HOUSTON – LSU senior running back Kenny Hilliard found plenty of daylight up the middle of Wisconsin’s defense, darting 28 yards for the go-ahead, fourth-quarter touchdown to complete a second-half comeback and gave the No. 13 Tigers a 28-24 victory Saturday in the Advocare/Texas Kickoff.
The Tigers (1-0) rallied from a 24-7 deficit at the 12:24 mark of the third quarter, reeling off 21 straight points.
Hilliard carried 15 times for 99 yards to compliment the passing of sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings, who completed 9 of 21 passes for 238 yards, two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Sophomore wide receiver Travin Dural had three receptions for a career-high 151 yards and a touchdown.
LSU pulled to within 24-21 with 14 unanswered points that was capped by Jennings’ 36-yard scoring pass to John Diarse, who broke a couple of tackles on the way to his first career score.
Following a timeout Jennings rolled to his right and found Trey Quinn for a two-point conversion.
After allowing 268 first-half yards, LSU’s defense limited Wisconsin to 95 yards on 14 plays, 63 of which came on Melvin Gordon’s first run of the third quarter.
The Tigers also got interceptions from Jalen Mills, which set up Hilliard’s touchdown, along with Ronald Martin with 6:35 remaining to be played.
Place-kicker Colby Delahoussaye also played a pivotal role during LSU’s comeback with third-quarter field goals of 30 and 47 yards, respectively.
Wisconsin took a 24-7 lead on its opening series of the third quarter, courtesy of a 63-yard run on first down by Melvin Gordon, who wound with 140 yards on 16 carries. Corey Clement scored from two yards out on first-and-goal.
Wisconsin built a 17-7 halftime advantage behind its powerful ground game that resulted in 173 yards and two touchdowns.
The Badgers jumped out to a 7-0 first-quarter lead on wide receiver Reggie Love’s 45-yard burst, taking a handoff from quarterback Tanner McEvoy on a sweep and finding a hole around the left side of the Tigers’ defense.
LSU, which was limited to 137 total yards, accumulated 80 of those yards on one play when Dural worked behind double coverage and hauled in a pass from Jennings, racing the remainder of the way to cut Wisconsin’s lead to 10-7 with 4:47 left in the first quarter.
Wisconsin parlayed LSU’s lone mistake – a fumble by tight end Travis Dickson – into a 5-play, 31-yard drive that Gordon capped with a 16-yard burst over the left side at the 7:36 mark of the second quarter.
What you need to know:
1. LSU’s fake punt on fourth-and-four from its own 43 was a move that turned to pure gold. Not only did sophomore linebacker Kendell Beckwith of East Feliciana gained the necessary first down with a 5-yard pick up, it served as the catalyst in the Tigers comeback from a 17-point deficit to take a 28-24 lead with 9:41 to play.
2. LSU was able to find its offensive groove in the second half after being limited to 137 total yards and just 17 on the ground. The Tigers finished with 130 yards on 46 attempts led by senior Kenny Hilliard with 110 yards on 18 attempts, including the go-ahead touchdown from 28 yards out.
3. The much anticipated debut of LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette resulted in 18 yards on 8 carries. He also had five kickoff returns for an average of 23.4 yards with a long of 33 yards.
4. Possibly playing a role in LSU’s resurgence up front were the injuries Wisconsin suffered to its already thin defensive tackle corps. The Badgers lost senior Konrad Zagzebski in the first quarter to an undisclosed injury and later lost fellow senior Warren Herring on the first play of the fourth quarter.
5. Wisconsin’s massive offensive line was dominant through the game’s first three quarters, opening holes for both Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement to the tune of 33 carries for 253 yards and three touchdowns.