Baton Rouge, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 12th-ranked LSU Tigers return to Tiger Stadium for their home opener on Saturday night when they take on FCS opponent the Sam Houston State Bearkats.
Sam Houston State kicked off its season on Aug. 23 with a 56-35 setback at Eastern Washington, but it rebounded last Saturday with a 51-20 home win over Alabama State. The Bearkats are ranked 15th in the latest Sports Network FCS Top-25 poll.
LSU kicked off its season in primetime last Saturday against Wisconsin in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff, and after falling behind 24-7 in the third quarter, it ended the contest with 21 unanswered points to capture the 28-24 victory. Tigers' head coach Les Miles wasn't exactly thrilled with the outcome, however.
"We played sloppy," he said. "We did everything to the latest possible time before we decided to play best."
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two football programs.
Sam Houston State's offense has been outstanding through two games, putting up 43.0 ppg and 613.5 ypg. Its performance against Alabama State last week was stellar, as it put up 685 and held more than 40 minutes of possession time.
Jared Johnson threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Alabama State. He's completing 62.6 percent of his passes this season for 703 yards, five touchdowns and two picks.
Despite having just five receptions, Keshawn Hill is the team leader in receiving yards with 136. Yedidiah Louis (13 receptions, 104 yards) and LaDarius Brown (nine receptions, 110 yards) round out a deep group of pass- catchers.
In addition to his explosive role as a receiver out of the backfield, Hill is also the team's go-to rushing option. He's picked up 190 yards and a pair of scores on 32 carries (5.9 ypc).
For as strong as the Bearkats' offense has been, their defense has been a let down, allowing 38.0 ppg and 513.0 ypg.
Tristan Eche is the leader of the unit with 18 tackles, 2.5 TFL and a sack. Michael Wade and Trenier Orr both have an interception on the young campaign.
After a sluggish start, the LSU offense picked things up down the stretch in the opener and finished with 365 yards.
According to Miles, the plan heading into the opener was for Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris to split time under center, but it was Jennings who earned the large majority of the snaps. He finished with 239 passing yards and two touchdowns, although he completed only 9-of-21 attempts.
While the passing game was far from consistent, there were plenty of big plays to be had. Travin Dural (three receptions, 151 yards) caught an 80-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, and John Diarse (two receptions, 48 yards) reeled in a 36-yard scoring strike in the fourth.
Kenny Hilliard emerged as the most trustworthy rushing option with 18 carries for 110 yards and what proved to be the game-winning touchdown with 9:41 left in the game. Highly-touted freshman Leonard Fournette had just 18 yards on eight attempts.
The Tigers buckled down defensively when they needed to most and finished the game allowing Wisconsin to amass only 318 yards, but Miles was not pleased with the unit's inconsistency.
"I can't tell you the number of miss tackles. I can't tell you the number of missed assignments," Miles said. "And then we started playing better."
The defense recorded a pair of crucial interceptions, one by Ronald Martin and the other by Jalen Mills. Kwon Alexander tallied a team-high eight tackles, two of which came behind the line of scrimmage.