Originally appeared on CrescentCitySports.com
BATON ROUGE – A letdown wasn’t supposed to happen for the LSU Tigers. Not at home and not against the Northwestern State Demons.
Though LSU eventually outclassed the visitors from upstate, the Tigers got off to an unexpectedly sloppy start on their way to a 65-14 victory.
LSU (3-0) did collect the 800th win in program history by beating back the Demons, who remain winless in 12 meetings between the two. The Tigers become the 12th program in major college football to reach the milestone, and the fourth team from the Southeastern Conference to do so; joining Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia in that elite club.
Joe Burrow did what he’s done so far this season; completing plenty of passes for plenty of yards. Against Northwestern State, the senior quarterback went 21-for-24, with 3 touchdowns (2 passing, one rushing). He spread the ball around to receivers Justin Jefferson (5 catches, 124 yards), Terrace Marshall Jr. (6 for 75, 2 TDs), and Stephen Sullivan (4 for 51), utilizing the entire field and extending plays with his legs to find secondary recievers.
But after putting up the second-best passing game in school history against Texas last week, throwing the ball on an FCS opponent that had been outscored 75-27 in its first two games wasn’t a surprising development.
LSU trailing after the first quarter however, absolutely was.
Burrow led the Tigers to a field goal on their first drive of the game, but the Demons responded with an eight-play, 75 yard drive that included two conversions in third-and-long situations. Shelton Eppler was five for six for 72 yards, capping the march with a 17-yard strike to Quan Shorts.
The Demons entered the second quarter with a 7-3 advantage after holding the ball for 10 minutes and 33 seconds over two first quarter drives.
LSU turned it up offensively in the second, scoring touchdowns on each of its next three possessions. Clyde Edwards-Helaire punched one in from four yards out as LSU regained the lead at 10-3. Then, it was Burrow to Marshall for 14 yards and a score to push the lead to 10.
After the Demons scored to pull the game back to within three on a Eppler touchdown pass to David Fitzwater, the Tigers answered by taking the ball 70 yards in six plays. Edwards-Helaire finished the drive with his second touchdown run of the night, this time from three yards out.
At the half, LSU appeared to be fortunate to hold a 24-14 lead. They held narrow advantages in first downs (16 to 12), and total yards (277 to 200) against a Northwestern State team that amassed a total of 243 yards against Division II Midwestern State at home last Saturday.
But somebody turned the temperature up in the locker room at the half, because while the Tigers’ offense continued to pile up the points, its defense finally began to dominate the line of scrimmage.
Over the final 30 minutes, NSU was held to 78 yards of total offense. LSU forced the Demons into three-and-outs on each of their first three possessions of the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Tigers scored touchdowns on their first four drives of the half.
Burrow’s five-yard touchdown run put LSU up 30-14. Less than four minutes later, he found Marshall for a six-yard TD pass to make it 37-14. Three minutes after that, John Emery Jr. crossed the goal line for the first time to extend the LSU lead to 30 points. The 44 points were plenty for Burrow, who gave way to Myles Brennan with just over six minutes remaining in the quarter.
Brennan picked up right where Burrow left off, leading the Tigers 56 yards in seven plays for a touchdown. Tyrion Davis-Price scored his first LSU touchdown from one yard out to complete the drive.
LSU would add a couple of late scores on freshman Trey Palmer’s 54 yard punt return for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, and Davis-Price’s second touchdown run of the night with just over two minutes to play.
After three games, LSU is averaging 55 points per game while allowing just over 18. The new passing attack is dynamic, and the Tigers have talent for days.
But we knew that.
With the SEC opener with Vanderbilt a week away, and Utah State remaining before the Tigers get into the heart of their schedule, we still don’t know if LSU can play consistent defense against a top-tier opponent or if they can run the ball against anyone.
If they can, LSU has a good chance to end it’s 11 year championship drought. If not…
Well, nobody’s thinking about that right now. Except, of course, for Ed Orgeron and his staff. While celebrating 800 wins is nice, getting 10 or 11 more would be much, much better.