Football Bullies Idaho on Record-Setting Night

LSU's Ronald Martin (26) had two interceptions including this 45-yard TD return.
LSU's Ronald Martin (26) had two interceptions including this 45-yard TD return.
Martin McCallister
Todd Politz (@tpolitz)
Todd Politz (@tpolitz)
Director of Digital Media

BATON ROUGE -- Third-ranked LSU set the NCAA record with its 40th-straight non-conference win in the regular season, as the Tigers fought off a 14-point second quarter by Idaho to remain undefeated, 63-14.

The total was LSU's highest since a 63-28 win at Kentucky in 1997 and the most in Tiger Stadium since 1991 (70-14 over Arkansas State).

In the process, LSU (3-0) also set a school record with its 20th-straight home victory, all under head coach Les Miles.

LSU's NCAA record surpassed Kansas State's total of 39 from 1993-2003.

The Tigers intercepted four Idaho passes, as defensive end Lavar Edwards put the game out of reach with a 23-yard touchdown return in the third quarter while safety Ronald Martin had a pair of pickoffs and a touchdown off breakups by Jalen Collins.

"(Ronald Martin's) play tonight, from where I was standing, looked pretty good," said LSU head coach Les Miles. "The play by (Jalen) Collins really was the play. He is playing the ball in the air and has the receiver in a defendable position. He then gets his hand on the ball and tips it into the air. That is pure textbook. It is that safety that is playing the eyes of the quarterback that can be late to the scene and make that play. Those were big time plays."

Kenny Hilliard led the Tigers' 250-yard rushing attack with 116 yards and two touchdowns, including a career-best 71 yarder for a score in the third quarter.

"I saw the hole and I was just able to hit it," Hilliard said. "I was able to keep my balance and just burst through that tackle and when I saw green grass I was able to out run the defender."

The sophomore running back has scored 14 touchdowns in his past 10 games, and became the first Tiger since LaBrandon Toefield in 2001 to have multiple touchdowns in three-straight games.

The redshirt came off freshman running back Jeremy Hill who added 61 yards and scored twice in the fourth quarter. LSU's leading rusher over the first two games, Alfred Blue, had 46 yards rushing including a 3-yard run in the opening quarter.

Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger overcame an interception at the goal line early in the second quarter that led to a Vandals touchdown. Starting his third career game, the junior completed 17-of-22 passes for a career-best 222 yards and two touchdowns.

"I really put that slow start on myself, and if I don't throw that interception in the red zone, we are up 21-0," Mettenberger said. "Throwing that interception really gave them life and I put the first half solely on myself."

LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry had one of the touchdown receptions, a 7-yarder just before halftime that was the first of his career. Kadron Boone had the other, a 17-yard catch and run for LSU's first score. Odell Beckham Jr. led the Tigers with 73 yards on four catches, while Russell Shepard set a career high of 68 reception yards on four catches.

"I think our football team was imperfect today," Miles said. "I think everyone can see that we can be a dominant football team. In all three phases at different times we were dominant in this game. We need to eliminate some mistakes in the red zone. Frankly, we will learn from this game and we will be better for it. We will improve."

Idaho (0-3) stayed within a touchdown of the Tigers until waning minutes of the first half. The Vandals managed only 39 yards rushing on 29 attempts, but were able to move the ball through the air early in the game.

A 94-yard interception return in the second quarter put Idaho in business, down 14-7. However, Martin answered with a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown to keep the Vandals at bay.

Left-handed Idaho quarterback Dominique Blackman finished 23-of-36 passing for 174 yards and two touchdowns, but his four interceptions doomed the Vandals. Jahrie Level and Michael LaGrone were each on the receiving end of touchdown passes in the second quater, but these were offset by two LSU interceptions returned for scores.

Idaho won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball to open the game, while LSU kicked off defending the north endzone.

Blackman connected with LaGrone for 12 yards on the first play from scrimmage and Bass earned another with a 5-yard run to the Vandals 47. After crossing midfield, Idaho gave Bass the ball on fourth-and-1 but LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson met him two yards behind the line and ended the drive.

Mettenberger looked deep down the left sideline on the Tigers' first play and connected with Shepard for a 33-yard catch to the Idaho 21. Three plays later, Boone caught a pass near the first-down marker, shook off a defender and scored his third touchdown of the season.

LSU led 7-0 with 9:46 left in the opening quarter.

The LSU defense stepped up the pressure on Blackman, as the junior quarterback's pass was deflected by Collins and caught just off the turf by Martin at the Idaho 30.

Blue and Hilliard took turns moving the chains before Blue scored a 3-yard touchdown with 6:29 remaining in the quarter.

LSU led 14-0 and looked to be on cruise control.

The teams traded three-straight three-and-out drives spanning the rest of the first quarter. The Tigers took over at the Vandals 32 after a punt from the Idaho endzone was returned 11 yards by Beckham Jr.

Shepard's 18-yard run gave LSU first down at the 11. However, on third-and-7 from the 8, Mettenberger made a game-changing mistake by tossing an interception to safety Gary Walker near the goal line.

Walker's 94-yard return to the LSU 5 setup a 4-yard touchdown catch by LaGrone and kept Idaho within a touchdown, 14-7, with 13:47 remaining in the half.

After a 28-yard kickoff return by Michael Ford to the 36, Metterberger moved the Tigers into Idaho territory with completions of 12 and 14 yards to Beckham Jr. A delay-of-game penalty on second-and-2 killed the drive and another penalty cost the Tigers a chance for a field goal attempt. Brad Wing's punt hit near the goal line but bounded into the endzone.

Martin's second interception of the game again came in ESPN SportsCenter Top-10 style, as Collins batted a long pass along the right sideline back into play. Martin snatched the perfect deflection from the air at the 45 and returned it along the sideline for a touchdown.

With 9:05 left in the half, LSU led 21-7.

Blackman kept Idaho in the game with an impressive seven-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass top Level. The wide receiver got behind LSU cornerback Tharold Simon with a stop-and-go before catching the pass in stride in the left corner of the endzone.

Blackman was 6-for-6 passing for 67 yards, while the other 14 yards came on what was, at the time, the longest run of the season against LSU.

Idaho again cut the lead to a touchdown, 21-14, with 5:34 remaining in the half.

Two Idaho sacks of Mettenberger caused the Tigers to punt from their 39. Wing's 46-yard effort was fielded by Justin Veltung at the 15 and driven back to the 12 by Landry and Deion Jones.

From the north endzone, Blackman gestured "stand up" in the direction of the LSU student section which brought the crowd to life.

After three-straight false start penalties on Idaho and two runs for minus-1 yard, Idaho's Bobby Cowan punted from the back of his endzone. The 48-yard effort was fielded by Beckham Jr. at midfield and returned to the Idaho 39.

Another great, leaping catch by Shepard along the right sideline setup a 7-yard touchdown pass from Mettenberger to Landry. With 37 seconds left in the half, the three-play scoring drive pushed LSU's lead to 28-14 and started a string of 42 unanswered points.

LSU added three touchdowns to its lead in the third quarter to blow the game open.

The quarter didn't start as smoothly as LSU hoped, as its offense gained only one first down before punting. Bass rolled off a 21-yard run to move the Vandals from the shadow of the north endzone to the Idaho 27. But, three plays later, Edwards gave the Tigers their second defensive score of the evening with a 23-yard interception for a touchdown.

"Whenever I get the ball in my hands, especially being a defensive lineman we don't get those opportunities too much, so whenever I get it you know I try my hardest to make sure I get there," Edwards said.

The next time the Tigers took possession, Hilliard rolled over safety Thaad Thompson on the second level, regained his balance and outran linebacker Robert Siavii to the endzone for a 71-yard score.

Two touchdowns in 2:29 left the Tigers ahead 42-14 with 8:29 remaining in the quarter.

On the final play of the quarter, Hilliard added another touchdown to cap a nine-play, 87-yard drive that was highlighted by a 46-yard acrobatic catch by Beckham Jr.

In the fourth quarter, Hill scored his first career touchdowns with runs of 4 and 8 yards. The latter came after Jalen Mills' first career interception.

The announced crowd was 92,177.

The Tigers make their first road trip of the season next week when they travel to Auburn for a 6 p.m. kickoff on ESPN.




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