ARLINGTON, Texas -- In front of a purple and gold contingent who created an air-conditioned version of Tiger Stadium, the No. 4 LSU football team throttled No. 3 Oregon with a second-half scoring barrage, 40-27, on Saturday in Cowboys Stadium.
The LSU defense and special teams each forced two turnovers, as cornerback Tyrann Mathieu stripped-and-scored on punt coverage to set the tone early in the game. Add back-to-back fumble recoveries in the third quarter that put the Tigers ahead 30-13, and LSU finished with 20 points off turnovers.
Mathieu, a sophomore, led a furious defensive effort with 10 tackles and two pass break-ups. The Tigers defensive backfield -- which played in nickel and dime formations for the entire game -- was changed with wrapping up and slowing down the speedy Ducks attack. safety Brandon Taylor had nine tackles, while cornerback Tharold Simon added eight with an interception.
Sophomore running backs Spencer Ware and Michael Ford provided the punch in the LSU offense, as the two combined for 195 yards on 40 carries and three touchdowns. Ford scored twice and recorded a career-best 96 yards.
Meanwhile, senior quarterback Jarrett Lee helped lead the Tigers to victory with a 10-of-22 passing performance for 98 yards with a touchdown. Rueben Randle caught a 10-yard touchdown, while tight end Deangelo Peterson had team-highs of four catches for 62 yards.
Oregon, which outgained LSU by putting together two scoring drives in the fourth quarter, was held in check for most of the game by the Tigers stellar defense.
Of the 82 Oregon plays, the two longest (18 and 16 yards) came in the fourth quarter when the outcome was all but decided. Running back LaMichael James' longest run was 13 yards, as the junior was held to 54 yards on 18 carries with a 3-yard touchdown.
Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas was 31-of-54 passing for 240 yards and a touchdown. Nearly half (119 yards) came in the fourth quarter when the Ducks trailed by at least two scores.
LSU won the opening coin toss and deferred its decision to the second half. The Ducks took the ball and elected to defend the east endzone.
LSU's defense took the field turf by storm, swarming the Oregon offense. Two personal fouls on the Ducks forced a punt from its endzone. Mathieu fielded the punt at midfield and advanced 11 yards to give the Lee and the Tigers a short field.
Ware helped the Tigers gain a first down to the 29, but the Tigers managed only two yards in the next set of downs. Drew Alleman's first career field goal was true from 44 yards and LSU led 3-0 with 11:14 left in the opening quarter.
The teams traded punts from their own sides of the field. However, LSU's Brad Wing managed only 30 yards on his first-career punt which went out of bounds at midfield.
The Tigers defense gave up two third-down conversions but stiffened in the redzone. The Ducks settled for a 29-yard field goal by Rob Beard that tied the game at 3-3 with 3:55 left in the quarter.
A 9-yard pass from Lee to Ware out of the backfield was good for a first down at the LSU 41. On third-and-12, Lee attempted to signal his wide receivers when the ball was snapped over his left shoulder. Ware and offensive tackle Alex Hurst both attempted to corral the loose ball near the 20-yard line but Oregon recovered.
Three-straight passes by the Ducks advanced seven yards, and Beard's number was again called for a 30-yard field goal. His successful try gave Oregon the lead, 6-3, with 42 seconds remaining in the quarter.
On the second play of the second quarter, the left-footed Wing launched a 53-yard punt that was fielded by Kenjon Barner at the Oregon 16. Barner was met immediately by Mathieu, who was able to strip the ball from the returner's hands, scoop at the 3 and score the first LSU touchdown of the season.
With 14:43 left in the half, LSU led 9-6 after Alleman's first career PAT was unsuccessful.
LSU's special teams gave the defense momentum, as Simon intercepted Thomas on a second-down throw. It was Simon's second career pick off, both in Cowboys Stadium.
The Tigers couldn't take advantage of the turnover and quickly punted back to Oregon.
After 7:47 rolled off the clock in a Ducks possession, James' 3-yard touchdown run capped a 19-play, 79-yard scoring drive that included five third-down conversions. The last conversion was a third-and-17 from the 20 which came up short of the first-down marker, but LSU safety Craig Loston was called for leading with his helmet to give a first-and-goal at the 4.
Oregon led 13-9 with 5:16 left in the half.
On the ensuing drive, Lee and the Tigers changed the offensive tempo after Ware and Ford picked up a pair of first downs to the Oregon 39. Lee recovered from his only sack of the game with an 18-yard connection with Peterson to the 23. On third-and-7, Oregon was guilty of pass interference to give LSU a first down at the 14. After a timeout with 50 seconds left and faced with third-and-7, Lee tossed a perfect back-shoulder pass to Randle for a 10-yard touchdown.
LSU took a 16-13 lead into halftime, and would not trail again.
LSU took possession to open the second half, as Lee and Ware picked up first downs to midfield. With the Ducks bringing extra pressure, a pair of incomplete passes forced a third-and-10 pass which came up short of a first down.
Oregon went backward on its first set of downs, starting consecutive three-and-outs.
In the process, Wing's 58-yard punt changed field position in the Tigers' favor, as Oregon started its second drive at its 6-yard line. On third-and-2 from the 14, freshman running back De'Anthony Thomas ran for first-down yardage before LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery stripped the ball from behind and into the hands of safety Eric Reid.
Starting from the Ducks 21, Ware rushed four times to the 5, where Ford capped the drive with a touchdown run. The Tigers led 23-13 with 6:23 left in the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, De'Anthony Thomas was again caught from behind, as Loston jarred the ball out and Ron Brooks recovered at the Oregon 41 and the Tigers offense went to work again.
On first down, a perfect 29-yard play-action toss from Lee to Peterson gave LSU first and goal. On third-and-goal from the 5, Lee again looked for Randle in the left corner. This time, his receiver was held and the Tigers received a new set of downs at the 2. Ware scored his second career rushing touchdown.
The second touchdown in 3:20 extended the LSU lead to 30-13 with 3:03 left in the third quarter.
Oregon was able to cut into the lead with a 13-play, 68-yard scoring drive that ended in an 8-yard pass from Thomas to Josh Huff. Oregon cut lead to 33-20 with 9:14 left in the game.
The Ducks again gained possession with less than seven minutes to play, but the Tigers defense came up with a stop on four downs. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers broke through the line, forced Darron Thomas out of the pocket and into an errant throw on fourth-and-5 to turn the ball over.
Ware and Ford carried the load for the Tigers to drain what remained of the fourth-quarter clock, as the latter rolled off a 16-yard touchdown run with 2:52 that put the game on ice.
Against most of LSU's backups, Oregon was able to march 70 yards in 11 plays and score on a 5-yard touchdown run by De'Anthony Thomas.
The saying that has gained popularity around Baton Rouge is true. Rain or shine, "We Don't Travel, We Take Over."
The announced crowd was 87,711, most of whom spelled their chants G-E-A-U-X.