By Chris Macaluso
Special to LSUsports.net
BATON ROUGE -- The air in Tiger Stadium before Saturday's game was thick enough to chew. And thanks to several LSU mistakes through the first three quarters the tension remained in that air longer than most of the 87,164 fans expected as the Tigers earned every bit of a 35-7 win over NCAA Division I-AA No.1 Western Illinois.
The win improved LSU's record to 3-0 while Western Illinois dropped to 2-1 on the young season.
After holding the Leathernecks to a three-play opening drive, the Tigers used their first opportunity on offense to go on a 10-play, 58-yard drive capped by a 10-yard touchdown reception by Tiger receiver Michael Clayton giving LSU a 6-0 advantage with 8:18 to play in the first quarter.
Clayton dazzled onlookers for the third straight week finishing the contest with a career-high 11 catches for another career-best 162 yards and one touchdown after amassing 261 yards and three touchdowns in LSU's first two games.
Tiger tailback Shyrone Carey and QB Matt Mauck set career-best marks as well. Carey rushed 21 times for 124 yards and one TD while Mauck completed 23 of 32 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns.
LSU marched its second offensive chance down the field only to fumble the ball away on the Leatherneck 4-yard line. Tiger free safety Travis Daniels gave LSU another crack at the endzone on the ensuing drive by blocking a punt at the Leatherneck 11-yard line. But the Tigers squandered that chance by fumbling on the next play.
Another Tiger miscue gave the Leathernecks their only scoring chance of the first half. Tiger punter Donnie Jones was tackled at his 15-yard line after tracking down a high snap. But four plays later Tiger defensive tackle Chad Lavalais bulled through the Western Illinois line to block a 30-yard field goal attempt.
LSU cornerback Corey Webster gave the Tigers their next scoring chance by intercepting a pass from Russ Michna at the Leatherneck 48-yard line with a 6:19 to play in the first half. The Tigers failed to capitalize on the chance however, missing on their second field goal attempt of the half.
Webster finished the game with two interceptions, part of three picks for the Tiger defense.
"Coach (Nick) Saban said to play the pick," Webster said. "We were just back there at the right spot at the right time."
The Tigers found the endzone again with 42 seconds left in the half when Carey walked in from one yard out to finish a seven-play 53-yard drive. Chris Jackson's PAT try flew straight giving LSU a 13-0 lead heading into the locker room.
Western Illinois caught the Tigers on their heels and recovered an on-sides kick at the LSU 47-yard line to start the second half. The Leathernecks marched the ball down the field in nine plays culminating in a three-yard TD pass from Michna to Terrance Hall. The PAT cut the Tiger lead to six with 10:08 to play in the third.
LSU pushed the ball down the field with Clayton's help on the next drive but another Tiger fumble gave the Leathernecks the ball back at their own 23. The Tigers fumbled five times during the game, losing three.
The ensuing drive lasted just one play though, as Webster hauled in another interception, this time on an attempted flee-flicker.
Eight plays later Skyler Green hauled in an eight-yard touchdown pass from Mauck giving the Tigers a 19-7 lead. Mauck dodged his way on a quarterback draw for the two-point conversion putting the Tigers up by three TDs with 5:00 to play in the third.
Green wasted little time in hauling in his second touchdown of the night, a 40-yard bomb from Mauck on the first play of LSU's next drive putting the Tigers up 28-7 with 2:26 remaining in the third quarter.
Western Illinois moved the ball well on its next drive all the way to the Tiger 12-yard line. But the LSU defense recorded two sacks in the next three plays, knocking the Leathernecks all the way back to the Tiger 38-yard line.
LSU's next drive ended when Mauck hit Devery Henderson from 16 yards out for his fourth touchdown pass of the game and capping the scoring for the game at 35-7.
LSU returns to Tiger Stadium next Saturday to open SEC play against top 10-ranked Georgia in what should be the Tiger's toughest challenge to this point of the season. Kick-off is scheduled for 2:30 CST and will be televised by CBS.
LSU HEAD COACH NICK SABAN
"I told our team that we won't play anyone that will want to beat us any worse than these guys wanted to. Not only are they 1-AA, with dreams of playing Division I and wanting to go to a place like LSU. They want to prove that they belong and they are representing everyone in Division 1-AA when they do it."
"That's as hard as anyone as every played against us. That's as physical as anyone has anyone has every played against us. We obviously made some mistakes that were critical. Fumbling twice going into the red area, missing two field goals, having a bad snap on a PAT, having a bad snap on a punt, not having good kickoff coverage, letting them get an onside kick. It was as poorly as we have played on special teams in a long time."
"They are all things we can correct on offense. I think Matt Mauck played as fine a game as he can play since he's been our quarterback. He made some outstanding reads and some very good throws when things weren't going so well out there. Shyrone Carey had as good a day as he's had since he's been a player here. He had over 100 yards rushing and Michael Clayton had over 150 yards pass receiving. That's the first time we've had a 100 yard rusher and 150 yard passing since probably the Sugar Bowl. We need to get more players involved in what we are doing. We need to eliminate some of the bad plays. The things that happened can be corrected and we will go to work on that."
Head Coach Don Patterson
"I'd like to start off by congratulating LSU. I think it's safe to say that we had an easier preparation then they did. It's easy for a I-AA team to be motivated to play a program as good as LSU. The tougher assignment is how well they might prepare to play us. I thought that they certainly prepared for us well.
"We threw everything we could at them to try to find a way to turn the game in our favor. Their skilled players are simply too good for us to be able to contain over 60 minutes. I really was proud of how our guys played. I thought we played our guts out but I thought LSU matched our effort and matched our intensity. That's saying something because we play with a lot of effort and a lot of intensity. I wish them well. I hope they win the rest of them. I think they have a chance to go in and have a really fine season because they do have a lot of good weapons to work with."
QB MATT MAUCK
on the beginning of the game
"For some reason, just mental mistakes, we couldn't hang on to the football. Western Illinois did a great job and I think they played really hard."
"I felt pretty good out there. We were just trying to do things to move the ball. For some reason, we just weren't being careful and hanging on to the ball."
WR SKYLER GREEN
"When (WR Michael Clayton) went down, somebody had to step up and make the plays. I had more confidence coming into this game, just stepping up and being a player."
on his last TD catch from Mauck
"He laid it out there pretty good. At first I thought I wasn't going to get to it, but I just laid there and turned on the speed and let it fall in my arms."
RB SHYRONE CAREY
"I'm a number two. At LSU they try to have two for each position and Joe was having a little trouble so they just called me and kept calling me and I was ready to step up and make plays for the team."
LSU Defensive Player Quotes
DT Chad Lavalais
On the play of the defense
"I thought for the most part we did a good job. Coach (Saban) told us if we let these guys play with us, or think they could play with us, they were going to play. But for the most part I think the defense overall did a good job."
On his blocked field goal
"Usually when you line up for field goal protection, you want to get real tight. They were a pretty good width, you know, they had a big gap right there and I was like, 'Are they going to step out and is this a fake?' I just thought, you know, we are going to get this one."
LB Adrian Mayes
On the play of the defense
"We started out a little rocky. We made a couple of mental errors out there on the field, and it kind of hurt us in the beginning, but we overcame it in the middle of the half. We kind of started to roll at the end of the first half."
CB Corey Webster
On his interceptions
"It was just the front seven that put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, you know, confusing the quarterback. I was thankful that I was able to be in the right place at the right time."
WESTERN ILLINOIS PLAYER QUOTES
LB Lee Russell on the difference between I-AA offense and I-A offense
"Absolutely depth. Usually the only difference between I-AA and I-A is only depth. LSU has people rotating in, and we have people cramping up and getting injured because of the humidity. It is hard to constantly go to the deep route with them because of their speed."
on putting pressure on the quarterback
"We knew we had to get him out of his comfort zone. We did this by keeping all the tackles in front of us."
LB Phil Archer on putting pressure on the quarterback
"It is just what we practiced."
on playing in Tiger Stadium
"I think it is great I love it. I haven't really experienced a lot of big stadiums. I think it is a great learning experience. I looking for this loss bring us to higher level than we were before. It is not everyday in I-AA that you play in front of ninety thousand people."
LSU vs. Western Illinois
Sept. 13, 2003 -- Tiger Stadium
- LSU's game captains are QB Matt Mauck, LB Adrian Mayes and TE Eric Edwards.
- LSU won the toss and deferred to the second half. LSU will kick off to open the game.
- OT Rodney Reed (37 straight), OG Stephen Peterman (22 straight), OT Andrew Whitworth (16 straight) and WR Michael Clayton (16 straight) all extended their consecutive games started streak.
- LSU has not allowed an opponent to score in the first half during a regular season (non bowl) game since Ole Miss scored a touchdown with 1:02 left in the first quarter on Nov. 23, 2002. The streak extends nine straight quarters, including all six first half quarters this season.
- Western Illinois recovered their own on-side kick to open the second half. They were the first opponent to do so since Alabama did on Nov. 7, 1998.
- LSU has a 100-yard rusher (Shyrone Carey) and a 100-yard receiver (Michael Clayton) in one game for the first time since the 2002 Sugar Bowl against Illinois when Domanick Davis ran for 122 yards and Josh Reed (239) and Clayton (120) both went over 100-yards receiving.
- With Michael Clayton's 16-yard reception in the first quarter, the WR extended his consecutive games with a catch streak to 29, every game of his career.
- WR Michael Clayton's 10-yard touchdown reception with 8:18 left in the first quarter was the 15th touchdown catch of his career, moving him into a tie for sixth-place on LSU's career TD reception list with Eddie Fuller.
- FS Travis Daniels' blocked punt in the first quarter was the first by a LSU player since Clarence LeBlanc blocked a Mississippi State punt on Oct. 23, 1999 in Starkville.
- QB Matt Mauck completed 17 straight pass attempts (the final 10 of last week's Arizona game and the first seven tonight) before his 18th attempt was batted down at the line early in the second quarter. His 17 straight completions tied the school record. The record is also held by Rohan Davey with 17 straight (11 vs. Western Carolina and 6 vs. Arkansas during 1999).
- DT Chad Lavalais blocked WIU's 30-yard FG attempted with 10:32 left in the second quarter. He is the first LSU player to block a FG attempt since Arnold Miller blocked a 42-yard attempt by Notre Dame on Nov. 21, 1998 in South Bend.
- CB Corey Webster's interception in the second quarter was the eighth of his career and the first of the season.
- Webster's interception in the third quarter was the ninth of his career and it marked the third time in his career he has pulled down multiple interceptions in a game. He also picked off two passes against Mississippi State in 2002 and had three picks at Florida in 2002.
- WR Michael Clayton had nine receptions for 134 yards in the first half, giving the junior three 100-yard receiving games this season (all three games) and six for his career. His six career 100-yard receiving games moves him into sole possession of seventh place on LSU's career list, two behind Todd Kinchen in sixth-place with eight.
- Clayton's first catch of the second half was his 10th of the game, surpassing his previous career-high of nine set against Kentucky on Oct. 13, 2001. Clayton finished the game with 11 receptions.
- Clayton's 162 yards set a career high for the WR. His previous high was 152 yards set two weeks ago against UL-Monroe.
- Clayton moved up to sixth place on LSU's career receptions list with 11 catches tonight and now has 127 for his career. He also moved up to sixth in receiving yards in a career with 1,926.
- RB Shyrone Carey's 12 carries for 87 yards in the first half alone marked a career high for the sophomore. His previous career best was 68 yards rushing against South Carolina on Oct. 19, 2002. Carey finished the game with 21 carries for 124 yards.
- Carey's 9-yard rush during LSU's drive mid-way through the third quarter gave the sophomore RB over 100 yards for the game, his first of his career, and the first 100-yard rusher for LSU since Domanick Davis rushed for 113 against South Carolina on Oct. 19, 2002.
- WR Skyler Green's 8-yard touchdown reception with 5:00 left in the third quarter was the second of the sophomore's career and his first of the season. He became the fourth player to catch a TD pass this season for the Tigers.
- QB Matt Mauck's scramble to convert the two-point conversion after Green's touchdown catch in the third quarter was the first successful two-point conversion for LSU since Marcus Randall hit Michael Clayton in the third quarter against South Carolina on Oct. 19, 2002.
- Freshman WR Craig Davis saw his first career action during the third quarter. He also pulled in his first career reception in the fourth quarter on a nine-yard pass from Matt Mauck.
- Freshman LB Brian West also saw his first career action late in the fourth quarter.
- QB Matt Mauck's 40-yard touchdown pass to WR Skyler Green in the third quarter was LSU's fifth touchdown pass of the season of 40 yards or more.
- Mauck's 23 completions and 305 yards are all career highs for the junior QB.
- Mauck's 16-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson with 8:29 left in the fourth quarter gave the junior QB over 300 yards passing (a career high). He became the first LSU QB to toss for over 300 yards since Rohan Davey passed for 444 yards in the 2002 Sugar Bowl against Illinois.
- Freshman DB LaRon Landry's fourth quarter interception was the first of his career.