BATON ROUGE — LSU used its new wide open offense to full advantage Saturday night.
The Tigers never really flirted with the ultimate disaster against outmanned Northwestern State.
Instead, LSU was in a mad-cap second-half scramble to get the scoreboard up to specs for the nation’s No. 4 team.
Mission accomplished, sort of, as the Tigers whipped up 41 points in the second half for a properly lopsided 65-14 victory.
LSU fans’ latest heart throb, quarterback Joe Burrow, had his way carving up the Demons’ defense, throwing for 373 yards while completing 21 of 24 passes for 373 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“Outstanding,” Orgeron said
“I didn’t think we played as well as we could have,” said Burrow. “I was pretty disappointed in myself throwing that pick in the (late first-half) two-minute drill. We really just attack what the defenses give us and the last three games the middle of the field has been wide open for us.
“But we’re going to have to get better this week in practice, myself included.”
Burrow probably played a little longer than most anticipated in what looked for a brief spell like a budding shootout reminiscent of last week’s wild victory over Texas. Burrow didn’t take a seat until after driving the Tigers to a touchdown with 6:26 left in the third quarter that put LSU up 44-14.
“He didn’t want to come out,” Orgeron said. “We had to, though. He needed the rest. He had a minor injury this week.”
History will record that LSU rang up 610 yards of offense and backup as quarterback Myles Brennan was 8 of 9 for 115 yards of his own.
Few will remember that the Tigers left at halftime to a smattering of boos while leading 24-14, mostly directed at a depleted defense that was missing four starters.
“We were all pretty disappointed in ourselves,’ said Burrow. “We could have played better for sure. But you have to remember when people come in to play LSU, they are going to give you their best shot. We are going to have to expect that.”
“I didn’t raise my voice that much at halftime,” head coach Ed Orgeron said. “I just wanted to make sure we played the full 60 minutes.”
The Tigers (3-0) were never really slowed down.
But somebody forget to tell the Demons (0-3) that they scored only one touchdown in a 33-7 loss last week to something called Midwestern State.
“We really looked at ourselves in the mirror,” NSU coach Brad Laird said of the week. “We had to answer a lot of questions and the direction we were going.”
He said the Demons wanted to “be excited and have fun.”
“Our guys did that tonight.”
For a while, anyway.
NSU quarterback Shelton Eppler did a passable Burrow imitation early while throwing for 172 of his 225 yards in the first half.
“I have to give credit to Northwestern,” Orgeron said. “They came in here with a real good game plan. Getting rid of the ball fast, running those slants.
“You’ve got to give them credit. That quarterback was on fire. They were getting those slant routs.
“I think we were playing a little too far off on those. Give credit to our defense for shutting them down in the second half. Coach (Dave) Aranda worked hard at halftime and the players listened to him and got it done. We had to face some adversity.”
The Demons, who had 200 yards and both touchdowns at the half, were held to just 78 yards and no points in the second half.
“We played more man-to-man,” Orgeron said of the adjustments. “The zones weren’t working. You saw us breaking on the ball a little bit faster and we almost got some picks.”
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Tyrion David-Price ran for two touchdowns apiece and John Emery added another for the rare LSU running game hightlights.
“I wasn’t pleased with the running game,” Orgeron said of the meager 122 yards on the ground. They were stuffing us up front. We’ve got to look at the film. There were some things we weren’t blocking right.
“We didn’t look very good on both lines of scrimmage early on.”
“I think this is who we are as an offense,” said Burrow. “We are going to throw the ball to open up the run. We have run for over 100 yards in every game, but we are going to take what the defense gives us. We are going to take our quick passes and our deep shots and that is going to continue to work well for us.”
Freshmen had the Tigers’ final four scores, including Trey Palmer’s 36-yard punt return for a touchdown on the first touch of his college career.
The Demons actually led the Tigers 7-3 at the end of the first quarter when the Demons scored their first touchdown in 12 trips to LSU dating back to 1911.
LSU quickly took the lead for good on Edwards-Helaire’s 4-yard run, but the Demons wouldn’t go away.
They scored again on Eppler’s second touchdown pass, this time to a wide-open David Fitswater from 27 yards out on a blown coverage.
NSU had a chance to make it closer at the half after an interception of Burrow’s worst pass and decision of the season set them up at the Tigers’ 17 yards line with 58 seconds to play in the half.
But the LSU defense shut them down and Scotty Roblow missed a 34-yard field goal.
“Whenever I throw an interception, I’m not happy with myself,” Burrow said. “There was a lot to be happy about tonight, we just have to clean some things up.”