Odell Beckham Jr. hadn’t looked the same since fumbling the opening kickoff against Washington in LSU’s second game of the season.
Following the fumble, which resulted in the Huskies taking an early 3-0 lead, Beckham dropped a couple of catchable balls and was even replaced on kickoff returns.
On the Plains at Auburn, Beckham made just two catches for 15 yards, and through four games he didn’t have a single receiving touchdown to his credit.
“A lot of those receivers, it’s all about confidence,” said LSU junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger. “If you play with confidence, you’re going to make tough catches.”
That confidence came back Saturday night, and it had to. As the Tiger offense sputtered in front of a Tiger Stadium crowd far below capacity, tension mounted. Beckham broke loose.
The first big play came in the return game as Beckham hauled a punt in at his own 22-yard line and preceded to juke and jive 30 yards into Towson territory with seven and a half minutes left in the first half and LSU clinging to a four point lead.
Beckham popped up and reacted demonstratively, pleading his team to join him.
“In a way, that punt return just kind of sparked everyone,” Beckham said. “I felt like someone had to do something to get a little enthusiasm into our team. I felt like I needed to make that play.”
The spark was extinguished three snaps later when LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger coughed the ball up.
Three plays later, Towson found the end zone and claimed the lead.
LSU marched the ball to the Towson 27 yard line in six plays, and Offensive Coordinator Greg Studrawa dialed Beckham’s number.
Mettenberger faked to the running back, planted his back foot and lofted the ball to Beckham streaking for the end zone. The former Newman standout leapt over a Towson defender, corralled the ball and crashed into the north end zone for his first receiving touchdown of the season.
“It’s a designed play, and it actually worked out perfectly,” Beckham said. “The safety bit and it was a perfect ball by Zach.”
Beckham wasn’t done.
Mettenberger found him for a career-long 52-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, this time headed to the south end zone.
“I told Mett(enberger) before the play, I said, ’I’m taking the top off,’” Beckham said.
Mettenberger added, “It was nice to throw the ball down the field a little bit, but we still have plays in the playbook we haven’t tapped into yet.”
After a career best 128 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, Beckham appears to be the focal point of that down field passing game.
The pair of scores marked the first time a Tiger receiver has scored twice since Rueben Randle torched Auburn for two touchdowns last season.
Towson entered the game with a plan to stop the run. It showed, and the visitors from Maryland weren’t afraid to say it after the game.
“We knew that was their weakness; they couldn’t pass,” said Towson defensive end Frank Beltre. “So that’s what we attacked. We stopped their run game, and they couldn’t pass and it showed.”
While not gaudy, Beckham’s five catches swung the momentum and gave LSU the cushion it needed to finish off the game-- a welcome sight for LSU Head Coach Les Miles.
“What (Beckham) did, is he regeared his game,” Miles said. “Basically, he took each practice day and worked hard to get better, no only in punt returns but everything he did.
“He really improved and needs to stay there and not change the formula ever. If he does that, he’ll be a tremendous returner and tremendous receiver for us.”