By RICHARD FISCHER and BEN LOVE
BATON ROUGE - No. 2/3 LSU improved to 3-0 on the season after taking it to Idaho, 63-14, and sending the Vandals to 0-3 in 2012.
The Tigers benefited from two defensive scores on the night, one from senior defensive end Lavar Edwards and the other on a pick-six from first-time starter Ronald Martin.
Martin, starting at safety for Craig Loston (turf toe), tallied two interceptions in his debut in the defense’s first 11.
Offensively LSU posted 472 yards, with Zach Mettenberger totaling 222 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-22 passing. He was also picked off on the goal line in the second quarter and sacked three times.
Kenny Hilliard led the effort on the ground, churning out 116 yards and two scores on 11 rushes. Jeremy Hill, in the first action of his Tiger career, gained 61 yards on 10 carries and crossed the goal line twice.
Starter Alfred Blue had 46 yards and a score, but left the game on crutches. Miles said following the game he was unsure of the status of his “nicked” back.
HERE IS OUR CHRONOLOGICAL BLOG OF TONIGHT'S ACTION:
Good evening and welcome to Tiger Stadium for LSU’s third consecutive home game to open the 2012 season.
The score so far: LSU 82, opponents 17.
With Idaho (0-2) in town tonight, expect LSU’s (2-0) overall season score to look even more lopsided in about three and a half hours.
The Vandals are winless versus Eastern Washington and Bowling Green so far this season. However, unlike in their season-opening loss to Eastern Washington, Idaho found some offense in Game Two thanks to first-time starting-quarterback Dominique Blackman.
The transfer from Old Dominion completed 30-of-38 passes for 352 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Ten of his passes and 119 of his yards went to receiver Jahrie Level.
The Vandals had just six rushing yards in the entire game, however, and Idaho entered Week Three ranked third-to-last in the nation in rushing.
We saw how dominant LSU’s pass rush/coverage was last week when they made Washington one dimensional. Expect much of the same tonight.
On the other side of the ball, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger will try to throw his first touchdown pass to someone not named Kadron Boone. It’s quite an anomaly that LSU’s No. 5 WR has all of Mett’s TD passes dating back to last year, but there’s a great chance that’ll change tonight. You know OBJ’s hungry to atone for last week’s drops, and Jarvis Landry and Russell Shepard also has passes hit their hands that could (would in Shepard’s case) been touchdowns last week.
On the ground, Alfred Blue may continue to be the bell cow, but Les Miles gave last year’s early-season leading rusher, Spencer Ware, a break in LSU’s second game versus Northwestern State. Either way, expect 200-300 yards on the ground from LSU tonight regardless of who gets them.
Tonight’s game is blacked out on espn3.com if you live outside the states of Louisiana and Idaho.
1st Quarter Recap
LSU 14, Idaho 0
- Elliott Porter starts at center. P.J. Lonergan is slightly injured, and I guess the coaches would rather not risk it against Idaho. He is dressed out, however. Josh D. starts at LT as expected. Skill position players are WR: OBJ, Shepard, FB: Copeland, RB: Blue, TE: Clement.
-Kadron Boone, Jarvis Landry come in on the same play as LSU’s next WRs and Boone catches a TD on his first play. This is uncanny. He’s caught all four of Mett’s career TD passes, and he’s scored as soon as he’s entered the game in all three games this year. He’s instant offense.
- Nic Jacobs comes in on two-TE sets. Kenny Hilliard second RB in. Connor Neighbors is the second FB in.
- Tigers pound it and pound it some more on their second drive. Alfred Blue capped it off from three yards out. Josh Williford left near the goal line on what looked like a cramp. Trai Turner relieved him for one play, an LSU TD, and Williford returned on the next drive.
- In summary, LSU can do whatever it wants. Tigers mostly go in their power sets but show signs of opening it up later in the quarter, handing it to Shepard twice. First play of the game was a 33-yard pass to Shepard on a stutter and go. That’ll set the tempo for the ball game and opened up the run as Mett would throw only three more passes in the frame (2-for-4, 50 yards, TD). Tigers ran for 62 yards, led by Shepard with 21 yards on his pair of late-quarter carries.
- No James Wright or any RB other than Blue or Hilliard in the quarter.
- Tigers are knocking on the door to begin the second.
- The defense took the field first for the Tigers, and after giving up two first downs, John Chavis’ men stood tall on the opening drive. LSU stymied Idaho on fourth-and-short, setting the offense up in position for the game’s opening scoring drive.
- Obviously the biggest change in the usual starting lineup tonight was Ronald Martin starting for Craig Loston at safety. Loston, who is still getting over a toe injury, is getting a little rest, but there’s nothing alarming about his status. Also out of the first 11 tonight was KeKe Mingo at defensive end. Lavar Edwards started in his place. Mingo is dressed out. Loston, at least from where I’m at, doesn’t appear to be.
- LSU went to a lot of nickel and dime sets in the opening drive. Here’s the rotation: Luke Muncie comes out at linebacker on nickel (4-2-5) situations and Jalen Collins subs in. Collins mans one island, opposite Tharold Simon, while starter Jalen Mills slides inside. For dime, same changes along with Micah Eugene coming in while a defensive linemen subs out.
- Nice tip-drill interception for Martin on Idaho’s second chance with the ball. I said it in the preseason, and I’ll stick by it now: With Loston’s injury history and Martin’s better overall ability in coverage, I think Martin plays a lot of football this season in the secondary.
- Other players in there a lot early on: Ego Ferguson at DT, Jermauria Rasco at DE. Also Mingo did come in on the third series of the quarter. No. 49 looks to be okay after reportedly being in a boot Monday.
Special Teams notes:
- J.C. Copeland, Corey Thompson and Jerquinick Sandolph ran down on kickoff team. On the opening one, Copeland ran the hardest and made it the furthest down field even though James Hairston’ kickoff went out of the end zone.
- Jalen Mills is called for a holding penalty on an OBJ punt return. Add his tip which resulted in a pick earlier in the quarter, and he’s still having a fine frame.
2nd Quarter Recap
LSU 28, Idaho 14
- Mett begins the second by throwing a pick on third down inside the 10. Gary Walker takes it all the way back to the Tiger five. GREAT hustle by OBJ and Boone to stop a pick six.
- Mettenberger looks better on the next drive, going 2-for-2 for 26 yards (both to OBJ), but careless penalties including a delay of game (put that one on Mett) and an illegal substitution on a 50-yard FG attempt force a Tiger punt. Awful lack of focus there.
- On LSU’s next drive, Benson Mayowa forced a Mettenberger fumble on a sack that LSU falls on. Tigers look to be sleepwalking a bit and struggling to score since they’ve gone to a base three-WR set in this quarter. Another Tiger punt.
- With less than two minutes to go, P.J. Lonergan makes his first appearance at center. Alex Hurst moves over to the left side, and Vadal Alexander takes over at right tackle. Mettenberger throws the Tigers down the field quickly, capped off with a seven-yard corner route TD to Landry. Three plays, three completions.
- Mettenberger is now 9-for-13 for 117 yards, two TDs and a pick. LSU has been unable to really get the running game going with 67 yards on 18 carries, and 18 of those yards came on a rush from Shepard.
- Not much the ‘D’ could do on its first trip to the field in the second quarter. Mettenberger’s near- pick-six left the defense with only five yards of turf to defend versus Idaho. The Vandals did eventually toss a short passing play in. Here was the goal-line set LSU preferred on the series: Lavar Edwards, Anthony Johnson, Bennie Logan, Ego Ferguson and Sam Montgomery made up the five-man line (lot of beef there); Lamin Barrow and Kevin Minter stayed in at linebacker; and the starting four - Jalen Mills, Tharold Simon, Eric Reid and Ronald Martin - were in the back.
- Lot of the same lineup in there during the second quarter. Chavis isn’t subbing too much despite the opponent. Guess he wants to get his main nucleus some more experience against the pass, especially those young guys (Mills, Collins, Martin, Eugene) … And just as I type that, Collins makes a super-athletic play, going up near the sideline and batting a deep-ball lob over to Martin, who runs his second pick of the night back 45 yards for six. Will say it again: Keep playing Ronald Martin.
- And then as good as the secondary had been, a lapse on the next Vandal drive brought Idaho back to within seven, at 21-14. Idaho QB Dominique Blackman fired a dart in between Simon and Martin to a wide-open receiver, Jahrie Level. Simon wasn’t anywhere near wide receiver either, which means there was either miscommunication between he and Martin, the safety on that half of the field, or Martin failed to get his back … or both.
- With about three minutes to go in the half, I looked at the stat monitor in the press box. Minter had five tackles, one for loss, and Barrow had four stops. Those are the two playing the majority of the snaps in a nickel-heavy night, and they’re showing up again. Good start to the season for LSU’s linebackers.
- One final quick note: Anthony Johnson is a beast on LSU’s goal-line set. With Idaho backed up on its own three right before the half, “Freak” turned third-and-19 into fourth-and-20 and almost racked up a safety for the Tigers. That guy can get one heck of a push in a tight space, getting into the backfield with regularity.
Special Teams notes:
- Michael Ford is back to return kickoffs. Shepard is beside him. That replaces the duo of OBJ and Landry. Ford does very well on a pair of returns (42, 28 yards).
- Jeremy Peoples is also seen on the kickoff team.
3rd Quarter Recap
LSU 49, Idaho 14
- Alexander begins the third at RT. Hurst at LT. P.J. at center. Dworaczyk has tape on his right calf on the sidelines.
- Hilliard rumbles 71 yards to pay dirt and absolutely bulldozes an Idaho defender about 10 yards down field. Nice breakaway speed to go all the way. That’s five TDs this year for him.
- Michael Ford sees time at RB late in the third. Still no Spencer Ware or James Wright.
- Alexander gets a holding penalty on Ware running around the right end. He’ll learn to keep the hands inside. That’s followed up by a 48-yard connection from Mett to OBJ on a bomb down the right sideline. Hilliard punches it in from a yard out (sixth TD) following more nice Mett connections. Dillion Gordon came in as the third TE at the goal line, and Jeremy Hill at FB. There goes Hill’s redshirt, paving the way for Hilliard into the end zone.
- What a great play from Lavar Edwards to open up the scoring for LSU in the second half. With just more than 11 minutes to go in the third frame, the Tiger defensive end absolutely inhaled a low-flying ball heaved by Blackman. Edwards then showed his athleticism at 6-5. 258, fighting through multiple tackles on his way to the end zone from 23 yards out. Another D-Line programming note: Josh Downs got out there for what I believe was his first time early in the third quarter. Looks like No. 77 is just fine.
- The Tigers started getting some fresh blood in there beginning with the second defensive series of the half. Senior Chancey Aghayere featured more at end while true frosh Danielle Hunter also broke into the lineup with about 9:15 to go in the third stanza. No real drop in performance either.
- After Hilliard’s beast-mode TD scamper, Chavis’ crew took to the field for the third time in the half. Again same effort, same result. More playing time for Danielle Hunter. Still not a single linebacker not named Minter, Barrow or Muncie has been in there this game. None of the true frosh, including Lamar Louis, who on Twitter proclaimed himself back from an injury this week.
Special Teams notes:
- Landry is the secondary returner next to Ford in the third.
- Wing punts a beautiful coffin corner out of bounds at the six early in the quarter.
4th Quarter recap
LSU 63, Idaho 14
- Travis Dickson takes over at TE in the fourth. Terrence Magee plays WR, and Jeremy Hill plays RB. Still no Wright. Elliott Porter (C) and Trai Turner (RG) also check in this drive. Hill gets five carries for 34 yards and a touchdown on his first drive at RB. Not a bad start.
- On the next drive, Stephen Rivers comes in at QB. Chris Davenport (LT), Ben Dominigue (LG) come in on the line. Paul Turner in at WR, Connor Neighbors at FB.
- Hill ended the quarter with 10 carries for 61 yards and two touchdowns.
- Some newbies out there on the opening defensive drive of the fourth quarter. Debo Jones and Ronnie Feist took their turn at linebacker in predominantly nickel sets. No Kwon Alexander in there on that series. Interesting as he had previously led all freshman ‘backers in getting to the field first through two weeks.
- Other freshmen defenders who saw time on kickoff coverage to begin the quarter: Lamar Louis (in his first action of the year), Dwayne Thomas and Jerqwinick Sandolph.
- This thing went all garbage time on us pretty early in the fourth. A few final notes from that stretch: Louis came in at linebacker and got his initial defensive run of the year … Lorenzo Phillips then joined the fray at linebacker. For those keeping score at home: Trey Granier is now the only frosh ‘backer not to see action this season … To finsh the game Jerqwinick Sandolph manned one safety spot next to Corey Thompson … Finally Quentin Thomas and Mickey Johnson wrapped the game up at the two defensive tackle spots.
Special Teams notes:
- Lamar Louis runs down on LSU’s first fourth-quarter kickoff. Corey Thomas on the next kickoff.
- Landry is the punt return man in the fourth.