BATON ROUGE -- LSU running backs Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue combined for 264 yards rushing while Zach Mettenberger added 192 yards passing as the Tigers defeated North Texas on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, 41-14.
LSU (1-0), which gained 508 yards of total offense, had its best output since gaining 595 against Louisiana Tech in 2007, a span of 58 games.
The performance came on the heels of Hurricane Isaac which passed over Baton Rouge, flooded many communities to the east, and left the season opener in jeopardy until 48 hours prior to game time.
"We rushed for 300 and threw for close to 200 yards," LSU head coach Les Miles said. "Not too bad. We put 40 points on a team. It was kind of like offense, defense and special teams had an opportunity to play dominant at times, but really had some sloppy plays.
Hilliard, a sophomore, led the team with 141 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns, while Blue added 123 yards on a game-high 16 runs. Both totals were career bests to help LSU net 316 yards on the ground. Junior J.C. Copeland also had a career night running the ball, as the 272-pound fullback scored his first touchdown and had 33 yards on four carries.
In his first start as a Tiger, Metterberger completed 19-of-26 passing including a 34-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kadron Boone on the second play of the fourth quarter. He was sacked twice and threw an interception near the goal line.
Beckham Jr.'s highlight of the game came midway through the first quarter, when the sophomore returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown. His return marked the fifth-straight season LSU has returned a punt for a touchdown.
North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson struggled against the Tigers defense, completing only 8-of-21 passes for 143 yards. However, he connected with Brelan Chancellor for touchdowns of 80 and 15 yards for the Mean Green's points.
"Defensively, if you look at the first half you have to say they had a difficult time getting first downs," Miles said. "(North Texas) made a nice drive, mostly running the football. They had a third down and 15 when they scored, and they had a long pass. Frankly, I know the guy (Reid) that made the mistake there and he is very correctable. Defensively we were sloppy and not quite right. We played dominant at times. We will get better and had that opportunity. Imperfect, but with reason to smile."
Brandin Byrd led the Mean Green with 40 yards on 14 carries, as North Texas netted 76 yards rushing on 35 attempts.
"I've coached against national champion teams, and I've been a part of national champion teams," said North Texas coach Dan McCarney. "I know what those defenses look like, and the Tigers sure have one of those again this year. They just don't stay blocked very long. When you think you have them, you don't. When you think you have them cut off, you don't. When you think you've sustained a block, you haven't. That's what I saw from standing on the sidelines. That's a fast, physical, and well‐coached defense, as usual at LSU."
The Tigers led 24-0 just before halftime, as Hilliard sandwiched Beckham Jr.'s return with a pair of scoring runs of 18 and 5 yards.
Drew Alleman tied his career long with a 44-yard field goal midway through the second quarter. North Texas used an 80-yard catch-and-run by Chancellor to cut into the Tigers advantage.
The play left the Mean Green trailing 24-7 at halftime.
LSU put together a 16-play drive in the third quarter but managed only a 30-yard field goal by Alleman with 2:10 left in the quarter.
After a quick three-and-out by North Texas, Mettenberger waited patiently in the pocket and found Boone on a crossing route for a 34-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
North Texas answered with a 13-play, 66-yard scoring drive that ended on a 15-yard pass from Thompson to Chancellor on third-and-goal.
LSU finished out the scoring halfway through the fourth quarter when Copeland scored from five yards with 2:20 remaining. The drive was keyed by a 33-yard double-pump pass to Landry to the Mean Green 26 yard line.
The Tigers return to action Saturday, Sept. 8, when Washington comes to Tiger Stadium for a 6 p.m. contest. The game will be televised by ESPN.
LSU FOOTBALL POSTGAME NOTES
#1 LSU vs. North Texas
Sept. 1, 2012 - Tiger Stadium (Baton Rouge, La.)
1. LSU's game captains were 1 Eric Reid, 18 Bennie Logan, 30 Drew Alleman, 8 Zach Mettenberger.
2. LSU won the toss and deferred to the second half. North Texas received the opening kickoff.
3. The attendance of tonight's game is 92,059.
4. First-time starters for LSU (4): LG La'el Collins, QB Zach Mettenberger, LB Luke Muncie, CB Jalen Mills.
5. LSU true freshmen who saw their first career actions (12): LB Kwon Alexander, OT Vadal Alexander, CB Jalen Mills, P Jamie Keehn, S Jerqwinick Sandolph, LB Deion Jones, SNP Reid Ferguson, DL Danielle Hunter, LB Ronnie Feist, LB Lorenzo Phillips, S Corey Thompson, TE Dillon Gordon.
6. Along with the true freshmen, the following players also made their first career appearance: QB Stephen Rivers, WR Paul Turner, CB Jalen Collins, S Micah Eugene, C Elliott Porter, OG Trai Turner, OL Evan Washington, DL Jeremy Peeples.
7. LSU is now 24-4 in games played as the No. 1-ranked team and the Tigers have now played 12 consecutive games as the nation's No. 1 ranked team.
8. Streaks extended by LSU tonight: nation-leading 18-game home winning streak (last loss: Florida, 2009); nation-leading 38-game non-conference regular-season winning streak (last loss: Virginia Tech, 2002); nation-leading 14 consecutive regular season wins (last loss: Arkansas, 2010); 22 consecutive wins in month of September (last loss: Auburn, 2006).
9. LSU has won 21-straight games when winning the turnover battle and is 38-4 under Les Miles after winning the TO battle.
10. LSU is now 27-2 when having a running back go over 100 yards rushing. (only losses: Georgia, 2008; Arkansas, 2007).
11. LSU has returned punts for touchdowns in three out of its last four games, including back-to-back home games: Odell Beckham, Jr. 70 yards tonight, Tyrann Mathieu vs. Georgia 62 yards in SEC Championship, Mathieu 92 yards vs. Arkansas.
a. Under Les Miles, LSU now owns 18 special teams touchdowns (since 2005).
b. Beckham's punt return for a touchdown marked the first time that an LSU player has returned a punt for a touchdown in a season opener since Patrick Peterson returned a punt 87 yards for a score in the second quarter in a 30-24 victory over No. 18 North Carolina on Sept. 4, 2010. LSU has scored a TD on a punt return in five straight seasons.
12. North Texas' first first down came with 14:06 in the second quarter. The Tigers held them to no first downs in the first quarter.
13. LSU improved to 86-28-5 overall in season openers and is now 8-0 in season openers under Les Miles. The Tigers have won 10 consecutive season openers and 16 of the last 17 (loss was against Virginia Tech, 2002).
14. LSU produced two running backs over 100 yards in the same game for the first time since the 2011 Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M when Stevan Ridley (105) and Spencer Ware (102) did it.
a. It's also the first time two Tiger running backs have gone over 100 yards in a season-opener since LSU beat Oregon State, 45-7, on Sept. 18, 1982. Dalton Hilliard (133) and Garry James (128) did it.
15. LSU finished the game with 508 yards of total offense, marking the first time the Tigers have surpassed 500 yards of total offense in a game since gaining 595 yards in a 58-10 victory over Louisiana Tech on Nov. 10, 2007.
a. The Tigers rushed for 316 yards in Saturday's season-opening win, marking the first time they have eclipsed 300 yards on the ground since a 353-yard effort in a 52-3 win over Ole Miss on Nov. 19, 2011.
16. RB Kenny Hilliard tallied the fourth multi-touchdown game of his career, scampering 38 yards with 12:30 to go in the first quarter and adding another score on a 5-yard run with 14:56 left in the second quarter.
a. Hilliard has racked up eight touchdowns in his last six games dating back to the Western Kentucky contest last season.
b. Hilliard now has 10 rushing touchdowns for his career (14 games).
c. Hilliard finished with a career-best 141 yards rushing on 13 carries, besting the 102 yards he had against Arkansas last year. The 141 yards are the most by a Tiger in a game since Stevan Ridley had 159 versus Vanderbilt on Sept. 11, 2010.
d. Hilliard is the first Tiger to go over 100 yards in a season-opener since Charles Scott had 160 vs. Appalachian State in 2008.
17. SS Craig Loston made his first start since the 2011 Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M. Loston has taken over the strong safety spot held by Brandon Taylor last year.
18. QB Stephen Rivers made his first career appearance with 1:43 to go in the first quarter, replacing Zach Mettenberger who was injured on the previous series.
19. Early in the second quarter, OG Josh Dworaczyk made his first appearance on the line since the 2011 Cotton Bowl vs. Texas A&M.
20. PK Drew Alleman connected on 2-of-3 field goals tonight: (44-yarder with 6:26 in second quarter and a 30-yarder with 2:10 to go in the third quarter).
a. The 44-yarder tied the longest of Alleman's career, matching the 44-yarder he made against Oregon in last year's season-opener.
b. Alleman missed a 34-yarder with 2:20 left in the second quarter. It snapped a streak of 11 consecutive successfully made field goal attempts. It was his first miss since the West Virginia game last year.
c. Alleman remains the LSU all-time leader in field goal percentage: 18-of-21, .857.
21. WR/RS Odell Beckham, Jr. recorded his first career punt return touchdown when he went 70 yards to the endzone with 6:26 left in the first quarter.
22. WR Kadron Boone caught his third career TD pass on a 34-yard strike from Zach Mettenberger with 14:51 left in the fourth quarter.
23. FB J.C. Copeland scored his first career touchdown on a 5-yard run with 2:20 left in the fourth quarter. Copeland finished the game with career highs with four carries and 33 yards rushing.