It's one thing to struggle against an SEC West rival on the road, as No. 3 LSU did last week against Auburn. Saturday's problems were far less defensible, as the Tigers bumbled to a 38-22 home win against Towson. The visiting Tigers might be the No. 13 team in FCS football right now, but that's hardly an excuse for an LSU team with national championship aspirations.
LSU committed three turnovers and was flagged 10 times to the tune of 80 yards in a sloppy outing. The Tigers only led their FCS visitors 17-9 at halftime, and at one point in the second quarter even trailed 9-7.
Here's how it unfolded in front of a half-empty Tiger Stadium:
It was over when: Zach Mettenberger connected with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for a 53-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, pushing LSU's lead to 31-9. It was the pair's second touchdown of the night, as Beckham enjoyed his biggest game of the season -- a five-reception, 128-yard performance. It was the first time all night the Tigers held a lead larger than 15.
Game ball goes to: Beckham gets it by default for a stuttering LSU offense. The LSU running game was pedestrian by its lofty standards, and Mettenberger threw far too many bad passes despite his season-high 238 passing yards. It was Beckham who put LSU back on top after Towson took the lead, as he out-jumped his coverage on a 27-yard strike late in the second quarter to put the Tigers on top for good.
In addition to his biggest receiving night of the season, Beckham had a fantastic 30-yard punt return in the second quarter, and his prowess as a returner scared Towson punter R.J. Peppers into a 6-yard shank later in the night.
Key stat: Five. The Tigers coughed up an unfathomable five fumbles on the night, and Towson recovered three of them. Four fumbles came out of the hands of LSU running backs, who had combined to carry the ball 225 times without a fumble before Saturday night.
Unsung hero: Jarvis Landry didn't contribute much to the offense -- a mere one reception for four yards. But he made one of the plays of the night when he recovered a muffed Towson punt in the opposing red zone. The recovery set LSU up on Towson's 8-yard line, and the Tigers were in the end zone for a 24-9 lead just three plays later.
What it means: Well, the Tigers are 5-0 on the season and have now gotten through the non-conference portion of their schedule undefeated. But realistically, LSU just played the ugliest game of its season when it needed to play its cleanest. Up next is a road trip to No. 11 Florida followed by a home date with No. 6 South Carolina -- the teeth of the SEC schedule -- and a showing like this quite simply won't get it done against either of those two. LSU has now had five chances to flex its muscle and make its case as one of the nation's best teams, and the Tigers haven't done that. The impressive 41-3 win against Washington seems like ancient history with the way LSU has played against Auburn and now Towson.