No. 1 LSU wakes up after half, beats Western Kentucky

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Jordan Jefferson has finally cracked No. 1 LSU's starting lineup.

Whether he stays there remains to be seen.

Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard each scored two touchdowns, and the Tigers overcame a lackluster first-half to defeat Western Kentucky 42-9 on Saturday night.

"I don't think this was in any way an impassioned effort by our guys, but I think they did the things that they needed to do to ensure victory," coach Les Miles said. "The decision made the staff and myself on the quarterbacks, that is a one-game decision and we'll kind of go from there."

One week after playing most of LSU's 9-6 overtime victory at Alabama, Jefferson got the start against the Hilltoppers, hitting 8 of 14 passes for 168 yards, including a 59-yard scoring strike to Rueben Randle.

LSU (10-0) came in favored by nearly six touchdowns, but led only 14-7 at halftime. The Tigers then dominated the second half to reach 10-0 for the first time since 1958, when they won a national championship. The victory also was Miles' 100th as a head coach, his 72nd at LSU.

"We just were flat," said LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo, who had eight tackles including one sack. "There really is not much you can say about that. Early on we were just not ready to play.

"This game kind of woke us up and we won't let this happen any more games this year. The Alabama game is over now. We are going to move on and hopefully play for a lot more the rest of this season."

Keshawn Simpson had a 2-yard touchdown run for Western Kentucky (5-5), which saw its winning streak end at five.

Hilltoppers quarterback Kuwaun Jakes completed 11 of 24 passes for 97 yards and was intercepted once by linebacker Tahj Jones.

LSU's defense held Bobby Rainey, who came in averaging 138 yards rushing, to 85 yards on 28 carries.

"We played hard and didn't give up," WKU coach Willie Taggart said. "We scored more points than Alabama. I believe we were going to win, but I knew it wouldn't happen if we didn't play perfect."

While LSU struggled to run early, the Tigers eventually wore the Hilltoppers down and finished with 291 yards on the ground, led by Blue's 119 on nine carries.

Jefferson, who lost his starting job when he was arrested in connection with an August bar fight and then suspended for LSU's first four games, has become increasingly involved in the Tigers' offense since his return. Last week's victory at Alabama marked the first time all season he played the majority of the snaps, taking over in that game for good after Jarrett Lee had thrown his second interception of the contest in the third quarter.

Miles had not announced whether Lee or Jefferson would start during the week leading up to LSU's homecoming date with the Hilltoppers. Shortly before kickoff, Lee was announced as the starter over the public address system, but Jefferson took the field for the first series.

Jefferson played until 12 minutes remained in the fourth quarter, when Lee relieved him and immediately drove LSU 82 yards in 14 plays, 10 of them runs, before hitting Kadron Boone with a 5-yard scoring pass.

"We thought we might go with Lee a little earlier than that, but Western Kentucky kind of proved to throw some wrinkles at us that we didn't necessarily anticipate," Miles said, referring to WKU's frequent blitzing. "We liked Jefferson in there in that situation."

Randle praised the play of Jefferson, who LSU did not make available for interviews.

"We left a couple of plays out there we could have made for him, but he did a great job executing the game plan and getting the job done," Randle said.

LSU led 21-7 after Hilliard's first TD from 1 yard out capped an 8-play, 68 yards drive, but Antonio Andrews returned the ensuing kickoff 73 yards for WKU, and a few plays later, the Hilltoppers were threating to cut the deficit back to one score with second-and-goal on the LSU 2.

Western Kentucky then attempted three straight runs, all stuffed by the LSU defense, giving the Tigers the ball on downs at their own 1.

The Hilltoppers salvaged 2 points when they forced Jefferson into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone for s safety. But three plays after WKU received the ensuing free kick, Jakes' passed was tipped and intercepted by Jones on the Hilltoppers 42.

Two plays later, Blue burst through the middle of the line untouched for a 45-yard touchdown, to make it 28-9.

LSU went ahead 35-9 when Blue added his second touchdown from 4 yards out early in the fourth quarter.

"I don't think the score represents how the game went," Rainey said. "In the first half, we were up there with the No. 1 team in the country."

Western Kentucky, in contention to win the Sun Belt Conference, kept it interesting throughout the first half, forcing LSU to punt twice, recovering Odell Beckham Jr.'s fumble on a kickoff return and dominating time of possession, 20:01 to 9:59.

When LSU took the lead on Randle's TD catch on the Tigers' second possession, the Hilltoppers responded with a 10-play, 65-yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 7.

Jakes kept the drive alive with a 10-yard completion to Mitchell Henry at the LSU 19, then found Jack Doyle at the 2 to set up Simpson's score.

WKU even set up a go-ahead field goal attempt in the second quarter, but Casey Tinius' 49-yard kick was short and wide right.

Western Kentucky had entered the game allowing on 99 yards rushing per game during its previous five contests -- all victories -- and dared LSU to throw by packing the middle of the field with defenders. When the Tigers stubbornly tried to run anyway, they stalled. When Jefferson threw, they scored.

One LSU's second scoring drive, Jefferson completed consecutive passes of 6 yards to spencer Ware, 29 yards to Beckham, 24 yards to Chase Clement, setting up Hilliard's 1-yard scoring plunge to make it 14-7 late in the second quarter.