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News and notes: Week 1

9/2/2012

BATON ROUGE, La. -- A bit of perspective for anyone stressing Zach Mettenberger's so-so start to 2012: Turn the calendar back one year.

Although he spent part of the first half on the sideline with a shoulder bruise and had troubles at time getting into a rhythm with his receivers, all one has to do is review the 2011 season to be a bit more forgiving of Mettenberger's 17-of-26 debut, totaling 192 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Compared to the Tigers' two-headed combo of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson last fall, Mettenberger just threw the third-highest number of completions for an LSU quarterback in the last 15 games. His 26 completions are also the third-highest in the last calendar year -- behind Lee's 28 attempts against West Virginia and Jefferson's 29 against Arkansas.

The 192 yards? You guessed it again, third-best. LSU only managed a better passing night twice in 2011 -- 213 yards in the win against Mississippi State and 208 yards in the drubbing of the Razorbacks.

So yes, it was sloppy and yes, it was North Texas, but the Tigers have already effectively matched their passing production from last season. And that isn't taking into account the whopping 300 yards on the ground.

"We had over 500 yards of total offense -- that's something to be proud of," Mettenberger said. "As sloppy as we were offensively, to put up that many yards, it's good."

Making history: With the dominant run game that led the way in 2011, it was no surprise to see the Tigers pound the ball at will against North Texas. It might have been surprising to see who took the carries, as Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue amassed 264 of LSU's 316 rushing yards, while Michael Ford managed just 50 and Spencer Ware didn't see the field. But the theme of an overpowering running attack is one LSU fans are used to.

So consider the surprise in the press box Saturday night when word got around that Blue and Hilliard were LSU's first pair of 100-yard rushers in a season opener since 1982. The duo then was Dalton Hilliard (133) and Garry James (128) -- not bad company, to be sure. Don't be surprised if it's not the last time, either. LSU racked up rushing yardage using mostly just two of its five backs. Ford will undoubtedly factor a bit more into the equation, and Ware and Jeremy Hill have yet to play.

"If we line up and make some simple adjustments, we probably add another 70 yards to our total," Les Miles said.

None of that even accounts for fullback J.C. Copeland's 33 yards and a touchdown on four carries. The Tigers' bulldozer found his way into the end zone in the game's dying minutes -- the first score of his college career. Asked if he remembered the way to the end zone after so much time away from it, Copeland laughed.

"Yeah, of course. Straight ahead," he said.

Mimicking Mathieu: If Twitter is any indication, a lot of LSU fans were shouting "Honey Badger Who?" at around 7 p.m. Saturday night. Miles said all through August he had faith in Odell Beckham Jr. to handle the recently-dismissed punt return duties. It took the New Orleans native half a quarter to repay that faith by taking his first punt to paydirt -- only for it to be called back by an illegal block.

No matter. Beckham housed the next North Texas punt, too -- and that one counted.

Streaking: Washington will undoubtedly provide a tougher test when the Huskies come to Death Valley on Saturday. But history can't be encouraging for anyone making the trip to Baton Rouge for a football game.

The 27-point win against North Texas was LSU's 38th consecutive regular-season nonconference win and its 28th in the Les Miles era.

It was also LSU's 18th consecutive win in Tiger Stadium. The Tigers have not lost within the confines of Death Valley since Oct. 10, 2009 -- a 13-3 decision to the Tim Tebow-led Florida Gators.