By BEN LOVE
and RICHARD FISCHER
BATON ROUGE — LSU kickoff returner Odell Beckham Jr. lost a fumble on the first play of Saturday’s ballgame. It set up a Washington field goal.
41 points later, the Tigers turned the tide of the game and whipped the Huskies behind 242 rushing yards and 195 passing yards. LSU outgained Washington 437-to-183 and won nearly every play in Death Valley for a record 39th consecutive non-conference regular-season victory and 19th consecutive victory at home.
“Not a bad night. Nice to be a Tiger,” LSU head coach Les Miles said in regard to the record streaks.
Alfred Blue led the Tigers on the ground in a dominant rushing effort. The Hahnville product had 101 yards and a score on 14 carries. Michael Ford (10 carries, 48 yards), Kenny Hilliard (13 carries, 46 yards, two TDs) and Spencer Ware (8 carries, 38 yards) also had strong games..
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger played a tremendous ball game. He completed12-of-18 passes for 195 yards and a score to Kadron Boone. The signal caller’s numbers would have looked much better had it not been for a bevy of drops, most notably by Beckham early in the game and Russell Shepard in the end zone.
Defensively, the Tigers kept Washington out of the end zone for the first time since 2010. Quarterback Keith Price completed 17-of-36 passes for 157 yards and a pick, and the Huskies rushed for just 26 yards on 24 carries. For much of the game, Washington actually was in negatives in rushing yardage.
We ran the football when we needed to and threw it when we needed to. I think we handled the challenge of the Husky defense.
“I think the length of time that they played dominant football is very strong,” Miles said. “Except for drives that were aided by five-yard penalties, I think that defense played awfully well.”
Below is our chronological blog of tonight’s game.
Hello and welcome to Tiger Stadium for LSU football’s week two game versus Washington (1-0, 0-0).
The Pac-12 Huskies, led by fourth-year head coach Steve Sarkisian, are returning the favor on a home-and-home with the Tigers after LSU visited Seattle for the 2009 season opener, winning 31-23 over a Jake Locker-led U-Dub team.
Locker, now with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, won’t suit up tonight.
Keith Price, a 6-1, 202-pounder from Compton, will start at quarterback for Sark and Washington.
In the Huskies’ 21-12 win over San Diego State in last week’s opener, Price completed 25 of 35 passes (71.4%) for 222 yards and a touchdown. Price is coming off a stellar sophomore campaign in which he threw for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He completed 66.9% of his passes in 2011.
Containing Price and the potent UW passing game will be concern numero uno for No. 3 LSU (1-0, 0-0), fresh off a 41-14 season-opening win over North Texas on Sept. 1.
In that home opener versus the Mean Green, John Chavis’ defense let up two touchdowns through the air. LSU also failed to register a sack against UNT.
Look for more creative schemes tonight from Chavis as he continues to sift through a horde of young players to find the ones who can fill gaps for the Tigers in 2012.
LSU’s pass rush, man coverage and open-field tackling abilities will be paramount in stopping the pass-happy Pac-12 Washington offense.
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers have a decided advantage on the ground.
The duo of Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard gained 264 yards rushing versus North Texas. Tonight LSU goes up against a Washington defensive front with weights of 249 pounds, 264 pounds and 317 pounds.
Look for more of the same in LSU’s offensive attack against the Huskies.
UPDATE (5:35 p.m.): Just got back up to the press box from field level. Not too much out of the ordinary down there. Perhaps the biggest thing to note is the wind, which could be a factor.
Right now, TheWeatherNetwork.com has winds gusting at 18 mph in Baton Rouge. It’s easy to notice that in Tiger Stadium with LSU’s conference championship flags in the south end zone blowing away from the stadium (winds coming from north to south). CLICK HERE for the latest on the forecast for tonight, one which currently lists only a 20% chance of precipitation.
Also, in the pregame introductions, Josh Dworaczyk was listed as the starting left tackle, taking Chris Faulk’s usual spot. The other four along the line stayed the same from a week ago.
FIRST QUARTER ANALYSIS
SCORE: LSU 14 - Washington 3
- Tigers open up in their traditional I-formation (Blue, Copeland), one TE (Clement), two WR (OBJ, Wright) set and stick with the formation for the majority of the quarter. Jarvis Landry is the third WR in, and Russell Shepard is the fourth WR in … Landry continues to impress with his blocking ability.
- Spencer Ware is the second RB in followed by Michael Ford and then Kenny Hilliard. Surprisingly, Hilliard doesn’t see his first action until the fourth series of the game. Tigers went to Nic Jacobs and true frosh Dillon Gordon at TE at the goal line, joining Chase Clement in a three-tight goal-line set.
- Zach Mettenberger targeted OBJ more than any other receiver in the first quarter. He made one catch for 16 yards. The QB was efficient, completing 4-of-7 passes for 47 yards. Receivers dropped a couple balls in their hands and, when Mett did miss, he missed high.
- The Tigers flexed their muscle on the ground, rushing it 12 times for 67 yards. That’s compared to just seven passes. Both of LSU’s TD drives in the quarter started in Washington territory due to poor punts. Blue (21 yards) and Copeland (less than one yard) had the TD rushes. On LSU’s second scoring drive, the Tigers went 47 yards on seven plays, all runs.
- The Tiger special teams fumble on the game’s opening kick meant the LSU ‘D’ had to go to work early — and backed up in on its own end, on the LSU 20, at that. John Chavis’ men did a good job keeping Washington to a field goal after giving up only four yards on three plays.
- Sam Montgomery got the start at defensive end opposite KeKe Mingo. Also getting the start up front were Bennie Logan and Josh Downs on the inside. The starting linebackers were again Lamin Barrow and Luke Muncie on the outside with Kevin Minter in the middle. Eric Reid started at free safety, Craig Loston at strong safety, and Jalen Mills and Tharold Simon started at the two corner spots.
- Last week we saw some Micah Eugene at nickel back. On the defense’s first venture into nickel (4-2-5) this Saturday, starting corner Jalen Mills simply slid inside and redshirt frosh Jalen Collins took his spot on an island.
-The defense’s second possession, thanks to Brad Wing, came in much more appetizing position, with the Huskies taking over on their own four. The same lineup took the field, and Montgomery immediately made a tackle on a Bishop Sankey rush. Less than three minutes into game two, No. 99 is on the stat sheet for the 2012 season. U-Dub punts from its own end zone. Six plays, six yards for Washington to start the game.
- After Blue’s TD, the LSU ‘D’ was back on the field for the third time in less than four minutes. Washington is having a hard time running laterally on the Tigers … LSU again goes nickel by bringing Jalen Collins in and subbing out Muncie. So, for these keeping score at home, Minter and Barrow are the two preferred linebackers in when Chavis goes nickel or dime … Also interesting: For the second game in a row, Chavis has no problem leaving Loston back while playing Reid on man defense in the box. Monitor this, as Loston, still shaking off the effects of turf toe from Fall Camp, is an interesting option as the defense’s last resort.
- Defensive possession No. 4, which started with 7:10 to go in the first quarter, saw Anthony Johnson and Lavar Edwards come in for Josh Downs and Sam Montgomery, respectively … Reid is spending more time than usual, at least by last year’s standards, down in the box. Interesting to see how LSU keeps figuring this thing in the back out post-Brandon Taylor … Mills did a really nice job tackling big UW tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The young freshman isn’t afraid to stick his nose in there … The series came to and end on third down when Edwards finished a nice speed rush and sacked Keith Price from behind. It was LSU’s first sack of the season.
- Pretty rare: Due to pace/the early turnover, LSU has now put its defense on the field five times in a single quarter. Chavis continues to show only nickel (there was not a single dime set in the first quarter) in passing situations. Still Collins in for Muncie.
Special Teams Notes
- OBJ fumbles the opening kickoff, recovered by Thomas Tutogi at the LSU 20. Results in three points after the Tiger ‘D’ stands tough.
- Brad Wing was back as LSU’s punter after missing last week’s game. His first effort is simply amazing, 62 yards and out of bounds at the four.
- James Hairston’s first kickoff goes out the back of the end zone. Miles called that a “mistake” Tuesday, but he slammed it out of the park anyway. Hairston’s second kickoff was a yard deep, and Washington brought it out.
SECOND QUARTER ANALYSIS
SCORE: LSU 20 - Washington 3
- Tiger offense stalls twice in the red zone in the quarter, and Alleman makes two field goals. WR James Wright showing moves early in the second. He caught three passes for 48 yards on the Tigers’ field goal scoring drive. He leads Tiger receiver with four catches for 65 yards in the game.
- The Tigers go under center without a FB in the game for the first time in the game midway through the second quarter. The offense is efficient without Copeland in there. He comes in when LSU enters the red zone, however. WR Russell Shepard drops a TD pass after Mettenberger does a tremendous job of showing pocket awareness and making something happen, and the drive ends in another field goal.
- Mettenberger had a tremendous quarter. He completed 5-of-7 passes in the stanza.
- LSU rushing is as follows: 22 rushes for 107 yards and two touchdowns (kneeldowns excluded). That’s 4.9 yards per carry. Individually, Alfred Blue continues to be LSU’s bell cow. He’s got nine carries for 54 yards and a score. Ford (four carries, 23 yards), Ware (two carries 15 yards), Hilliard (four carries, 11 yards) round out LSU’s RB production.
- Josh D is looking solid at left tackle, and LSU appears to have its protection problems fixed. I’m not sure Mettenberger has even been hit yet.
- Montgomery gets a QB hurry on the first defensive play of the second quarter. On the next play he and Mingo almost combine for a sack, although Mingo made better contact on Price. Moral of the story: Nothing seems to be wrong with Big Sam, who wasn’t quite himself in the opener.
- LSU went into its dime set for the first time early in the second quarter. Micah Eugene, seeing his first action of the night, was the dime back, Mills was the nickel back, Simon and Collins were on islands, Reid played down in the box and Loston was the one deep safety. At least for tonight, this is the variation of dime, personnel-wise, LSU seems to prefer … And Washington, through the arm of Price, converts on third-and-15 when LSU went into this dime (3-2-6) look … Mills made a nice play on the sideline contesting a ball with Seferian-Jenkins. No. 28 really does more than just look the part. He’s showing he possesses the physicality needed to play cornerback in big-time college football.
- Really not as much defense to be played by the Tigers in the second frame. The offense did a better job of staying on the field for chunks of time. When LSU’s ‘D’ came out for the third time, Chancey Aghayere figured in at defensive end, applying pressure and registering a QB hurry near the UW goal line on his first play from scrimmage (the play resulted in intentional grounding by Price) … Just when Price & Co. were closest to the goal line, the Huskies QB found Kevin Smith for 20 yards on second-and-21. It was the first time this season, from my recollection, that a receiver has gotten past Mills. And, on cue, DB coach Corey Raymond summons Mills over to the sideline and Collins comes in for a few plays. Consider it an inevitable teaching moment for a true freshman.
-Edwards comes within an eyelash of making his second sack of the night with roughly two minutes until halftime. Only an extremely athletic play by Price prevents it. Good news for LSU fans to see Edwards this involved behind the line of scrimmage. When teams show preferential treatment to blocking Montgomery and Mingo, Edwards is next. And after him is Jermauria Rasco, who came in on third-and-13 with about a minute to go for the first time in the game.
Special Teams Notes
- Drew Alleman makes 18- and 32-yard field goals. He’s now 4-for-5 this year.
THIRD QUARTER ANALYSIS
SCORE: LSU 34 - Washington 3
- LSU just bullied Washington in the third quarter, ran time off the clock, scored twice and secured victory. The Bayou Bengals show a double TE set with Clement and Jacobs with regularity.
- Washington is losing the resolve to tackle as LSU drives it down the Huskies’ throat on the Tigers’ first drive of the third. Blue was instrumental to get LSU close, but Hilliard finished the drive with a three-yard won’t-be-stopped goal line run. That’s TD rushes now for Blue, Copeland and Hilliard.
- The Tigers try a halfback pass with high school QB Ware. He delivers a bullet pass behind Landry, who had at least five yards on the coverage. He can’t come up with it, and he shouldn’t lobbed it. That’s an opportunity missed. Maybe Ware got a little too excited there. Drive results in a TD on a 32-yard TD pass to Kadron Boone. He’s just instant offense through two games.
- In total, LSU rushed for 78 yards on 13 carries in the quarter, and saying the Tigers are in complete control would be an understatement.
- Same starters in the second half for LSU, which starts off on defense. One twist during the opening drive: When the Tigers went into a dime package on a UW passing down, Lavar Edwards lined up at the single defensive tackle spot, lined up over the center in nose-tackle position. That means Edwards has now chased down kick offs and played nose tackle in this game. Pretty good versatility … Micah Eugene sacked Price for a loss of eight on this drive, crashing in from one gunner position on dime when Washington was facing third down.
- One realization I just had, with 9:30 left in the third quarter: Not a single freshman linebacker has played to this point. Ditto for anybody else in the back not named Reid or Loston. The only five to play in those spots are the five who started. Once Chavis finds the ones he trusts, the Chief tends to stick with ‘em.
- Okay, one point that just has to be made. Eric Reid, for all his strengths, is not Brandon Taylor in coverage. Through two games, not even close. Many times throughout the last two or three seasons, Taylor was asked to play man coverage on slot receivers, coming up from his strong safety position. Reid, as opposed to Loston, is the one tasked with that job from time to time so far this fall. He incurred a deserved pass interference call in the third quarter after not being able to keep up with a Washington receiver on a double move. It’s likely the Tigers will continue tinkering with different personnel options in the next two games to help remedy this situation.
- Mills was gifted his first career interception when Price, keeping a play alive on fourth down with 7:27 to go, chunked a ball into his chest in a last-ditch effort. Save one play, it’s been another banner night for that young man. For my money, he’s been the biggest pleasant surprise to date on this team. We’re seeing now what made the coaching staff so sold on Mills during the first portion of Fall Camp.
- Kwon Alexander gets his first defensive snaps with just under three minutes to go in the third quarter. The freshman linebacker was in there for Muncie. Alexander appears to be the preferred fourth linebacker of the moment, nudging slightly ahead of Debo Jones, who plays a bunch on special teams … Also on this drive, Aghayere featured for a few plays at defensive tackle, flexing a bit of his versatility along the defensive line.
Special Teams Notes
- James Hairston continues to kickoff, booting the ball as far as he can, resulting in several touchbacks. Wonder if Miles will address that again, opting in the future to put the ball in play for a return (and not conceding possession on the 25).
FOURTH QUARTER ANALYSIS
SCORE: LSU 41 - Washington 3
- Elliott Porter checks in at center for P.J. Lonergan on LSU’s first drive of the fourth quarter. Still no Vadal Alexander at RT, though. That’s a bit surprising. Nic Jacobs (TE) and Connor Neighbors (FB) take over on this drive as well. La’el Collins comes up gimpy during the drive, so Trai Turner takes his spot at LG. Travis Dickson comes on for LSU in a two TE set. Gordon comes on at the goal line again (that’s when Dickson came out).
- The long drive ends with one more score for good measure, a Hilliard one-yard plunge. That’s his 12th career TD. Tigers score after gaining 65 yards on 13 plays (all runs but one). Washington does not want to be playing this game anymore.
- LSU makes mass subs on its final drive of the game. They are as follows: QB: Stephen Rivers; WRs: Paul Turner, Terrence Magee; FB: Connor Neighbors; RB: Michael Ford; TE: Travis Dickson; OL left-to-right: Chris Davenport Ben Dominigue, Porter, Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander.
- LSU squeezed the life out of the game with a long, slow-moving drive to open the final frame. This made for another light quarter defensively. And, with a 38-point lead established, the Tigers got to give some P.T. to some young guys on defense. Sophomore Ronald Martin made his first appearance at safety (in for Loston). Freshman Debo Jones joined Minter and Alexander in there at linebacker. And Eugene continued to feature in dime sets. Seferian-Jenkins even caught a ball over his head on a third down to move the sticks.
Special Teams Notes
- Freshman linebacker Lorenzo Phillips saw action on the kickoff team as did freshman safety Jerqwinick Sandolph. Bench getting cleared at this point.
- Jarvis Landry replaces OBJ as LSU’s punt returner late in the ball game. He brought a punt back seven yards.