BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana State did what top-10 teams do. It capitalized on mistakes, created opportunities and subdued an upstart with an inspired second half to down the Idaho Vandals 63-14 before a near full house at Tiger Stadium.
“In the first half,” coach Robb Akey said, “our team did a better job of competing and finding a way to make plays. It was a battle at that point in time.”
In the second half, some of the fizzle went out of the Vandals in the face of two quick scores that pushed LSU to a four-touchdown lead with 8:29 to go in the third. Part of Idaho’s troubles were of their own making – penalties and turnovers.
“You can’t turn the ball over to a team that good the way we did it,” Akey said.
Then, there were the Tigers themselves.
“Their size and mass took over.”
The Vandals moved the ball on their first drive with sharp passing from senior quarterback Dominique Blackman and a couple runs by senior Ryan Bass but they gambled on fourth-and-inches at the LSU 44 and Bass was caught behind the line for a two-yard loss.
The Tigers went to the air first and last to score with the short field on a 17-yard pass from Zach Mettenberger to Kadron Boone to put LSU up 7-0 with 9:46 left in the first. LSU’s next TD also came with the short field when Blackman was intercepted on a tipped pass and the Tigers needed to cover just 30 yards, which they did in six plays to go up 14-0 on Alfred Blue’s three-yard run with 6:29 to go in the first.
The first quarter ended at 14-0 LSU but senior safety Gary Walker gave Idaho a breath of fresh air when he intercepted Mettenberger at the Idaho one and returned it to the LSU five. The Tigers were called for pass interference on first down when Blackman went to LaGrone in the end zone. That moved the ball to the LSU two where James Baker tried a run through the middle. On second-down-and-four, Blackman went back to LaGrone who was wide open in the left front of the end zone for the score with 13:47 to go in the half for the 14-7 score.
Walker’s return was the longest since Stanley Franks went 98 yards to score with one at Utah State on Sept. 3, 2006.
The Idaho defense held on LSU’s next possession and the Vandals’ took over after the touchback at their own 20. The Tigers made short work of the drive when, on second down, Blackman went to Jahrie Level only to have Ronald Martin pick off the tipped pass and return it 45 yards to make it 21-7 with 9:05 left in the half.
Undaunted, Blackman came back and led a seven-play, 81-yard drive to score on a 22-yard pass to Jahrie Level, who caught the ball just a stride out of the end zone to make it 21-14 with 5:34 left in the half. With the exception of Todd Handley leading off the drive with a 14-yard run, it was all passing with Blackman completing six in a row (using four receivers).
The defense took its turn next when back-to-back Benson Mayowa sacks forced the Tigers into a four-and-24 at their own 39.
The Vandals dug their own hole this time with a three-yard loss on the punt return followed by three successive false starts in the wake of the thunderous noise from the nearly capacity crowd at Tiger Stadium. The hole was too deep from which to escape and, with 1:33 left in the half, LSU had the ball at Idaho’s 39 after an 11-yard punt return. Mettenberger took LSU into the end zone with back-to-back-to-back passing plays with the scoring toss a seven-yarder to Drew Alleman with just 37 seconds to go before halftime.
Idaho forced a punt on LSU’s first drive of the second half but the Tiger defense made up for it when Lavar Edwards scored on a 23-yard interception return for a 35-14 lead with 10:58 left in the third quarter.
After forcing an Idaho punt, the Tigers went up 42-14 in a little more than a heartbeat when Kenny Hilliard broke through traffic and raced 71 yards to score with 8:29 left in the third.
LSU’s next score, for a 49-14 lead, came when Hilliard capped a nine-play 87-yard drive with a one-yard run as time expired in the third.