By Brett Martel/The Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. — If Les Miles had any concerns about a short week to prepare for LSU’s Southeastern Conference opener at Mississippi State on Thursday night, they’ve all but vanished.
Miles was able to get numerous starters off the field early againist Northwestern State on Saturday night, when an LSU lineup made up of numerous reserves, including backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger, turned a 28-3 halftime lead into a 49-3 victory.
Miles said there did not appear to be any significant injuries, either.
Given how fresh the second-ranked Tigers (2-0) appear to be and how well they’ve played in their first two games, it’s no wonder that they can’t wait to get back on the field.
“This is going to be an exciting game this Thursday,” Miles said. “I look forward to it, to be honest with you. I think the change in schedule will be good for us.”
Miles could not stop smiling after the Tigers’ home opener, after which his biggest concern was having a member of the staff update him on thrilling finish of another game between Michigan and Notre Dame. Certainly, Miles was in an even better mood after the Wolverines, for whom he played, pulled that one out.
It was only a few weeks ago that Miles’ program seemed defined by disprution and upheaval. Little more than a week before the season opener against Oregon in Dallas, projected starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson and starting receiver Russell shepard were suspended.
Jefferson’s suspension is indefinite after his felony battery arrest in connection with a fight in a bar parking lot. Shepard, who violated an NCAA rule, is due back for LSU’s fourth game at West Virginia.
Without those two prominent offensive starters, LSU scored 40 on Oregon and 49 against Northwestern State.
Receiver Rueben Randle looks like he’s primed for a big season, having caught a touchdown pass against the Ducks before adding five catches for 121 yards against the Demons.
“We are playing and practicing at a good tempo right now,” Randle said. “With the game being this Thursday, we have to increase and speed up everything. SEC is a different kind of football and we all know that. We will be ready.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ running game has punished defenses with 175 yards rushing in each of LSU’s first two games. Running back Michael Ford already has four TDs, one more than all of last season. Spencer Ware has three scores.
LSU’s defense was expected to be a strength and never had the unexpected personnel changes that the offense has dealt with. The Tigers held Oregon to about half of its average offensive output from the previous season and didn’t let Northwestern State anywhere near the end zone, holding the Demons to minus-4 yards rushing. Northwestern State’s only points came on a 44-yard field goal that glanced through off the left upright.
The defense has produced an interception in each game, one by cornerback Therold Simon and another by lineman Michael Brokers on a deflected pass.
LSU has also excelled on special teams, particlarly the coverage units, which have already forced two turnovers, one of which Tyrann Mathieu caused and recovered for a score against Oregon.
Mathieu, a cornerback, also leads the defense with 14 total tackles and shared in a sack against the Demons before spending most of the second half on the sideline, where he acknowledged he and other starters were already thinking about their next game against the Bulldogs.
“Everyone knows what this team is capable of, and yes it is going to be difficult with that quick of a turnaround, but I’m confident we will be fine,” Mathieu sid. “It is really all about us knowing what we have to do and being the most physical of the two teams out there on the field. We can and we will do that.”