ARLINGTON, Texas — Walking off the podium after LSU's season-opening victory, coach Les Miles provided an appreciative nod to his new offensive coordinator.
"Way to go," Miles commented toward Cam Cameron's wife nearby.
The 12th-ranked Tigers' first game with Cameron calling the plays provided a promising start to the season in a 37-27 victory over No. 20 TCU on Saturday night.
"When you open on the road, very quality opponent, you put 448 yards on them," Miles said. "I felt like Cam Cameron started his debut at LSU, and did a very, very strong job. ... We were much better on offense."
Terrence Magee ran for two second-half touchdowns and second-year starter Zach Mettenberger threw for 251 yards with a key late score, a 20-yard TD to Jarvis Landry with 6 minutes left after Odell Beckham's 75-yard kickoff return.
"Anytime Odell gets the ball that can happen," Mettenberger said. "He definitely made it easier on our parts to go in and score. `'
And that replenished defense after losing a team-record eight players to the NFL draft came up with some key plays.
"They looked like an LSU defense to me," Miles aid. "They flew around."
B.J. Catalon returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and scored on a 26-yard run for TCU, the two-time BCS buster now in its second Big 12 season. But the Frogs had only 259 total yards.
With the score 30-24 and momentum on its side, TCU started in Tigers territory after a shanked 28-yard punt and three-and-out.
But the Horned Frogs' drive was hampered when Trevone Boykin was sacked and fumbled. They recovered the ball, but had to settle for Jaden Oberkrom's 39-yard field goal to get within 30-27 with 7 1/2 minutes left. Then came Beckham's big kickoff return.
"We were the team getting stronger in the fourth quarter," TCU coach Gary Patterson said, adding the big turnaround was failing to score a touchdown and then letting Beckham get loose.
Before that, Alfred Blue's fumble set TCU up at the 6. Waymon James' 5-yard TD run made it 30-24 with 13 minutes left.
Magee ran 52 yards for a touchdown less than 2 minutes into the second half put LSU up 23-10, three plays after an interception by Jalen Mills – one of only three full-time returning defensive starters for the Tigers. Magee added a 3-yard score later in the third quarter.
The Tigers' offensive outburst came against a TCU team known for its defense. Even after moving from the Mountain West to the Big 12 last season, the Horned Frogs led their new league in total defense.
Landry finished with eight catches for 109 yards, while Beckham had five catches for 118 yards. It was the first time since 2001 the Tigers had two 100-yard receivers in the same game.
"You throw to the guys who are open. ... And they were open a lot," said Mettenberger, who completed 16 of 32 passes.
LSU was up 13-3 when 270-pound fullback J.C. Copeland plunged in from a yard out early in the second quarter.
But Catalon returned the ensuing kickoff for a TD, with only one LSU player even getting a hand on the speedy running back. That tied for the second-longest return in TCU history, behind only a 105-yarder against Texas in 1933.
"What a great ballgame," Patterson said. "A lot of good athletes on the field, both sides of the ball for both teams."
While Miles had been deliberately vague to keep TCU guessing on Jeremy Hill's status following his offseason arrest for throwing a punch outside a bar, the running back didn't play.
TCU was without reigning Big 12 defensive player of the year Devonte Fields, who was also in uniform without playing. He's serving a two-game suspension for an unspecified violation of university and team policy during the offseason.
Colby Delahoussaye kicked three field goals for LSU, two in the first 6 1/2 minutes even before TCU took its first offensive snap with Casey Pachall getting the start over Boykin at quarterback.
Though once TCU finally got on offense, both Pachall and Boykin were on the field.
Pachall, who came in with a 15-2 career record as the starter, was the quarterback in his return after leaving the team for treatment in a substance abuse program four games into last season after a DUI arrest. Boykin lined up as a receiver the first two plays, but played much of the second half at quarterback, taking over after Pachall was picked off by Mills.
Pachall was 9-of-16 passing for 75 yards and Boykin was 6 of 12 for 70 yards.
There was a loud crowd of 80,230 for the Cowboys Classic, with plenty of purple (a predominant color for both teams). Both teams were playing for the third time in the NFL team's stadium, where both had been 2-0. Each had played in the season-opening game once.
Delahoussaye kicked a 23-yard field goal on the final play of the first half for a 16-10 lead, after a strange ending sequence.
LSU had first-and-goal from the 2 after a pass interference penalty in the end zone, and was still there after two running plays. The Tigers called timeout with 15 seconds left, then got penalized for a delay of game penalty and then a false start without running a play. An incomplete pass brought up fourth down with 5 seconds left.
Referee John O'Neill of the Big Ten crew doing the game, then announced that because offensive tackle La'el Collins' helmet came off and LSU had no timeouts, there would be a 10-second clock runoff, ending the half. With TCU players in the tunnel to the locker room, O'Neill clarified that since the clock was stopped on the incompletion that there would be no runoff. He repeated that in a statement released at halftime.