ARLINGTON, Texas — TCU was riding a wave of momentum midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Cowboys Classic when LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. caused a major wipeout.
Moments after TCU pulled within three points with 7:35 left, Beckham sprinted 75 yards on a kickoff return to set up the LSU’s final touchdown.
TCU never recovered from Beckham’s blow and No. 12 LSU held on for a 37-27 season-opening win.
“That was a big play. That was an emotional play,” said LSU coach Les Miles, who added that Beckham had gotten stitches earlier in the game. “That was something he wanted to give his team. Really sad he didn’t get into the end zone.”
No. 20 TCU didn’t have much to be sad about, despite the loss. The Frogs had their own big kickoff return from B.J. Catalon, who went goal line-to-goal line and also had a rushing touchdown.
LSU outgained TCU, 448-259, but the Horned Frogs were never far from taking control of the game.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt we can play with them,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “Everybody who says we can’t compete against the SEC is wrong.”
TCU also saw the return of quarterback Casey Pachall, whose 2012 season was cut short by substance abuse issues. Pachall started, but so did fellow quarterback Trevone Boykin — at receiver.
Neither Pachall nor Boykin, who also saw time at quarterback, passed for 100 yards. LSU’s Zach Mettenberger passed for 251 yards and a touchdown, but he had the benefit of throwing to Beckham and Jarvis Landry.
Landry had eight catches for 109 yards and a touchdown, while Beckham made five catches for 118 yards. It marked the first time LSU had two receivers go over 100 yards since Oct. 13, 2001 when Josh Reed and Michael Clayton pulled the feat against Kentucky.
It made for a nice debut for new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
“It’s like a weight off your shoulder,” Beckham said. “You never know what to expect, but Cam opening up this system, I’m just excited to see it.”
The 80,230 who packed into AT&T Stadium were certainly excited, making for a noisy atmosphere in the building normally occupied by the Dallas Cowboys. The crowd was the sixth-largest in AT&T Stadium history and the third-largest in Cowboys Classic series of college kickoff matchups.
LSU and its offensive line appeared to take control late in the third quarter with a 14-play masher of a scoring drive. Terrance Magee capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown run to put LSU ahead, 30-17, with 2:49 left in the quarter.
A turnover gave TCU new life when LSU’s Alfred Blue fumbled at his own six yard line early in the fourth quarter.
TCU’s Kevin White caused the fumble and recovered it, and two plays later Waymon James scored on a five-yard sweep to make it a six point game, 30-24, with 13:04 left.
The TCU defense then forced a punt, and TCU had the ball near midfield with 11:48 to play.
The Horned Frogs settled for a 30-yard field goal by Jaden Oberkrom to make it a three-point game, 30-27.
Then LSU’s Beckham Jr. tilted the field with a 75-yard kickoff return to the TCU 25.
The return led to a 20-yard touchdown catch by Landry to stretch the margin to 10 with 6:09 left. TCU’s final drive ended in a three-and-out and LSU ran out the clock.
“I think this is a confidence boost for us as a group,” TCU’s Patterson said. “I told them in the locker room, usually I’m pretty critical about losses, but I told them, come on, LSU is LSU. The key is we gave them 10 points. That is the difference in the ballgame when you play somebody good.”
TCU’s fireworks in the first half came from Catalon’s 100-yard kickoff return early in the second quarter.
LSU had just scored on a 1-yard plunge by 270-pound back J.C. Copeland when Catalon took the kickoff from the goal line, slipped an arm tackle and sprinted untouched to the opposite end zone.
The return pulled TCU within 13-10, but LSU added another field goal just before halftime.
However, a bizarre sequence preceded the field goal.
After an incompletion by LSU with five seconds left, the officials declared a 10-second runoff for an LSU player’s helmet coming off, thus ending the half.
Except the Big Ten officiating crew reversed its ruling, since an incompletion stops the clock anyway and negates the helmet ruling.
Almost the entire TCU team had exited the field at the time the reversal was made, causing confusion as the Horned Frogs were called back. With the five seconds back on the clock, LSU kicked a field goal and took a 16-10 lead into the locker room.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with that,” Patterson said when asked if the reversal affected second-half momentum. “You’ve got to come out in the second half and you’ve got to get ready to play.”