BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- For the first time in his short but troubled LSU career, Ryan Perrilloux made news on the field.
Perrilloux threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start to lead No. 2 LSU to a 44-0 victory over Middle Tennessee on Saturday night.
"I was real nervous, but after the first snap, all the jitters go away and you just kind of relax and calm down and play ball," said Perrilloux, who had not been permitted to speak with reporters previously this season. "They stuck with me and they stuck behind me. They knew I was going to be able to one day lead this team and I thank them for that."
With a Southeastern Conference showdown against Steve Spurrier's No. 17 South Carolina squad looming next weekend, LSU coach Les Miles decided to rest regular starter Matt Flynn, who had sprained his right ankle a week earlier and whose participation in practice had been limited since.
Miles also held out No. 1 receiver Early Doucet.
Oddsmakers had LSU (3-0) favored by a little more than five touchdowns over the Blue Raiders (0-3). The Tigers had no trouble meeting such lofty expectations with Perrilloux behind center and numerous reserves such as sophomore receiver Jared Mitchell (six catches, 82 yards) getting extensive playing time.
It was 44-0 in the third quarter.
Perrilloux was widely considered the most sought-after quarterback recruit in the country when he played at East St. John High School in southeast Louisiana.
In his senior season in high school, Perrilloux passed for 3,546 yards and 30 touchdowns and ran for 1,460 yards and 37 touchdowns.
But what promised to be a glittering college career with his home state Tigers took a turn during the past year.
First, he was named a person of interest in a federal counterfeiting investigation. He was never named as a suspect, but just as he seemed to be emerging unscathed from that probe, the 20-year-old redshirt sophomore jeopardized his spot on the team when he was arrested for trying to get into a Baton Rouge riverboat casino using his older brother's license.
Miles suspended Perrilloux, but reinstated him in time for preseason practice.
Still, Miles told reporters they would not be permitted to talk to Perrilloux until he did something in a game that was worth discussing.
In LSU's first two games, both blowouts, Perrilloux made the most of his mop-up duty, throwing for three scores and rushing for another. Against the Blue Raiders, he likely established himself as LSU's quarterback of the future.
He completed 20 of 25 passes and even ran for 37 yards.
"That's not a bad day at the office," Miles said. "The good news is he handled some pressure in the pocket. He got roughed up a little bit and still came back and seemed to have composure and played well."
Perhaps Perrilloux's best display of athleticism came on an incompletion in the closing seconds of the first half. With the Blue Raiders on a rush into the backfield, Perrilloux slithered and spun out of the grasp of four defenders while twice changing hands with the ball, then threw it away just before getting leveled.
Avoiding the sack allowed Colt David to set up for a 26-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Tigers into halftime with a 23-0 lead. David also had field goals of 29 and 35 yards.
Center Brett Helms said he had seen in practice the skills that made Perrilloux a blue-chip recruit.
"He shows flashes of that ... when he tucks it and runs it and making throws," Helms said. "He makes people miss. He's got really unbelievable speed. You might not be able to see it, but nobody ever seems to catch him."
By contrast, Middle Tennessee's offense, which put up 42 points against Louisville, struggled to make first downs against the Tigers, finishing with only 166 yards in LSU's second shutout of the season.
Joe Craddock completed only six passes for 59 yards and was sacked four times before being pulled in the second half. His replacement, Dwight Dasher, spent much of his time in the game scrambling, was sacked twice, and needed only 30 yards to finish as his team's leading rusher.
"They've got a great defense, probably the best in the country," Craddock said. "It's definitely the best I've ever played against. They've got a good front four and their secondary is solid and their linebackers are fast and very physical."
Perrilloux's game wasn't quite perfect. He also threw his first career interception on LSU's third drive of the game.
Otherwise, nearly every other drive he led ended with points. There was a 13-yard TD on a short pass over the middle to running back Charles Scott, a 62-yarder to Demetrius Byrd in the second quarter, and a 15-yard bullet to Terrance Toliver in the back of the end zone.
Afterward, Perrilloux was presented to the media as several athletic administration officials stood nearby.
"What happened was in the past," Perrilloux said. "My coaches accepted me. My teammates accepted me, so we're just moving forward."
And putting up some serious numbers in the process.
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