedule. Sophomore running back Terrance West, who scored twice Saturday to give him an amazing 36 in a career that's 15 games young, is one of the better backs, if not the best, LSU has seen.
"Give them credit," Miles said. "I thought they played well."
But the same disinterest that kept fans home seemed to spread to LSU's sideline. Towson, which followed nonconference games against relative lightweights North Texas and Idaho, isn't the kind of name to get the attention of a team that measures itself against the Alabamas of the world.
The schedule has not been like last year when LSU opened with Oregon, Mississippi State and West Virginia on the September docket.
"Last year, with the opponents we had, we were a little more ... we were coming with it, every week," LSU linebacker Kevin Minter said. "We had no choice. We were playing the Oregons, the West Virginias, stuff like that. This year, I don't know, I feel like we've been lulled to sleep a little bit."
It's time now for LSU to wake up because the 2012 October schedule, starting next week at Florida, is much like what Minter remembers from last year.
"I think that we are a good football team," Miles said, "and there are things that we need to get accomplished this week."
17hEthan Sherwood Strauss