BATON ROUGE, La. – Les Miles wanted LSU to take Northwestern State seriously and win impressively enough that he could rest starters who will be playing a tougher opponent in less than a week.
The second-ranked Tigers didn't disappoint him.
Spencer Ware and Michael Ford ran for two scores apiece and LSU overwhelmed Northwestern State 49-3 on Saturday night.
LSU (2-0) led 28-3 by halftime, allowing Miles to give a number of starters some rest in advance of the Tigers' Southeastern Conference opener at Mississippi State on Thursday night.
Coveted junior college transfer quarterback Zach Mettenberger made his debut in relief of LSU starter Jarrett Lee to open the second half.
After Lee completed 9 of 10 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown, Mettenberger went 8 of 11 for 92 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown pass.
John Shaughnessy kicked a 44-yard field goal for Northwestern State (1-1), the only points the Demons have scored against LSU in 11 meetings.
LSU fans have been eager to see the 6-foot-5, 222-pound Mettenberger play since his arrival last January from Butler Community College in Kansas, where he passed for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns last season.
The sophomore completed his first four passes for 44 yards, leading a 59-yard touchdown drive that ended with Ford's 7-yard run. Later in the third quarter he led a 10-play, 57-yard scoring drive that ended with Alfred Blue's 4-yard scoring run that made it 42-3.
Mettenberger's first touchdown pass in a Tigers uniform went to Kadron Boone in the fourth quarter for the final margin.
LSU outgained Northwestern State 400 yards to 95, including 175 yards to minus-4 on the ground.
LSU receiver Rueben Randle caught five passes for 121 yards, with one reception going for 43 yards.
Ford finished with a team-high 72 yards rushing and now has four TDs through two games, one more than he had all of last season.
Brad Henderson completed 16 of 26 passes for 74 yards for the Demons, who did not have one rusher gain more than 8 yards. Demons tight end Justin Aldredge caught seven passes for 58 yards, including a 25-yard reception from backup quarterback Don Canyon on a fake punt.
Although the Tigers' matchup with Football Championship Subdivision squad Northwestern State had all the makings of a blowout, Miles had said he would approach the game like any other and refused to foreshadow playing time for reserves who hadn't seen action in LSU's season-opening 40-27 win over Oregon at Cowboys Stadium a week earlier.
He was true to his word for the most part in the first half. One exception was the benching of starting linebacker Ryan Baker, but that was because of a violation of team rules.
The unspecified violation did not involve any NCAA rules and was not expected to cost Baker more than one game, school officials said. Also, D.J. Howard handled punts because Brad Wing had what team officials described as a minor leg injury.
Otherwise, most key players were on the field for the first half.
DeAngelo Peterson's 9-yard catch from Lee gave LSU a 7-0 lead on its first possession. Spencer Ware later added scoring runs of 1 and 6 yards, the latter set up by defensive tackle Michael Brockers' interception of the tipped pass on the Demons 15-yard line.
Ford, who had two TDs against Oregon, added his third of the season on a 3-yard run shortly before halftime.
Northwestern nearly was shut out by LSU again. Shaughnessy's field goal glanced through off the left upright.
The kick briefly pulled the Demons to 7-3.
Overall, though, it was a tough return to Tiger Stadium for Northwestern State coach Bradley Dale Peveto, a former LSU assistant under Miles from 2005-08.