LSU runs past North Texas 56-3

LSU needed a break from the stresses and the strains of heart-breaking and heart-pounding Southeastern Conference football games. Unfortunately for the players from the University of North Texas Saturday in Tiger Stadium, they embodied that break.

LSU floored the Mean Green 56-3 in front of 88,887 fans who were forced to wait nearly two months for the rout that was supposed to be this season's first game. Instead the moderately amused fans filed in Saturday after the game was shoved back to Halloween by the ghoulish Hurricane Katrina.  

The win advanced the seventh-ranked Tigers' record to 6-1 overall in advance of another practice round next week against Appalachian State. LSU then travels to Alabama for the showdown that should decide the SEC Western Division. North Texas fell to 2-5 with the loss and remained 2-1 in the Sun Belt Conference.

The Tigers scored enough points in the game's first three minutes to salt away the win. But the pile on started early and continued well into the second half as a host of purple and gold clad players used the mismatch as an opportunity to see their first significant playing time of the season.

Most notable of the Tiger reserves was quarterback Matt Flynn, who entered the game early in the fourth quarter and completed the first pass he threw to Xavier Carter for a 49-yard touchdown. Flynn threw two more touchdown passes before the game's end and finished a perfect 7-7 passing for 139 yards.

His numbers added to JaMarcus Russell's 17 completions in 21 attempts for 244 yards and one touchdown helped the Tigers eclipse North Texas' passing yards 383-101. In all, LSU amassed 566 yards of offense against the out-manned Mean Green. Eight Tigers recorded rushing stats, the best of the pack being Justin Vincent's 12-carry, 70-yard, one touchdown effort.

North Texas' stat sheet was highlighted by tailback Jamario Thomas' 83 yards on 26 carries.
 
The Tigers scored 3:20 into the contest when Joseph Addai crossed the goal line from 3-yards out, ending a seven-play, 69-yard drive. Russell and receiver Craig Davis were very friendly during the swift scoring possession with the quarterback finding the receiver twice for a combined 40 yards.

North Texas replied by moving the ball across midfield thanks in large part to a 16-yard, 3rd-down run by tailback Patrick Cobbs. A 15-yard personal foul penalty for hitting Cobbs late along the LSU sideline added to the scamper and North Texas lined up at the Tiger 48. The drive stalled three plays later at the LSU 41. Mean Green quarterback Daniel Meager called for the 4th-down snap from the shotgun, but quick-kicked the ball out of bounds at the LSU 27 instead of trying for a first down on the 4th-and 3 play.

LSU's ensuing possession ended after three plays, two of which were overthrown passes well down the field intended for wide-open Tiger receivers drawing moans and groans from the sparse but partisan crowd.

After holding North Texas to just three plays on the next drive, LSU seized the chance to exercise back-up runners, Vincent and Shyrone Carey. Vincent carried the ball three times for 12 yards and caught a 10-yard pass during the drive before the two teams traded personal fouls. Then, Carey entered the game, hauled in a 13- yard catch then capped the drive two plays later with a 23-yard touchdown run. The score ended a nine-play, 71-yard drive that consumed 4:08 of the first-quarter clock and gave LSU a two-touchdown advantage.

Carey crossed the goal line again barely three minutes into the second quarter, this time from one-yard out to consummate a 42-yard, seven-play drive that put the game further out of reach for the Mean Green.

But, North Texas reeled in some of the slack on its next drive, moving the ball well and consistently because of the Thomas' strong running. He carried the ball five times during the drive for 43 yards. The Mean Green settled in for a 1st-and-goal at the LSU 8 on the seventh play of the drive but were able to move just one yard closer to the goal line, forcing a 27-yard yard field goal attempt by Nick Bazuldua. He soon saw the ball coming back his way though, as Tiger defensive tackle Kyle Williams bulled through the protection and blocked the kick.

LSU covered the ambling football at its 36-yard line and moved rapidly toward the goal line. Six plays and 64-yards later, Russell spotted Dwayne Bowe running toward the corner of the south endzone unhampered and lofted a high-spiraling pass to the wide-open receiver for LSU's fourth touchdown of the first half. 

The Mean Green were given a second field goal chance with 10 seconds left in the half thanks to a thrown interception by Russell at the North Texas 39. Bazaldua drilled the three-pointer from 50 yards, capping the 28-yard, five-play drive that resulted from Russell's errant throw and the visitors cut the lead at halftime to 28-3.

North Texas opened the second half by moving deep into LSU territory but was thwarted again, this time by a an interception of quarterback Daniel Meager by Craig Steltz that gave the Tigers a first down at the 35 after a 22-yard return.

But, the Tigers couldn't respond on offense to the defensive stop. Chris Jackson missed a 47-yard field goal attempt and North Texas was given relatively good field position to start its next drive.

Again, the Mean Green moved the ball far down the field against a suddenly-sloppy Tiger defense that helped the North Texas cause with a personal foul face mask penalty on the first play of the drive. The North Texas advance traveled all the way to the Tiger 1-yard line but was turned away when a host of defenders piled up Thomas inches short of the goal line on fourth down.

LSU claimed possession standing on its goal line but quickly found breathing room thanks to a 37-yard, 2nd-down carry by Vincent. Russell found Davis across the middle of the field for 41 yards two plays later and LSU had traveled from 1-yard line to 1-yard line in five plays. Vincent gained the final yard on the next play, capping the 99-yard, six-play drive that ended with 29 seconds left in the third quarter and gave LSU a 35-3 lead.

 North Texas punted on its next possession giving Tiger back-up quarterback Matt Flynn an opportunity to make the thinning crowd cheer. Flynn guided a play-action pass on the drive's first play 49-yards to a leaping Xavier Carter who carried the catch into the north endzone. The one-play drive staked LSU to a 42-3 advantage with 13:51 remaining in the game.

Flynn continued to stretch his arm on LSU's next possession completing a 10- yard pass to Bennie Brazell on the drive's first play and a 40-yarder to Early Doucet on its last. The grab and run extended LSU's lead to 49-3 with 9:55 to play and further thinned the already anemic crowd.

Flynn connected on his final touchdown, again to Doucet, this time from six-yards out with 3:32 remaining to extend the lead to 56-3.


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