Oct. 18, 2006
(AP) - A return to Baton Rouge last week figured to help LSU bounce back from a road loss to Florida. Now the Tigers try to continue their home dominance when they take on another weaker opponent in Fresno State on Saturday night.
The No. 14 Tigers (5-2) have outscored opponents 236-30 in five home contests this season and 376-84 in 10 consecutive wins at Tiger Stadium.
One of those victories came last week, when LSU pounded Kentucky 49-0 in its first game since falling 23-10 on the road to the then-No. 5 Gators on Oct. 7. The Tigers totaled a season-high 546 yards against the Wildcats and posted their first shutout of the season.
"When you have a loss, you know that you contributed more to your opponent's victory than maybe even your opponent," said Tigers coach Les Miles, whose team has won 20 of its last 21 in Baton Rouge. "What you have to do is respond. I think our football team responds. Our football team has character."
LSU will try to keep building that character in its final non-conference game. LSU has won 25 straight against unranked opponents and 17 consecutive non-conference home games.
The Tigers look to improve upon their 21-1 record against Western Athletic Conference teams as they head into a bye week. LSU wants to maintain its momentum as it prepares for a tough November SEC schedule that includes matchups with Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas.
With that in mind, LSU is vowing not to look ahead as it get set to face a Fresno State squad that has lost five in a row, including a 69-37 defeat to Hawaii on Saturday.
"Even though they got beat by Hawaii last week, last year they played USC down to the wire," said Tigers running back Jacob Hester, who had two TDs on Saturday to bring his conference-leading total to eight. "So, they are capable of beating anybody and playing with anybody so we have to be on our toes."
The Bulldogs (1-5) are allowing 31.2 points per game, good news for LSU, which leads the SEC with 35.6 points per game and is second in total offense with 417.7 yards.
LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell has keyed that success, completing 69 percent of his passes for 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns. He connected on his first 11 throws last week as the Tigers scored on their first four possessions to take a 28-0 halftime lead.
Russell finished 15-of-18 for 226 yards and two touchdowns to earn SEC player of the week honors for the second time this season. Senior receiver Dwayne Bowe had six receptions for 111 yards and a career-high three TDs in the win, moving him into second place on the LSU career list for touchdown receptions with 20.
Fresno State got an encouraging performance from backup quarterback Sean Norton in last week's blowout loss. Norton replaced starter Tom Brandstater in the second quarter and completed 14 of 24 passes for 225 yards and three TDs.
"I was very pleased with Sean's performance. That's not taking anything away from Tom," said Bulldogs coach Pat Hill, whose squad faces No. 18 Boise State next week. "I thought we needed a spark and we put Sean in and I thought he provided that."
Hill hasn't said which quarterback will start against LSU.
Matching that level of success through the air will be difficult against the Tigers, who rank first in the country in pass efficiency defense (81.8 rating) and total defense (211.7 yards per game).
LSU is holding opponents to 8.6 points per game, second-fewest in the nation. The Tigers have intercepted 11 passes, led by Craig Steltz's four and Jonathan Zenon's three, and returned two for touchdowns.
"Going into the game the team itself doesn't really focus on shutting other teams out," said Tigers defensive end Tyson Jackson, who had an interception last week. "We just go out there everyday and execute and try to get the victory and try to play to the best of our ability."
Fresno State and LSU will be meeting for the first time.