BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — After watching LSU run roughshod over his Huskies for a more than five-touchdown victory, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian lamented that the “complexion” of the game could have been different if not for his team missing some early opportunities.
Meanwhile, LSU’s Les Miles was outside the home locker room, lamenting a handful of dropped passes — one in the end zone — and dropped interceptions that prevented the third-ranked Tigers from dominating even more than they did in a 41-3 triumph.
After seemingly going through the motions in a season-opening 41-14 win over North Texas in its opener a week earlier, LSU demonstrated against Washington how large of a gap there is between their squad and an average team in another major conference such as the Pac-12.
This was apparent even as dismissed 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu sat in the stands for the first home game since he returned to LSU exclusively as a student. He saw his replacement at cornerback, true freshman Jalen Mills, step in front of a fourth-down pass by Huskies quarterback Keith Price for his first career interception.
“We probably could have had more picks and forced more turnovers if our guys would have just decided to handle the ball a little bit better,” Miles said. “There were some balls that went through our hands.”
On both sides of the ball.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger responded from an inconsistent debut as a starter against the Mean Green by putting all but perhaps two of the 18 passes he attempted right where he wanted. Normally sure-handed Odell Beckham Jr. dropped two, if not three catches he would usually make.
James Wright had a quick screen pass bounce off his hands. LSU settled for a field goal on one drive late in the second quarter after Russell Shepard had a pass bounce off his chest in the end zone.
Then there was Spencer Ware’s on-the-money halfback pass dropped by Jarvis Landry, who was wide open behind the defense and could have scored.
Still, Mettenberger completed 12 passes for 195 yards, including a 32-yard TD to Kadron Boone, and was not intercepted.
“If you take the number of drops out of the equation and you look at the quarterback play, he was on the money,” Miles said. “We ran the football when we needed to and threw it when we needed to.”
In Miles’ case, “needed,” seemed to be a subjective term.
It looked as if LSU hardly needed to throw the ball at all while feeding handoffs to a deep rotation of running backs. Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard, Michael Ford, Ware and fullback J.C. Copeland all contributed to a ground game that gained 242 yards.
Hilliard ran for two short TDs, giving him four scores through two games. Blue scored his first TD of the season from 21 yards and Copeland crashed through the pile for his second TD in as many games.
And the Tigers may have left another rushing TD on the field when they elected for shortest of field goals on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Blue said LSU’s offensive line “made it easy” to run the ball most of the night, and that was with starting left tackle Chris Faulk sidelined with a knee injury that might keep him out for the year.
His replacement, Josh Dworazcyk, in his sixth season at LSU because of a medical redshirt, made one of the blocks that sprung Blue for his scoring run.
LSU’s defense held up its end, with Lavar Edwards, Micah Eugene, Sam Montgomery and Chancey Aghayere all sacking Price, who acknowledged feeling pressure all night.
Only four Washington drives even made it on LSU’s side of field, and one of those started at the LSU 20 after Beckham’s fumbled kickoff return.
As much as the lopsided score, LSU’s status was further cemented by the fact that they’ve tied a major college football record with 39 straight victories over non-conference foes in the regular season, a mark shared with Kansas State.
LSU can break the record when it plays Idaho next weekend at home, where the Tigers have won 19 straight.
LSU will be a prohibitive favorite, and the scary thing for most of the opponents remaining on its schedule is that Miles sees a lot of room for the Tigers to improve.
“We are so far away from really accomplishing anything in this season,” Miles said. “We just got a nice little start — two good performances and really the ability to build on both. With better opponents to come, we have to take this time to improve like hell when we can.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.