No. 11 LSU escapes Washington, 31-23

Published 2:59 am Sunday, September 6, 2009

SEATTLE (AP) — Thanks to career nights from Jordan Jefferson and Terrance Toliver, LSU finally got going and put away a revived Washington team looking to end a streak of futility that stretched back to 2007.

Jefferson threw a career-high three touchdown passes to help the 11th-ranked Tigers hand the Huskies their 15th consecutive loss, 31-23 Saturday night in new coach Steve Sarkisian’s Washington debut.

Jefferson’s third, 6 yards to a wide-open Brandon LaFell with 1:54 remaining sealed it for the Tigers, though Jake Locker threw a touchdown pass to Kavario Middleton on the final play.

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‘‘We sputtered in the first half at times on offense,’’ LSU coach Les Miles said. ‘‘There were opportunities to take advantage of our opponent, and we didn’t attack them the way we should have.’’

The Huskies are one loss from tying Oregon State’s Pac-10 record for consecutive losses. Still, they started strong, getting out to an early 7-0 lead and were down only 17-13 nine minutes into the second half.

Locker completed 25 of 45 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns, but Jacob Cutrera returned an interception 29 yards for LSU’s first touchdown late in the first quarter. Locker said he never saw the linebacker.

‘‘That Jake Locker is mobile and active,’’ Miles said. ‘‘I’m very thankful that we came and performed like we did.’’

Toliver caught two touchdown passes from Jefferson, who was 11 of 20 for 172 yards. And Toliver doubled his touchdown output from last season on two plays.

‘‘We knew Terrance was going to get the ball a lot this game,’’ said Jefferson, who shook off two huge hits that left him woozy — including one that had him out of the game for one play. ‘‘They were coming with corner blitzes, and I just fed him the ball.’’

LSU led 17-13 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter before Toliver twisted freshman safety Greg Walker into the turf for the second time for a long touchdown catch and run. This one, from 39 yards, put the Tigers up 24-13 and seemed to take the zip out of the fired-up Huskies.

Earlier, Toliver juked past Walker for a 45-yard score late in the first half to put LSU up 17-10 in its first trip to the West Coast in 25 years.

Even he couldn’t believe he found the end zone twice, for the first time since high school.

‘‘It’s surreal,’’ said the junior who had just one touchdown in 13 games last season. ‘‘I’ve got to see the highlights.’’

Washington’s new, variety-filled offense outgained LSU 478-321. The Huskies had 296 yards at halftime against a Tigers unit revamped from last season with the arrival of new coordinator John Chavis from Tennessee.

‘‘I think our new defensive coaches did a good job. The team was in position to make tackles and do things,’’ Miles said. ‘‘We missed some tackles early on.

‘‘At times I saw that Tiger defense that I want it to be.’’

The Huskies became bogged down with just 62 yards from halftime until 9 minutes remained in the game. That’s when the dynamic Locker began running. He converted a fourth-and-1, and then a third-and-6, to get Washington to the LSU 6.

Then Johri Fogerson had a pass go off his chest in the end zone, and D’Andre Goodwin stopped running at the goal line as Locker’s pass darted through the back of the end zone. Washington had to settle for Erik Folk’s third field goal that made it 24-16 with 5:24 left.

‘‘I think the initial goal from what I said earlier in the week, is when this game is done that the other team respects us — and I think they respect the Washington Husky football team,’’ Sarkisian said, uttering words unspoken last season when Washington was 0-12 under Tyrone Willingham.

‘‘(But), that’s not acceptable. We play the game to win,’’ said the former Rose Bowl-winning coordinator at Southern California. ‘‘And unfortunately we were in the red zone five times and settled for four field goals and had a turnover. That’s how you can lose.’’