LSU defense wakes up in second half to lead Tigers to 24-19 win over Texas A&M

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - It's no secret that LSU's football fortunes this season rest almost exclusively on a stingy defense and an occasional assist from the offense and special teams.

For one half Saturday, that didn't seem like a viable way to continue a path back into the national championship picture.

Not the way the Texas A&M offense was clicking.

But the Tigers made their way work with a sticky second-half performance and just enough offense in a 24-19 triumph at Kyle Field.

Jeremy Hill's 47-yard touchdown run with 3:20 left in the game and Drew Alleman's 28-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter gave No. 6-ranked LSU (7-1, 3-1 SEC) just enough breathing room for a second win in a row against a ranked foe and the first this season on the road.

Texas A&M notched a touchdown with 1:17 to go to get within five points, but Odell Beckham Jr. corralled an onside kick and the Tigers survived a seven-lateral desperation play by the Aggies on the final snap.

The second-half story centered on the LSU defense smothering the Aggies (5-2, 2-2) after they carved the Tigers up for 256 first-half yards, 75 on a game-opening drive that Christine Michael capped with a 2-yard run.

Every time A&M threatened to get into the end zone after that until the next-to-last possession, though, LSU held its ground.

The Tigers limited the Aggies to 154 yards after halftime (A&M had 141 in its first two series of the day) and forced five turnovers - including three interceptions - to claim a win in College Station for the first time since 1987 and only the second time in 10 trips.

"Our defense had to get their feet set and understand what was going on," LSU coach Les Miles said. "Our pass rush started to get there a little bit."

In particular, the Tigers bottled up A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel after he pestered them for a quarter and a half.

Taking the word elusive to the extreme, Manziel kept plays alive with his feet, passed for 102 yards in the first quarter and engineered drives of 75 and 66 yards to start the game, which led to a 9-0 lead.

After the explosive start, Manziel struggled to find a comfort zone the rest of the day. He finished with 276 passing yards, but threw three picks and was sacked three times. The SEC's leading rusher coming in, Manziel managed only 50 yards on rushing plays.

"They've made life difficult on everybody they've played," A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. "They're a talented football team. They continue to play. They have depth in the secondary, They have guys they can rotate in. They can pass-rush and have guys who can play man coverage."

Two Taylor Bertholet field goals, including a 50-yarder, padded the Aggies' lead to 12-0. LSU somehow managed to grab a halftime lead despite its offense slumbering through a miserable 30 minutes.

The Aggies moved ahead 12-0 with a touchdown on their opening series and a pair of Taylor Bertholet field goals, but squandered chances to stretch the lead more.

That left the door open for the Tigers, and their defense finally snatched momentum late in the first half recovering back-to-back A&M turnovers.

Manziel committed the first one when he overthrew a receiver and Jalen Collins picked the ball off.

LSU didn't move the ball much at first, but caught a break when Toney Hurd was flagged for pass interference on third down to keep the series alive. The Tigers went to the ground from the Aggies' 42-yard-line, and still needed a fourth-down conversion run from Michael Ford for 13 yards.

Ford got the ball on the next play as well on a toss sweep and got to the corner of the endzone for a 20-yard TD run with blocking help from fullback Connor Neighbors and receiver Jarvis Landry.

"Our offensive staff made a couple of really nice calls and understood we could get to the perimeter a little bit," Miles said. "We hit them with a couple of sweeps and got things going."

With the Tigers back in the game, the defense came up big again when safety Ronald Martin popped A&M tailback Ben Malena on an off-tackle run and jarred the ball loose. Lamin Barrow smothered the loose ball at the Aggies 40 with 46 seconds before halftime.

Another fourth-down conversion, this one a 3-yard Jeremy Hill, gave the Tigers a shot. Mettenberger made it count when he lofted a pretty 30-yard TD pass to Kadron Boone, just clearing two defenders as Boone leapt and hauled the ball in as he landed in the end zone for a 14-12 LSU lead.

NOTES: Texas A&M legend John David Crow was introduced before the game. A native of Springhill, La., Crow is the Aggies only Heisman Trophy winner (1957). ... Also in the crowd were former President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara. Bush's presidential library is on the A&M campus. ... Mettenberger's touchdown pass to Boone was the LSU quarterback's first in an SEC game and first since he threw a pair against Towson on Sept. 29. Despite that throw, Mettenberger finished with his worst statistical day of the season: 11-of-29 for 97 yards.