NASHVILLE, Tenn. – LSU coach Les Miles still sees his Tigers making mistakes that must be corrected. His defense can only be counted on to cover up those problems for so long.
Stevan Ridley scored a 65-yard touchdown and ran for 144 of his career-high 159 yards in the second half, and the Tigers came up with six sacks in defeating Vanderbilt 27-3 Saturday night.
It was the Tigers' seventh straight win in this series in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
The Tigers nearly blew a 30-10 lead a week ago against North Carolina before knocking down a couple of last-second passes in the end zone to preserve a 30-24 victory. Ridley had a couple of turnovers in that game, but he helped the Tigers seal this victory with 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
Miles liked how the offense finished. He was even more impressed with Drake Nevis having 2½ sacks as his Tigers held Vanderbilt to 135 yards total offense.
"The defense was spectacular, really from the start and really pressed the Vanderbilt offense to get first downs. I like the way that the front is so disruptive," Miles said.
Russell Shepard scored a 30-yard TD run to put the Tigers (2-0) ahead to stay, and Alfred Blue also had a TD. Josh Jasper kicked two field goals. The Tigers still had trouble holding onto the ball with three fumbles — all recovered. But Jordan Jefferson was intercepted in the end zone in the third quarter. Backup quarterback Jarrett Lee got some playing time in the fourth quarter.
"We're going to continue to evaluate our quarterback position, and frankly we're going to expect more out of the position," Miles said. "I think both those guys can give it to us. I think Jefferson definitely can, and we're going to encourage Lee because he's a guy who's going to have to win games for us as we go forward."
LSU has won 11 of 12 against Vanderbilt, and the Tigers have held Vanderbilt (0-2) to 31 points combined in the past six games. The Tigers rolled up 280 of 392 yards offense on the ground and held the ball for nearly 34 minutes.
"Hat's off to LSU," Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell said. "They kicked us. They outmanned us. That's where we stand right now."
The Commodores did manage to keep Patrick Peterson, who set a school record with 257 yards on returns last week, in check. His longest punt return went for 6 yards and he finished with 8. He had a long kick return of 33 yards.
Vanderbilt scored 21 points and rolled up 432 yards in an opening loss to Northwestern. The Commodores went backward for much of the first half against LSU. They finished with minus-7 yards rushing on 17 carries in the first half.
The Commodores wound up avoiding the shutout with a 23-yard field goal from Ryan Fowler to open the second half. Warren Norman broke loose for a 51-yard run to open the third quarter, and Craig Loston's personal foul for tackling him out of bounds gave Vandy first-and-goal at the 7. But LSU held.
Nevis was a big reason why Larry Smith never could find a rhythm for Vanderbilt.
"Drake Nevis, along with some of the other guys, is really disruptive," Miles said. "It's really difficult to snap it to the quarterback. ... A lot of guys played. A lot of guys played fast, and played well."
LSU finally started putting away this victory by driving 75 yards for Jasper's second field goal. Ryan St. Julien recovered a fumble by Norman, and Blue scored on a 6-yard run four plays later for a 20-3 lead with 10:28 left.
Ridley broke loose on a 65-yard TD run with 4:34 left. He finished with 17 carries and almost doubled his previous career high of 81 yards. The junior wanted to make up for his fumbles in the opener.
"That was careless so I had to come back out this week and prove myself to the team and to the coaches," Ridley said.
"He's super fast," Vanderbilt linebacker John Stokes said. "That's pretty much the deal on him. They find a lot of unique ways to get him the ball. ... He's a great player, and we didn't do a good enough job of stopping him."
LSU opened with three three-and-outs before finally putting together their first drive that got them their first first down of the game. They moved 81 yards in 12 plays with Shepard going around the left end and outrunning everyone to the end zone within the opening minute of the second quarter.
Barkevious Mingo sacked Smith at the Vanderbilt 2, setting up the Tigers for a 36-yard field goal by Jasper with 5:27 left in the second for a 10-0 lead.