NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Stevan Ridley wanted to make up for his two fumbles in LSU's season opener. Consider it done.
The junior running back had never run for more than 81 yards in a game but ended Saturday with a career-high 159 yards and a touchdown to help the Tigers finish off a 27-3 win over Vanderbilt. He was a key reason why the Tigers scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter when they rushed for 150 of their 280 yards.
"I was kind of sick with myself. Last week with two fumbles, it really hurt me," Ridley said of fumbles that helped North Carolina rally from a 30-10 deficit before LSU held on for a 30-24 victory. "It was on my heart all week. I let the team down, and I had to come out here and make a statement."
That he did, especially when he broke loose and scored on a 65-yard touchdown run with 4:34 left in the game.
His performance helped LSU improve to 2-0, win its SEC opener, and boost the Tigers from No. 19 to 15th Sunday in The Associated Press rankings. The Tigers never trailed after Russell Shepard's 30-yard TD run, and Alfred Blue also had a 6-yard TD run as seven different players had at least one carry. The Tigers ran 50 of their 71 plays.
LSU coach Les Miles said he was glad to see how Ridley came back and ran hard.
"He just put it to himself, and that's just what he needed to do. There are some good players. With each carry and each experience, these guys are starting to come to life, and we're looking forward to watching it develop. He needed to run like he did (Saturday night), and we need to run better. He knows that," Miles said.
"If he continues to run like this, that's good news. If he doesn't, then we're going to find someone that can run the football and carry it for us."
The Commodores were impressed with Ridley after thinking they had contained him most of the night. Ridley had nine carries for 41 yards through the first three quarters before running wild in the fourth.
"He's super fast," Vanderbilt linebacker John Stokes said of the LSU running back. "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."
Ridley wasn't the one having problems holding onto the ball at Vanderbilt (0-2, 0-1). The Tigers had three fumbles, which they recovered. But Blue smothered one off what appeared to be a bad pitch from Jordan Jefferson at the Tigers 5. Jefferson also was intercepted in the end zone.
"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 (Jarrett) Lee because he's a guy who's going to have to win games for us as we go forward."
The Tigers finally will be at home against Mississippi State after playing their first two games on the road for the first time since 1995.
Vanderbilt hits the road next to Mississippi hoping to change its luck. The Commodores rolled up 432 yards in losing their opener to Northwestern but managed only 150 yards against LSU. It was the fewest yards allowed by LSU to a SEC opponent since the Tigers held Mississippi State to 130 in 2004.
LSU also had six sacks.
"We've got to learn to get rid of the ball, but sometimes it's hard when they're all over you before you get a chance to move," Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell said.