By Bria Turner | LSU Reveille
The highlights of Saturday night's football game against Towson weren't senior wide receiver Russell Shepard's 78-yard run for a touchdown or junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger's long-distance passes to sophomore wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The turnovers stole the show.
LSU fumbled the ball five times, which was the most for the Tigers since the six against Texas-El Paso in the 1997 season.
Zach Mettenberger and junior
running backs Michael Ford and Spencer Ware each fumbled the ball once, and sophomore running back Kenny Hilliard fumbled twice. Of the five fumbles, three were lost.
Mettenberger's fumble late in the second half was caused by a sack that came with a loss of 12 yards.
"We've been sloppy week in and week out, and we really gotta clean it up," Mettenberger said. "Right now we're not playing LSU football, and I'm disappointed in myself and my team right now."
Hilliard's fumble in the first quarter was the first fumble by an LSU running back in 225 carries.
Sophomore wide receiver Jarvis Landry said the ball just slipped away from the running backs a few times, but they were just trying to get as far down the field as they could.
"I just think they were focused on getting that extra yard, and it just popped out," Landry said. "[They] got hit in the right place."
The players said they were shocked at the number of fumbles LSU committed in Saturday night's game.
LSU head coach Les Miles said ball security is something the Tigers focus on every week.
"I can tell you that [ball security] is the first thing I put on the practice schedule," Miles said. "I know that our guys work on it. I can promise you that it is something that has not escaped us in any way."
Ford, who had 11 rushes for 76 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown, fumbled early in the third quarter. Despite the wet day in Baton Rouge, Ford said he doesn't blame the fumbles on the rain. He said the ball is wet every game due to sweat.
"Just simply, we gotta hold onto the ball," Ford said. "It's a tradition that we're supposed to hold the ball. That's the heartbeat of the team. We don't drop the football. We can't win games and drop the ball."
Ford said the team works on ball security in practice with tugging and hitting drills, and running back coach Frank Wilson tries to incorporate every possible way of losing the ball into the Tigers' practices.
Hilliard's second fumble of the game came after a two-yard rush at the Towson one-yard line. Senior tight end Chase Clement recovered the fumble.
Landry said he could see the frustration on his teammates' faces following their turnovers.
"You see the guys walk off and put their heads down because they know Coach Frank stresses ball security," Landry said. "So that's one thing he's gonna get on them about."
Landry said it was an absolute surprise to see the ball hit the ground five times. He said the Tigers need to work on cutting back turnovers, and those improvements could help them get ahead early in the Southeastern Conference competition LSU will face for the rest of the season.
"I think that if we eliminate the little things and the turnovers, there's not a team in the NCAA that could play with us," Landry said.