Baton Rouge, LA – Kenny Hilliard had two touchdown runs, Odell Beckham returned a punt for a score and the defending SEC champion LSU Tigers opened their season with a 41-14 win over the North Texas Mean Green.
Hilliard gained 141 yards on 13 carries and Alfred Blue added 123 yards on the ground for third-ranked LSU (1-0), which is one of the favorites, even without dismissed former Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu, to once again challenge for the national championship after losing to Alabama in the BCS title game in January.
"Honestly, you can never replace a guy like that," Beckham said of the loss of Mathieu. "There's certain things that he taught me and I just have to take those tips and use them."
The Tigers extended two of the nation's longest winning streaks on Saturday. They have won 38 straight non-conference regular-season games, a run that dates back to 2002, and 18 in a row at home.
North Texas' Derek Thompson amassed 143 yards through the air, throwing a pair of touchdown passes to Brelan Chancellor and one interception.
"We have things to build off of, but we're still disappointed that we didn't come out and play like we were supposed to," Chancellor admitted. "We had too many missed opportunities and penalties."
The Mean Green (0-1) are coming off a 5-7 season.
By the time Chancellor caught a ball in stride and scampered 80 yards to the end zone in the second quarter, LSU had already scored 24 points and survived a scare regarding their quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
Hilliard dashed 38 yards to the end zone on LSU's fourth offensive play of the game, and Beckham's 70-yard return made it 14-0.
Later in the first quarter, Mettenberger was drilled by a blitzing Hilbert Jackson on a third-down play. He appeared to be struck up around the helmet, but he returned to his first start after sitting out a series.
Backup quarterback Stephen Rivers entered the game on LSU's next possession and led the Tigers on a five-play, 68-yard touchdown drive. Hilliard scored from five yards out on the first play of the second quarter.
Mettenberger then led LSU to a 44-yard Drew Alleman field goal, completing all four passes on the drive.
The Tigers were looking to pad their lead before halftime, but Alleman missed a 34-yard attempt and Mettenberger was picked off by Zac Whitfield at the 1- yard line.
Alleman converted a 30-yarder to account for all the scoring in the third quarter.
The Tigers went up 34-7 when Mettenberger and Kadron Boone hooked up for a 34- yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. J.C. Copeland added a five-yard TD run for LSU.
LSU entered the season ranked No. 1 in the USA Today coaches' poll ... The Tigers have won 22 straight contests in September and 31 consecutive home games over non-conference opponents ... Mettenberger completed 19-of-26 passes for 192 yards ... Thompson finished with just eight completions on 21 attempts ... LSU has outscored North Texas 239-27 while winning all five meetings ... North Texas opened the season on the road for the 11th straight year ... The Mean Green began their 12th and final season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference. They are joining Conference USA next year.