LSU defense dominant, offense balanced in 41-3 win
POSTED: Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 1:03am
UPDATED: Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 10:46am
BATON ROUGE, LA — Third-ranked LSU (2-0) held Washington (1-1) to 26 yards rushing and shook off a fumble on the opening kickoff to thoroughly dominate the Huskies, 41-3, on Saturday night at Tiger Stadium.
Washington's field goal less than a minute into the game came after Odell Beckham Jr.'s fumble at the LSU 20 to start the game.
The Tigers grabbed the lead less than three minutes later and never looked back, tying the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision record with 39-straight non-conference wins in the regular season. The win was also tied the school record of 19-straight victories in Tiger Stadium.
Running back Alfred Blue eclipsed 100 yards for the second-straight game, as the junior led the way for the Tigers with 101 yards on 14 carries and the 21-yard touchdown run that gave LSU the lead.
"Everyone knows that when you go into Tiger Stadium, LSU is going to play dominant," Blue said. "Michael Ford and Spencer Ware played dominant. When their number's called, they see the opportunity at hand and see the moves."
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger was again efficient, completing 12-of-18 passes for 195 yards with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Kadron Boone in the third quarter. Wide receiver James Wright had a team highs of 75 yards and five catches. Beckham Jr. finished with 40 yards on two catches despite the fumble and uncharacteristic dropped passes early in the game.
"I was definitely more comfortable this week and getting used to playing the game again," Mettenberger said. "We still made some mistakes out there that we have to iron out. We just have to get better for next week. If we can keep improving every game, we'll be a pretty good football team."
The Huskies suffered four sacks for minus-28 yards and netted 26 yards rushing on 24 attempts. LSU outgained Washington, 437-183, including a 242-26 advantage on the ground.
Washington quarterback Keith Price was 17-of-36 passing for 157 yards and an interception. Along with the four sacks, Price was hurried seven times and had seven passes broken up. His favorite targets were tight end Austin Seferain-Jenkins (six catches, 51 yards) and wide receiver Kevin Smith (four catches, 48 yards).
Erich Wilson had a team-high 25 rushing yards on four carries. Starting running back Bishop Sankey was limited to 16 yards on eight touches.
"It's pretty clear from the naked eye that's a pretty good football team that got after us tonight," Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said. "We had a couple opportunities early in the game that maybe could have changed the complexion of it. It was great getting the turnover right off the start on the kickoff. We had a couple plays on second and third downs where we just couldn't quite execute. We just weren't able to execute against a team like this. When you play an elite team in the country, you have to execute well."
Washington won the coin toss but deferred to the second half, as the Huskies kicked with a northern breeze to start the game.
Beckham Jr.'s decision to return the opening kickoff three yards into the south endzone cost the Tigers points in the opening minute of the game. The sophomore fumbled after a hit by Washington's Tax Stevenson along the right sideline and Thomas Tutogi recovered at the LSU 20.
After a dropped pass by Sankey on second down that would have put the Huskies in a goal-to-go situation, Price was unable to connect with Jaydon Mickens and Washington settled for a field goal. With 14:03 remaining in the opening quarter, Travis Coons' 34-yarder gave Washington a 3-0 lead.
Another return by Beckham Jr. from his endzone netted 34 yards, however, the wide receiver dropped two first-down catches and Brad Wing was called upon to punt. Wing's 62-yard, low line drive into a stiff breeze landed softly inside the Huskies 5 and rolled out of bounds at the 4.
The special teams gem instantly turned the momentum in the Tigers' favor. Washington punted after gaining only two yards, and LSU took over at Washington's 38 after a 32-yard punt by Korey Durkee.
On the next play, Mettenberger found Wright slashing across the middle for 17 yards to setup a 21-yard scamper around the left end by Blue that gave the Tigers a lead they would not relinquish. Drew Alleman's point after touchdown gave LSU a 7-3 advantage with 11:18 left in the first quarter.
A quick three-and-out by Washington put the ball back in LSU's hands at its 23. However, a chop block on sophomore offensive guard La'el Collins put the Tigers in a first-and-25 that they couldn't overcome. Wing's second punt of the evening bounded just short of the goal line but wasn't able to be downed short of the endzone.
LSU's defense picked up its first sack of the season on third-and-5 when Lavar Edwards hit Price from behind for a 6-yard loss. Durkee's 18-yard punt off the side of his foot put the Tigers in Huskies territory to start a drive for the second time.
From the 47, LSU added 10 yards to a Kenny Hilliard 4-yard run for a first down at the 33. Two 8-yard Ford runs and rushes of 7 and 8 yards by Ware setup Copeland's 1-yard touchdown. LSU increased its advantage to 14-3 with 2:11 to play in the first quarter.
Washington had one first down and 18 yards of total offense on 17 plays in the first quarter. Things didn't get much better for the Huskies in the next 15 minutes of the half.
A 23-yard pass from Mettenberger to Wright on the first play of the second quarter pushed LSU into Washington territory again. After three runs for 20 yards, Wright added a 22-yard catch to the 7-yard line. However, two runs and a pass left LSU at the 1, and head coach Les Miles elected to allow Alleman to kick an 18-yard field goal. The Tigers led 17-3 with 10:02 left in the half.
With an 18-yard pass to Seferian-Jenkins on third-and-15, Price gave Washington its second first down of the game. Three plays later, the Huskies punted for the fifth-straight possession.
The Tigers added three more points on the ensuing drive, but could have had a touchdown when Russell Shepard lost control of a pass from Mettenberger in the endzone. Passes for 20 yards to Jarvis Landry and 14 yards to Blue put the Tigers at the Washington 30, and Blue's running gave LSU another first down at the 15. But, the drive stalled and Alleman came on for a 32-yard field goal.
The Tigers took a 20-3 lead into the lockerroom.
LSU scored on its first drive of the third quarter, a 3-yard run by Hilliard setup by a 24-yard reception by Beckham Jr. With 10:35 left in the third, LSU led 27-3.
Of LSU's 26 plays in the final 27 minutes, the Tigers threw three passes: an incomplete pass to Landry, a 32-yard touchdown grab by Boone who had gotten behind his defender, and a 10-yard first-down catch by Wright early in the fourth quarter.
Hilliard added a 1-yard touchdown run with 8:04 to play for his fifth-career multi-touchdown game.
LSU returns to action on Saturday, Sept. 15, for a 7 p.m. pay-per-view broadcast against Idaho.
The announced crowd of 92,804 was the second-largest against a non-conference opponent in Tiger Stadium history.