Against a 2-6 Tulane side, many LSU fans worried that their beloved Tigers would look ahead to 8-0 Alabama.
When LSU topped Tulane 42-0 for their first shutout performance of the season, all the worries were tossed out the window.
“We legitimately avoided next week,” said head coach Les Miles. “We needed to test ourselves. We had to answer some questions.”
One of the biggest questions on the Tigers’ plate was the lack of production from the running game, primarily Charles Scott.
Saturday night, the senior tailback answered the call with his biggest showing of the year, a two-touchdown, 112-yard effort.
“We were preaching it all week, we had to run the football,” Scott said. “Coach Miles even pulled me aside before the game, and he said that we had to get it going.”
Stevan Ridley added 74 yards on eight carries, his first touches on the season after undergoing knee surgery in the offseason.
Freshman Russell Shepard added 48 yards and senior Keiland Williams added 20 more to bring the Tiger rushing total to 267, their highest mark on the year.
“Any time you can rush the football as well as we did, you put your team in a position to do big things,” Shepard said. “That was the goal headed into the night, and we got it done.”
When the Tigers blocked a punt seven minutes into the first quarter, the razzle-dazzle capabilities of Shepard were showcased. While last week Tiger fans saw his straight-line speed, Saturday’s 19-yard touchdown scamper gave a glimpse of the freshman’s open field ability.
“Scoring out of the Wildcat was nice, because we have not had much success with me running out of that formation this year,” Shepard said. “With my second touchdown I felt like I was finally playing football; all of my recruitment and hype was officially done.”
Quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who finished 11-of-17 passing for 163 yards and two touchdowns, was intercepted on the first play of LSU’s second drive, the sophomore’s lone turnover of the game.
After holding the Green Wave to their second three-and-out of the quarter, Jefferson redeemed his mistake with a touchdown toss to Brandon LaFell, his seventh scoring grab of the season.
Jefferson escaped a broken down pocket, rolled to the right side and found LaFell wide open for the 39-yard strike, putting the Tigers ahead 14-0 with just over two minutes to play in the first quarter.
“LaFell is a great receiver, and he is playing with a lot more urgency,” Jefferson said. “He is a guy that helps me out a lot, because he is not just a playmaker, but a leader.”
The score was set up by senior running back Charles Scott, who rushed for back-to-back gains of nine and 15 yards to open the drive.
Scott later found the end zone on a run from four yards out, his third score of the season. Both of Scott’s previous two touchdowns came in the final minutes of the Georgia game on Oct. 3.
“When I can run hard, I think it gives this team a lot of confidence,” he said. “Tonight showed that.”
The touchdown followed the Green Wave’s longest drive of the game; an 11-play, 57-yard effort that culminated in a Ross Thevenot missed field goal from 43 yards out.
After the sides took the locker room at 21-0, Trindon Holliday, who finished the game with 105 return yards on three attempts, sparked LSU’s fourth scoring drive with a 50-yard return that gave the Tigers starting field position at the Green Wave 20-yard line.
Following two straight rushes of six yards apiece, Scott ran over and through the Tulane defense for his second touchdown of the night.
With a 28-0 lead and less than two minutes to play in the third quarter, the Tigers were well on their way to their seventh win of the season.
“We wanted this game just like it is,” Miles said. “We wanted to be tested by a good club and answer those challenges. We wanted to rush the football better and get some other guys in the game, and we were able to do that and still run the ball efficiently.
“Certainly 450 yards is the best total output we’ve had.”
Five minutes into the final quarter, Jefferson finished his night with a 13-yard touchdown pass to LaFell, their second scoring connection of the night. The senior wide receiver’s 22 career touchdowns is good for second all-time, four short of Dwayne Bowe’s record of 26.
“LaFell is rounding into a pretty talented receiver,” Miles said. “He is making big plays week in and week out.”
Ridley put the icing on the cake with LSU’s final score of the night, an 11-play, 98-yard drive in which Ridley totaled all 74 of his rushing yards and his lone score of the season.
“It’s an awesome feeling to score anytime in Tiger Stadium,” Ridley said. “I’m just looking forward to getting back out there.”
The next time LSU takes the field, it will be in Tuscaloosa against the nation’s No. 2 ranked team. While the Tigers hit on all three phases of their game on Saturday, Miles said that work must still be done.
“I think there will be some improvement in this practice week,” he said. “Our guys will look forward to preparing.”