DISPLAY OF EXCELLENCE

No starting quarterback? No problem. A groin injury sidelines the best receiver and, arguably, best offensive player on the team? No sweat.

In a testament to its depth, second-ranked LSU, without quarterback Matt Flynn and wide receiver Early Doucet, amassed 505 yards of offense behind quarterback Ryan Perrilloux and a suffocating defense to dominate Middle Tennessee 44-0 Saturday night in Tiger Stadium in front of 92,407.

 

Perrilloux spread the pass catching to 10 receivers on his way to completing 20-of-25 passes for 298 yards, three touchdowns and the first interception of the year thrown by a Tiger.

 

Jared Mitchell led all receivers with six grabs for 82 yards. 

 

Meanwhile, the Tiger defense limited Middle Tennessee to just 90 yards of total offense, with almost half of those coming in the fourth quarter against second and third string players. Just a week earlier, the Blue Raiders piled up 555 total yards against Louisville, the No. 8 team in the country at the time.

 

"When you have your starting quarterback and your star receiver on the sideline, we showed the ability to play without them," LSU Coach Les Miles said. "Other guys step up. When you play at LSU and come out on the field with 11 players, it doesn't mean that the guys at 12, 13, and 14 who are waiting to get out there don't have talent."  

 

Blue Raider starting quarterback Joe Craddock completed just 6-of-11 passes for 59 yards while being sacked four times. He gave way, in the third quarter, to the more fleet-footed Dwight Dasher who completed just 2-of-4 passes but led his team in rushing with 30 yards on 12 carries.

 

"That was a very talented offense that was knocked off their feet by our defense," Miles said. "We only punted one time and kicked off a lot. That was good."

 

LSU's rushing attack was spread evenly too with eight ball carriers gaining positive yards and combining for 198. The Tiger defense held Middle Tennessee to a jaw-dropping nine rushing yards.

 

The win sets up a Southeastern Conference tussle between 3-0 LSU and 3-0 South Carolina next Saturday in Tiger Stadium. Middle Tennessee, 0-3, plays at its home stadium for the first time this season when it hosts Western Kentucky.

 

The Tigers turned the ball over twice during the game, the first two giveaways of the season for LSU. Both turnovers gave Middle Tennessee good field position near midfield. But, according to Blue Raider offensive tackle Franklin Dunbar, it didn't seem to matter where his team claimed possession because LSU's defense was going to quickly stop the drive. After picking up three first downs in its first possession, Middle Tennessee managed just six more the entire game compared to 26 for LSU.

 

"We had some chances early to score, but give their defense credit," Middle Tennessee Coach Rick Stockstill said. "They swamped us. They stuffed us. We got some things going, but we just couldn't sustain drives."

 

While the Blue Raiders struggled mightily to sustain drives, LSU had no problem accomplishing that task with six drives out of 12 lasting eight plays or more including the first two Tiger possessions of the game.

 

The Tigers powered 64 yards in 12 plays on the opening drive of the contest, gaining yards on the ground in big bites with four runs of 11 yards or longer. The drive stalled inside the Middle Tennessee 10-yard line though, and Colt David was forced to deliver the game's first points on a 29-yard field goal with 10:36 remaining in the first quarter.

 

The Blue Raiders responded by spreading the field and moving the ball to the LSU 33 with a mix of option runs and quick passes. But, the drive was smothered when Craddock was sacked for a 10-yard loss by linebacker Darry Beckwith on 3rd-and-9.

 

LSU reclaimed possession at its 20-yard line and embarked on another 12-play drive, this one resulting in a touchdown. Perrilloux completed passes to four different receivers during the drive including a 24-yarder to Demetrius Byrd and ultimately a 13-yarder to Charles Scott for the touchdown on the last play of the first quarter. The drive consumed 5:02 and gave LSU a 10-0 advantage.

 

The Tigers gave Middle Tennessee a chance to cut the lead when Perrilloux delivered LSU's first turnover of the season on an interception by Blue Raider middle linebacker Dana Stewart at his 45. Stewart's 18-yard return gave his team advantageous field position at the LSU 44. But the Tiger defense responded and stopped Middle Tennessee on a 4th- and-2 at the LSU 37 when Craddock's pass was tipped in the air at the line of scrimmage.

 

On the ensuing play, Perrilloux delivered a dagger, finding Byrd in single coverage down the middle of the field for a 62-yard touchdown pass. The point after by David gave LSU a 17-0 lead with 9:47 remaining in the first half.

 

LSU turned the ball over again near midfield when tight end Keith Zinger hauled in a six-yard first down pass but fumbled at the Blue Raider 49. Middle Tennessee managed to move backwards though, giving LSU a chance to extend its lead on the ensuing possession.

 

The Tigers took control at their 44-yard line and moved 38 yards in eight plays before bogging down at the Middle Tennessee 18. David lined up a 35 yard attempt, clanged it off the left upright but through the goal posts and LSU took a 20-0 lead with 3:04 to play in the half.

 

LSU's lead grew on the last play of the half to 23-0 after David added another field goal, this time from 26 yards out. The three-pointer capped an eight-play, 50-yard drive that consumed the last 1:48 of the half.

 

The Tigers' lead swelled to 30-0 on their first possession of the second half as LSU seamlessly drove 65 yards in nine plays. Receiver Brandon LaFell carried the last 18 yards of the drive after taking an end-around pitch from tailback Jacob Hester and dodging the lone Blue Raider defender in his way on the way to south endzone. David's point after came with 9:07 to play in the third quarter as the stands began to empty.

 

The LSU lead ripened a little more than a minute later thanks to a fumble by Blue Raider tailback Phillip Tanner who was smashed by defensive end Rahim Alem at the Middle Tennessee 15 yard line. One play later, Perrilloux precisely delivered a frozen rope pass to Terrance Tolliver deep in the end zone to give the Tigers a 37-0 advantage with 8:01 remaining in the third quarter.

 

And then, the lead grew some more. Red-shirt freshman tailback Richard Murphy scored his first career touchdown for the Tigers to end an 8-play, 68-yard drive with an 8-yard run with 1:28 left in the third quarter. The diving dash gave LSU a 44-0 lead after the 4:52 drive that was highlighted by a 32-yard pitch and catch from Perrilloux to Mitchell.

 

"I like the fact that our football team, no matter who we play, comes out with a level of excellence and with passion," Miles said. "They get to the ball. When you look at the scores today, at teams that BCS schools supposedly should just hand over, when it's just another ranked team that is playing a team that is not that good, you find that those ranked teams fight for dear life or get upset. At any event, that doesn't happen here. Our guys understand in every contest, we come to play."    


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