NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Matt Flynn pulled himself up from under a pile of Tulane defenders, and LSU’s normally potent offense walked to the sidelines, dejected, after giving up a safety.
The second-ranked Tigers, favored by almost six touchdowns, had gone backward for much of the first half.
“We saw the offense put their heads down,” LSU defensive end Kirston Pittman said. “But we went over and told them, ‘Pick y’all’s heads up. It’s going to be a long game. They have to play for 60 minutes. We just have to overcome a little adversity.”’
A good 30 minutes turned out to be more than enough for LSU to crush Tulane’s early notions of an upset.
Jacob Hester’s second touchdown of the game and Charles Scott’s pair of scoring runs helped LSU (5-0) amass 24 unanswered second-half points in a 34-9 victory Saturday.
“It was a mental thing today,” Scott said. “We were not focused at all in the first half. And we can’t come out and do that with anybody, especially not Florida.”
The defending national champion Gators, ranked fourth heading into their game against Auburn Saturday night, come to Baton Rouge next weekend for a contest likely holding national championship implications.
So if the Tigers overlooked Tulane (1-3), it would be understandable. Forgivable, perhaps, since they pulled away with ease when it mattered.
“It’s obviously not what we wanted, but I think it could be good for this team to come out here and get a little bit of a wake-up call,” Flynn said. “This team stepped up.”
Still recovering from an ankle sprain, Flynn was inconsistent in the face of constant pressure and was intercepted once. Yet he shook off six sacks to throw for 258 yards.
Tulane, which has lost 16 straight to LSU since its last victory in the series in 1982, played with emotion and made it a better game than anticipated.
“They played a lot better than a lot of people gave them credit for,” Tulane coach Bob Toledo said of his players. “I told them: ‘Nobody’s a six touchdown favorite. … We’re not going to let that happen. We battled and I think we gained respect.”
Tulane trailed only 10-9 at halftime and didn’t fall more than one score behind until Hester’s 1-yard touchdown run gave LSU a 20-9 lead with 5:53 remaining in the third quarter.
If not for a pair of Tulane turnovers, Matt Forte’s fumble and Anthony Scelfo’s interception, the game might have been closer.
“We made a few mistakes and you can’t have any against a team like this,” Scelfo said. “I think we would have been right with them without the mistakes.”
The fumble set up Hester’s TD, and the interception by LSU cornerback Chevis Jackson led to Scott’s slashing 35-yard scoring run to make it 27-9. Scott then pounded his way in for a short TD on LSU’s next drive.
Brandon LaFell had four catches for 76 yards, including a 43-yard reception that set up Hester’s first touchdown. Demetrius Byrd caught three passes for 69 yards.
“We came into locker room (at halftime) and decided we weren’t being physical enough,” Scott said. “So coach came in and he decided we’re going to just run it. We’re going to use every back we’ve got and run it, and that’s what we did.”
Scelfo finished 11-of-26 passing for 117 yards, while Forte rushed for 73 yards on 16 carries.
Andre Anderson had a 5-yard touchdown run that gave the Green Wave a 9-7 lead late in the first half.
“When they went up 9-7 on us, we knew we had to do something and get it together or we were going to be embarrassed out there,” Scott said.
Trindon Holliday returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to the LSU 44, and the Tigers marched quickly inside the Tulane 20 to regain the lead seconds before halftime on the first of two field goals by Colt David.
Now the Tigers can really start thinking about Florida, if they weren’t already.
“I can’t imagine how Death Valley’s going to be next Saturday night, but I think it’s going to be an unbelievable game,” LSU safety Craig Steltz said. “A lot of stuff is going to play out. A lot of people will be watching.”