BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — When Alfred Blue wasn’t running away from the Washington Huskies, Kenny Hilliard and Spencer Ware were running over them.
That left quarterback Zach Mettenberger with little more to do than pivot and hand off, letting third-ranked LSU’s stable of running backs pound the overmatched Huskies for a 41-3 victory Saturday night.
“Those dudes are beasts back there,” Mettenberger said of LSU’s running backs. “They just really pounded (Washington’s) defensive line. That just makes them really tired. The key there is that makes it easier to pass because they are tired and can’t rush as hard as they would like. I know I saw that tonight. That’s just LSU football and how we want to play each and every week.”
Blue rushed for 101 yards, including a 21-yard score, and LSU (2-0) gained 242 yards on the ground.
“All this week in practice the coaching staff was talking about how we need to be physical, especially up front,” Blue said. “I had the mindset from that first play to come out and be a dominant runner tonight. Fortunately enough, thanks to a great offensive line up front, I was able to do that.”
Hilliard added a pair of short touchdowns and fullback J.C. Copeland pounded through the pile for another score for LSU, which basically ran at will while averaging nearly 5 yards per carry.
“Their running backs are big, hard runners, hard to tackle,” Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton said.
Mettenberger was efficient when called upon, going 12 of 18 for 195 yards, including a 32-yard scoring pass to Kadron Boone. James Wright caught five passes for 75 yards.
Keith Price was 17 of 36 for 157 yards for the Huskies (1-1). Normally a good scrambler, Price had trouble with LSU’s speedy defenders, who sacked him four times and intercepted him once when freshman Jalen Mills stepped in front of a fourth-down pass that was thrown into traffic and on the run.
“I felt the pressure and tried to get out a couple times, and you see I threw a pick trying to do too much,” Price said. “We didn’t throw the ball well and we didn’t run the ball well.”
Washington, looking somewhat jittery under LSU’s constant pressure, committed 11 penalties, dropped passes and blew assignments.
That allowed LSU to quickly build a double-digit lead, and Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian figured his team would be in for a long night.
“That’s when they can lean on you in the running game and wear you down, and then start rushing the passer, which they do so well,” he said of LSU. “We have to try to find our identity offensively, what we’re going to be on the offensive side of the ball so that we can find some continuity as a unit. Obviously it was tough for us to get that tonight.”
LSU has won 39 straight against non-conference opponents in the regular season, tying a Football Bowl Subdivision record first set by Kansas State. Next weekend, the Tigers play Idaho, another non-conference opponent, and the game is at home, where LSU has won 19 straight.
Washington managed only 183 total yards, including only 26 on the ground. LSU had 437 yards and dominated time of possession, 33:39 to 26:21.
Only four of the Huskies’ 12 drives ended in LSU territory, and the only scoring drive started on the LSU 20-yard line, where Odell Beckham Jr. fumbled the opening kickoff.
The Huskies were close to converting the turnover into a touchdown, but Jaydon Mickens bobbled a catch as he went out of bounds on the left side of the end zone, forcing Washington to settle for Travis Coons’ 34-yard field goal to make it 3-0.
“We had a couple opportunities I thought early in the game that maybe could have changed the complexion of it,” Sarkisian said. “We just weren’t able to execute against a team like this.”
Australian Brad Wing’s first punt of the season, a 62-yarder into the wind that went out of bounds at the Huskies 4, created an early field position swing that helped LSU to its first score.
After the Huskies failed to muster a first down, LSU’s next drive started on the Washington 38, and soon after Blue burst past left tackle Josh Dworaczyk’s block for his scoring run to make it 7-3.
LSU went ahead 14-3 on Copeland’s 1-yard burst through the line, capping a seven-play, 47-yard drive consisting only of running plays.
The Tigers had opportunities to pull away more quickly than they did, but at least four of Mettenberger’s six incompletions came on accurate passes that were dropped.
“Our quarterback played very well, he was very kind of on the money,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “If we eliminate those drops, we’re well over 200 yards passing which is kind of a landmark for us.”
LSU had to settle for one of Drew Alleman’s two field goals in the second quarter after Russell Shepard dropped a pass in the end zone that hit him in the numbers.
The Tigers led 20-3 at halftime, but were even more dominant in the second half as they pulled away.
“From an offensive perspective we thrive on breaking an opposing defense’s will,” receiver Jarvis Landry said. “Running the ball late and seeing defensive players on the other side tired and just not as fast as they used to be is a great thing.”