Aiming to become the first team in NCAA history to win 40 straight non-conference regular season games, the third- ranked LSU Tigers turn their attention to the visiting Idaho Vandals.
LSU opened the season with a 41-14 win over North Texas two weekends ago, then followed that up with a 41-3 rout of Washington this past Saturday. The Tigers, who have won a school-record 19 straight home games, will wrap up a three-game homestand this weekend before traveling to Auburn for their SEC opener next week. Head coach Les Miles said he likes the direction his team is heading, but noted there is still work to be done.
"Everyone talks about improvement that was made between week one and week two," Miles said. "I think that was pretty evident in this game. We reduced our penalties. We still turned the ball over once, which we have to get a handle on."
Meanwhile, Idaho enters this matchup still in search of its first win of the season. The Vandals fell at home to Eastern Washington in the season opener (20-3) and then dropped a 21-13 decision at Bowling Green last weekend. The Vandals, who play in the Western Athletic Conference, are led by sixth-year head coach Robb Akey.
In the only previous meeting between these two teams, LSU posted a 53-20 win over Idaho in 1998.
Through two games, Idaho is averaging just eight points, which ranks 119th out of 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Despite the team's struggles to generate points, one positive did emerge from last week's loss to Bowling Green as transfer Dominique Blackman shined in his highly-anticipated debut at quarterback. Blackman had one of the best first starts in school history, completing 30-of-37 passes for 352 yards and a touchdown. He showed an instant chemistry with Jahrie Level, who finished with 10 catches for 119 yards.
However, he also took four sacks and tossed an interception. Additionally, the Vandals shot themselves in the foot by committing 10 penalties for 83 yards. Blackman did not get much help from the running game as Idaho netted a mere six yards on 20 combined attempts (0.3 ypc).
On the other side of the ball, Idaho did manage to hold Bowling Green to just seven first-half points on the Falcons' home turf. Bowling Green seized control with back-to-back touchdowns late in the third quarter, although those scores were set up by a missed field goal and an interception. Idaho's defense performed well against the run, holding the Falcons to 90 rushing yards on 27 attempts (3.3 ypc). Gary Walker led the way with a game-high 10 tackles in the loss, while Maxx Forde notched a pair of sacks.
Coach Miles said he liked the balance his offense was able to strike between the run game and the passing game against Washington, although there were too many dropped passes. The Tigers ran for 242 yards and four scores on the ground, while Zach Mettenberger completed 12-of-18 passes for 195 yards with a touchdown and was not sacked.
"I like the way our quarterback played," Miles said at his weekly press conference. "He was very accurate. He was on his reads and doing the right things. We want to use him more. We want to throw the football down the field and more efficiently. If we eliminate some of those drops, that will happen pretty effortlessly."
The Tigers have scored 40 or more points in 12 of their last 16 contests, as the offense has continued to operate in high gear through the first two games of the 2012 campaign. The Tigers have posted 41 points in each of their first two tilts, thanks largely to the second and third-rated rushers in the SEC in Alfred Blue (112.0 ypg) and Kenny Hilliard (93.5 ypg, 4 TDs). Mettenberger has completed 70.5 percent (31-of-44) of his passes with just one interception.
LSU's defense notched four sacks last week and applied constant pressure on Washington quarterback Keith Price, which is precisely the attacking style of defense Miles wants his team to play. The Tigers enter the weekend atop the SEC in total defense (201.0 ypg) and rushing defense (51.0), while ranking second in scoring defense (8.5 ppg).
True freshman cornerback Jalen Mills is this week's SEC Freshman of the Week after registering seven tackles and his first career interception against Washington. Junior defensive end Sam Montgomery, a 2011 All-American, was named the Co-SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for posting four tackles, one sack, 1.5 tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries.