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|LSU racks up 508 yards of offense in 41-14 route of North Texas|
LSU running backs Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue combined for 264 yards rushing while Zach Mettenberger added 192 yards passing as the Tigers defeated North Texas on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, 41-14.
LSU (1-0), which gained 508 yards of total offense, had its best output since gaining 595 against Louisiana Tech in 2007, a span of 58 games.
The performance came on the heels of Hurricane Isaac which passed over Baton Rouge, flooded many communities to the east, and left the season opener in jeopardy until 48 hours prior to game time.
"We rushed for 300 and threw for close to 200 yards," LSU head coach Les Miles said. "Not too bad. We put 40 points on a team. It was kind of like offense, defense and special teams had an opportunity to play dominant at times, but really had some sloppy plays.
Hilliard, a sophomore, led the team with 141 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns, while Blue added 123 yards on a game-high 16 runs. Both totals were career bests to help LSU net 316 yards on the ground. Junior J.C. Copeland also had a career night running the ball, as the 272-pound fullback scored his first touchdown and had 33 yards on four carries.
In his first start as a Tiger, Metterberger completed 19-of-26 passing including a 34-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kadron Boone on the second play of the fourth quarter. He was sacked twice and threw an interception near the goal line.
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry was Mettenberger's top target with eight grabs for 82 yards, while Odell Beckham Jr. added three catches for 30 yards.
Beckham Jr.'s highlight of the game came midway through the first quarter, when the sophomore returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown. His return marked the fifth-straight season LSU has returned a punt for a touchdown.
Twenty Tigers saw action for the first time including 12 true freshmen. Of the newcomers, linebackers Deion Jones had a tackle for loss and Kwon Alexander had a fumble recovery.
North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson struggled against the Tigers defense, completing only 8-of-21 passes for 143 yards. However, he connected with Brelan Chancellor for touchdowns of 80 and 15 yards for the Mean Green's points.
"Defensively, if you look at the first half you have to say they had a difficult time getting first downs," Miles said. "(North Texas) made a nice drive, mostly running the football. They had a third down and 15 when they scored, and they had a long pass. Frankly, I know the guy (Reid) that made the mistake there and he is very correctable. Defensively we were sloppy and not quite right. We played dominant at times. We will get better and had that opportunity. Imperfect, but with reason to smile."
Brandin Byrd led the Mean Green with 40 yards on 14 carries, as North Texas netted 76 yards rushing on 35 attempts.
"I've coached against national champion teams, and I've been a part of national champion teams," said North Texas coach Dan McCarney. "I know what those defenses look like, and the Tigers sure have one of those again this year. They just don't stay blocked very long. When you think you have them, you don't. When you think you have them cut off, you don't. When you think you've sustained a block, you haven't. That's what I saw from standing on the sidelines. That's a fast, physical, and well‐coached defense, as usual at LSU."
The Tigers led 24-0 just before halftime, as Hilliard sandwiched Beckham Jr.'s return with a pair of scoring runs of 18 and 5 yards.
Drew Alleman tied his career long with a 44-yard field goal midway through the second quarter. North Texas used an 80-yard catch-and-run by Chancellor to cut into the Tigers advantage.
The play left the Mean Green trailing 24-7 at halftime.
LSU put together a 16-play drive in the third quarter but managed only a 30-yard field goal by Alleman with 2:10 left in the quarter.
After a quick three-and-out by North Texas, Mettenberger waited patiently in the pocket and found Boone on a crossing route for a 34-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
North Texas answered with a 13-play, 66-yard scoring drive that ended on a 15-yard pass from Thompson to Chancellor on third-and-goal.
LSU finished out the scoring halfway through the fourth quarter when Copeland scored from five yards with 2:20 remaining. The drive was keyed by a 33-yard double-pump pass to Landry to the Mean Green 26 yard line.
The Tigers return to action Saturday, Sept. 8, when Washington comes to Tiger Stadium for a 6 p.m. contest. The game will be televised by ESPN.
Photo courtesy of LSUsports.net
Photo caption: LSU's Kenny Hilliard ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns.