by Chris Macaluso
Special to LSUsports.net
BATON ROUGE -- A 39-minute lightning and torrential rain induced delay in the first quarter only delayed what many believed to be the inevitable as LSU opened the 2003 football season with a demonstrative 49-7 victory over UL-Monroe Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers, who were heavy favorites coming into the contest, scored three touchdowns in both the second and third quarters while holding the visiting Indians to just 11 first downs for the game.
LSU head coach Nick Saban said despite the wide margin of victory for his team there is still much room for improvement.
"We didn't look sluggish or slow," Saban said. "I just think mentally we were a bit flat in the beginning."
Both teams had a chance to handle the ball early in the first quarter. UL-Monroe's first drive ended after only three plays. LSU's first drive was interrupted after five plays as the skies opened up to a blinding rainstorm and lighting and thunder shook the stadium. The lightning display lead to the delay that sent players and coaches scrambling off the field and fans hurrying to the exits.
LSU put its first points on the board with 6:37 left in the first half as receiver Devery Henderson hauled in an eight-yard touchdown pass from Tiger quarterback Matt Mauck. The point after gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
The Tiger offense followed that score with two lightning-quick touchdown strikes. The first, a one-play 17-yard drive, came as the result of a fumbled snap by Indian punter Joey Stelly allowing him to be tackled deep in UL-Monroe territory. One play later Mauck used the gaff to sling a short pass to tailback Joseph Addai who glided 17 yards into the endzone giving the Tigers a two-touchdown lead with 4:55 left in the first half.
Addai lead all rushers with 81 yards on 15 caries to accompany two catches for 21 yards.
Mauck connected on his third TD pass of the evening with seven seconds remaining in the first half when wideout Michael Clayton weaved his way to a 40-yard catch and run putting the Tigers up three touchdowns heading into the locker room.
"I wish maybe we could have come out with a little more intensity and maybe ready to play a little earlier," Mauck said. "Overall I think it's a game winning result and it's a win. I never complain about that."
Clayton dazzled the rain-thinned crowd again in the third quarter when he left several Indian defenders puzzled on his way to a 66-yard touchdown catch and run from the arm of Tiger back-up QB Marcus Randall. Randall finished the game with five out of seven passes complete for 153 yards and the touchdown while Clayton stood out with six catches for 152 yards and 2 touchdowns.
That TD hook-up was one of three Tiger scores in the third quarter including 31-yard interception return by Tiger safety Jack Hunt with 7:00 to play in the quarter.
LSU's first score of the third quarter came when Shyrone Carey skipped into the end zone from one yard out capping a 12-play drive.
UL-Monroe finally logged its first points with 14:10 to play in the game when tailback Kevin Payne scampered into the south endzone from 12 yards out capping a 73-yard Indian drive and cutting the Tiger lead to 42-7.
LSU quickly answered that score on its next drive as freshman tailback Alley Broussard powered his way in from one yard out for his first TD as a Tiger. Broussard's run capped gave LSU a 49-7 advantage and capped the scoring in the game.
"We just need to work on the little things that are correctable things that we look forward to getting fixed in the future." Saban said.
UL-Monroe will host Stephen F. Austin next Saturday in Monroe while LSU travels to Arizona to take on the University of Arizona Wildcats. Game time for the Tigers and Wildcats is scheduled for 9 p.m. CDT.
"Well we are obviously disappointed with the way we started the game. I think our readiness, whether it was affected by the delay or whatever it might have been. When I say readiness, I'm not talking about lack of being prepared because you saw as the game went on we actually got better and executed better and played a little bit better.
"Our readiness to just go out there and be ready to compete and have a sense of urgency is the kind of intensity that you need to have. I really felt like our team was well rested. We didn't look sluggish or slow. I just think mentally we were a little bit flat in the beginning, and I'm not really sure the delay in the beginning really helped us much. We came around, and there were a lot of good things out there. Guys seemed to make the plays.
"After we were able to move the ball after the first quarter, we kept shooting ourselves in the foot and making some mental errors. We missed some blitz pick-ups and had a couple dropped balls. We lost sight when weren't supposed to and got intercepted in the end zone. Just little things that are all correctable things that we look forward to getting fixed in the future.
"We got to play a lot of players. I think everybody needs to understand that because we played certain players and didn't play other players that doesn't necessarily mean we aren't going to coach the other players. It just means we decided who we were going to play in this particular game and it might be somebody else in another game."
LSU OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
LSU QB Matt Mauck
"I wish maybe we could have come out with a little more intensity and maybe ready to play a little earlier. That would have made it a lot better. Overall I think it's a game winning result and it's a win. I never complain about that."
On his injured foot
"I was really comfortable. I think that since the ground was so uneven that probably wasn't the best situation for it, but it really didn't hurt at all the whole time. It was definitely fine."
On his progress throughout the game
"It was raining pretty hard at first and the field was pretty slippery, but I think as the game went on every body on the whole team got more comfortable."
LSU RB Joseph Addai
"I was ready for the passing game. I feel like we made a few mistakes but we're going to come out ready Monday ready to work on that."
LSU DEFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
SS Jack Hunt
On his interception returned for TD
"It was a field blitz. The quarterback stared at the guy the whole time. I just dropped into the flat and he just never saw me, I guess, because he threw it right to me. I've been dreaming of that play all week. I always thought, Think of what you want to do, always dream what you'll do. And, I've been dreaming all week. It finally happened. I was happy to make the play.
On the play of the secondary
"They do a lot of trick plays, you know, double passes and stuff like that. Either it's a big play for them or an opportunity for a big play for us. You know, I thought we did really well on all their trick play stuff, defended the deep ball, and played really well in the secondary."
DT Bryce Wyatt
On the play of the defense
"I think overall we played well, you know, we had a few missed assignments, but you know that's going to happen. That's why we practice. We had some young guys come in and make plays. That's what's good about having depth. You can rotate in and everybody makes plays."
UL-MONROE HEAD COACH CHARLIE WEATHERBIE
"Well when we came out it felt like we came out and played pretty hard the first quarter. I thought we did some good things but field position killed us early. We did not punt the ball well, and of course the wind was against us and the rain came down pretty hard there in the first quarter. I felt like we played pretty well in the first quarter, but about midway through the second quarter we gave up a couple of cheap ones.
"We fumbled the snap from the snapper on the punt and that did not help us a whole lot, giving them the ball back there on about the 20-25 yard line I think. Then we gave up a cheap one right before half. I think we had a bust in coverage on that particular play. I felt like the guys fought well and I think we will continue to improve. LSU has a good football team, there is no doubt, and I know we will make a lot of improvement from this game to our next game."
UL-MONROE PLAYER QUOTES
RB Kevin Payne
On his touchdown in the fourth quarter
"It was a great feeling, since this is my first college game ever, but it was just a great feeling. I was hoping we could have played a little bit better."
On his first college game
"I thought I was going to be very nervous, but I just went with the flow of my team and played as hard as I could."
- LSU's game captains are Rodney Reed, Chad Lavalais and Randall Gay.
- ULM won the toss and elected to receive to open the game. LSU will defend the south endzone.
- OG Nate Livings, LB Eric Alexander, LB Adrian Mayes, DB Ronnie Prude, DB Jessie Daniels and FS Travis Daniels all made their first career starts tonight. RB Joseph Addai made his first career start at tailback tonight (he started the Virginia Tech game at FB last season).
- Players making their first appearance in a game for LSU are PK Chris Jackson, RB Justin Vincent, DL Kirston Pittman, WR Terrell Clayton (special teams), DB LaRon Landry, DB Jessie Daniels, DB Daniel Francis, PK Ryan Gaudet, SNP Steve Damen (special teams), TE Keith Zinger (special teams), DL Ryan Willis, DB Keron Gordon, WR Dwayne Bowe, RB Alley Broussard, DB Nick Child, DE Carnell Stewart, C Doug Planchard, OT Peter Dyakowski, OT Paris Hodges, OG Garett Wibel and FB Brandon Nowlin.
- OT Rodney Reed (35 straight), OG Stephen Peterman (20 straight), OT Andrew Whitworth (14 straight) and WR Michael Clayton (14 straight) all extended their consecutive games started streak.
- Play was suspended at 7:08 p.m. CDT due to lightning. There was 11:09 left in the first quarter and LSU had the ball, fourth down and four yards to play from the ULM 12 yard line.
- Play resumed at 7:47 p.m. CDT, a delay of 39 minutes.
- LSU's eight straight quarters of holding an opponent from Louisiana without a point was snapped when ULM scored a touchdown with 14:10 left in the fourth quarter. Tulane scored in the third quarter of the game in 2001 and ULL was held without a point last season.
- QB Matt Mauck's consecutive pass attempts without an interception streak ended on his seventh attempt of the game when ULM intercepted a pass in the endzone early in the second quarter. He entered tonight's game with 88 straight pass attempts without an interception. He last threw one against The Citadel last season.
- With his first reception of the game (7:21 left in the second quarter) WR Michael Clayton extended his consecutive games with a reception to 27 games (every game of his career).
- WR Devery Henderson's 8-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter was the ninth of his career.
- RB Joseph Addai's 17-yard touchdown reception with 4:55 left in the second quarter was the first receiving touchdown of his career.
- DL Melvin Oliver's fumble recovery in the second quarter was the first of his career.
- LB Eric Alexander's QB sack in the second quarter was the first of his career.
- DB LaRon Landry's QB sack late in the second quarter was the first of his career.
- WR Michael Clayton's 40-yard touchdown reception late in the second quarter was the 12th of his career, moving him into a tie for ninth-place on LSU's career TD receiving list with Larry Foster.
- QB Matt Mauck threw three touchdown passes in the second quarter, the second time in his career he has thrown three touchdowns in one quarter (3 in the first quarter vs. UL-Lafayette in 2002). He is the only QB in LSU history to throw three touchdown passes in the same quarter.
- RB Shyrone Carey's one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the second of his career.
- SS Jack Hunt grabbed his first career interception in the third quarter. He returned it 31 yards for his first career touchdown.
- Hunt's interception return for a touchdown was LSU's first defensive score since Demetrius Hookfin returned one in the third quarter against South Carolina.
- WR Michael Clayton's 66-yard touchdown reception moved the junior receiver over 100 yards for the game, his fourth 100-yard receiving game of his career and his first since a 120-yard game against Illinois in the 2002 Sugar Bowl.
- Clayton's 66-yard touchdown reception was his second longest catch and the longest since his career-best 67-yard TD reception against Tennessee in 2001.
- Clayton's second touchdown moved him into sole possession of ninth-place on LSU's career TD receptions list.
- Clayton's 152 yards receiving is his career high. His previous high was 126 against Alabama in 2001.
- TE David Jones' reception in the fourth quarter was the first of his career.
- WR Dwayne Bowe's reception in the fourth quarter was the first of his career.
- RB Alley Broussard's one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was the first of his career.