- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- He nodded his head to the beat, dipping his shoulders at each measure before a high screech from the horn section sent his arm high into the air in celebration. Odell Beckham Jr., LSU's soft-spoken wideout with off-the-charts athleticism, swayed to the sound of the Tiger marching band playing its final chords of the night. Turning his head to the bleachers, he took in the scene one last time.
It was clear Beckham wanted to savor the moment. He'd just had the best game of his career, compiling a remarkable 331 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in a 56-17 win over UAB. He put up video game numbers: 136 yards and three touchdowns through the air, 180 yards and a touchdown in returns, which included him taking a missed field goal more than 100 yards to pay dirt for the final score of the night. He even added 15 rushing yards.
After the game, LSU coach Les Miles marveled at Beckham's performance, putting it up against the likes of former Tiger greats Maurice Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu. When they wanted to make a play, they did, Miles said. In Beckham's eyes, he saw the same trait. It didn't matter how many Blazers' jerseys got in his way Saturday night, Beckham was going to make them miss.
"When you've got eight offensive linemen and that kid catches the ball, that's going to be a dangerous situation," UAB coach Garrick McGee said of the failed field goal attempt. "... I probably shouldn't have kicked that."
Even LSU statisticians struggled to track Beckham's night. The computers in the press box didn't know what to do with the field goal return yards and a quick flip through the NCAA rulebook didn't yield any answers either. The extra yardage never did make it into the final stat book.
Beckham was in no mood to complain, though. He credited the other 10 guys on the field for his night, deflecting praise whenever necessary. The only thing that stood out about him after the game was his attire. His manner didn't say superstar, but his neatly pressed white shirt, Louis Vuitton belt and bright teal tie certainly did, especially in a room full of teammates wearing sweat suits. Zach Mettenberger, who set a school record with five touchdown passes, mistakenly had on his punter's No. 38 shorts.
"I think it's the pants he wears, the flamboyant colors and stuff," Mettenberger said, struggling to explain the root of Beckham's talent before turning to a more serious tone. "He's just a natural athlete at everything he does. From last year to this year, he's really matured. … He understands the potential he has."
Mettenberger said the obvious when he told reporters that Beckham "stole the show." His junior wide receiver was unstoppable in Death Valley. His routes were precise, his feel for the game impeccable. Even when he did the unnecessary, fielding a punt for no yards in the first half, he did so with flair, nabbing the ball on the sideline before dragging his feet to stay in bounds.
"He's elusive," Miles said. "He has great speed. I think he does have good vision. He has a want to make a play. It's a feel."
The play Beckham wanted to make, though, was to block the field goal he returned for a touchdown, not to field it. He said he set up under the posts hoping to make a Kevin Garnett type of leap to swat the attempt away. Instead, he settled for catching the ball and finding a seam in the coverage.
"I was just thinking, 'I have to make a play,'" he said. "That's my mentality."
Beckham eyes looked glazed over when he described the touchdown run, his signature moment of the game. It was clear his record-setting performance hadn't quite set in.
"It was kind of something like that," he said. "I just looked up and had to thank God for that type of night."
6dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough