BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) LSU coach Ed Orgeron had to play starting quarterback Joe Burrow longer than planned after a more competitive first half than expected against Northwestern State.
So Burrow seized the opportunity to post another impressive statistical line that will only help his cause if he winds up in the running for the Heisman Trophy.
Burrow completed 21 of 24 passes for 373 yards and two touchdowns, and fourth-ranked LSU pulled away in the second half for a 65-14 victory Saturday night.
“This is who we are as an offense,” Burrow said. “We are going to take our quick passes and our deep shots and that is going to continue to work well for us.”
For the second time in LSU’s first three games, Burrow was subbed out in the third quarter because of a lopsided score. He is now 75 of 90 (83.3 percent) passing for 1,122 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
Burrow also ran for 30 yards and a touchdown against Northwestern State (0-3), an FCS team that surprisingly kept the game close until the Tigers (3-0) dominated the third quarter.
“I felt confident that we were going to go out there and just keep chopping away,” Orgeron said. “I didn’t raise my voice that much at halftime.
“When you win like that … I’m not going to complain at all,” Orgeron added.
In leading LSU to the 800th victory in the program’s 126-year history, Burrow also became just the school’s sixth quarterback to throw for 300 or more yards in consecutive games. Only Rohan Davey did it in three straight games, a mark Burrow can match next weekend.
Both of Burrow’s TD tosses went to sophomore Terrace Marshall Jr., who has six touchdown catches this season after none last season. Marshall’s first touchdown was an opportunistic, diving grab of a ball that missed its intended target when tight end Stephen Sullivan stumbled.
The Tigers’ Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Tyrion Davis-Price each ran for two TDs and John Emery had one, while Justin Jefferson caught five passes for 124 yards. LSU’s Trey Palmer added a 54-yard punt return touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“I’m happy with the point output, but I still feel like we could have done better,” Burrow said.
Northwestern State QB Shelton Eppler connected on 21 of 38 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Quan Shorts had eight catches for 66 yards and a TD, and David Fitzwater had 68 yards receiving and a score on three catches.
LSU players heard some boos when first half ended with the Tigers up 24-14.
Having lost 33-7 at home to Division II Midwestern State a week earlier, the Demons were not expected to enjoy much success against a Tigers squad coming off a victory at Texas. But they took a 7-3 lead when Eppler fired a 17-yard scoring pass to Shorts in the first quarter – the first TD Northwestern State had ever scored against LSU in 12 meetings dating back to 1911.
The Tigers responded with consecutive touchdown drives. But Northwestern State came back with a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive, which ended with Fitzwater uncovered in the end zone after outside linebacker Andre Anthony lost track of the tight end.
LSU went back up 10 on Edwards-Helaire’s second short TD run, but the Tigers’ chance to widen the lead before halftime took a hit when Dylan Wilson intercepted one of only two of Burrow’s passes all half that did not find a receiver. Northwestern State took over at the LSU 17, but was held to a missed field goal.
“We had the opportunity to cut it to three or seven,” Demons coach Brad Laird said. “Moving forward against a good football team, you’ve got to take advantage of that. But I’m really excited about the effort from my guys.”
At halftime, Burrow said, “We were all pretty disappointed in ourselves.”
The Tigers turned up the intensity afterward, scoring on their next four possessions while holding the Demons without a first down on their first three series of the third quarter.
With LSU opening SEC play next weekend, a handful of starters and regulars were held out. They included wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, tight end Thaddeus Moss, left tackle Saahdiq Charles, outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, middle linebacker Michael Divinity and defensive ends Glen Logan and Rashard Lawrence.
While a number of Tigers appeared susceptible to a letdown early, Burrow was sharp throughout. In the first half, his 16-of-18 passing for 231 yards and a TD set him apart. His third quarter was even better, highlighted by his 48-yard completion to Jefferson and a 65-yard connection with Jontre Kirklin.
LSU’s lopsided final margin of victory should help the Tigers remain among the top five.
Northwestern State visits Houston Baptist next Saturday.
LSU visits Vanderbilt next Saturday.