LSU may still be without its suspended starting quarterback, but it still has plenty of swagger.
The No. 2 Tigers may have a greater challenge not looking ahead to a showdown with an SEC West rival than their home opener Saturday night against FCS opponent Northwestern State.
LSU's defense answered the challenge of shutting down high-octane Oregon in its season opener, defeating the then-No. 3 Ducks 40-27 in a game at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday night that was not as close as the final score shows.
Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu returned a fumble for a touchdown as the Tigers forced four turnovers and dominated last season's BCS runner-up for most of the game.
"I would like to speak on behalf of all SEC teams," defensive end Sean Montgomery said. "I just think we run the NCAA. Period."
The victory served notice LSU is definitely in contention to help the SEC win a sixth consecutive BCS title, but more importantly, it gave the team confidence it can with backup signal-caller Jarrett Lee while Jordan Jefferson continues to sit as he faces felony charges for his role in a bar fight near campus.
The Tigers have rallied around Lee, who effectively managed last Saturday's victory by throwing for 99 yards and a touchdown without an interception. He was aided by running backs Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, who combined for 195 yards and two TDs.
"I enjoyed Jarrett Lee's effort," coach Les Miles said. "I liked how the offense did the things it needed to do, keep the ball on the ground, with the lead. We were imperfect in all phases, but we need to improve on offense. I don't feel like we've hung the moon in any way."
Lee understands he has to improve and realizes the already high stakes LSU now has each week regardless of opponent.
"As we know at LSU you cannot take games for granted," the senior said. "You have to bring your 'A' game because they can easily ruin your season. Northwestern State is a good football team. We have watched them on film and are very impressed with them."
Lee's progression this weekend will be pivotal for the Tigers, who play at No. 16 Mississippi State on Sept. 15 in their SEC opener. First, though, is a Northwestern State team that opened its season by rallying from a 17-point halftime deficit to squeak past Delta State 24-23 last Saturday only after the Division II squad failed to convert a potential game-winning two-point conversion with 10 seconds to play.
"We made just enough plays to win," said coach Bradley Dale Peveto, who was an assistant under Miles from 2005-08. "We made a ton of mistakes that could have cost us. But we kept fighting, we stayed together, we didn't stop believing and won the football game."
Junior college transfer quarterback Brad Henderson replaced starter Paul Harris and completed his first 13 passes to set a school record. He finished 13 of 14 for 210 yards and a touchdown as the Demons were able to overcome two turnovers and 17 penalties for 154 yards.
Harris, whom Peveto ordered out of uniform and off the sideline at halftime, was suspended indefinitely Sunday for conduct detrimental to the team.
LSU carries a pair of lengthy winning streaks into this contest. The Tigers have the nation's longest current non-conference winning streak at 34 games and also 31 consecutive non-conference victories at home.
The Tigers have won all 10 games between the teams, and this is the first meeting since 1942.
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LSU will try to avoid a letdown this week when the Tigers host FCS foe Northwestern State. LSU is coming off a big win over Oregon last week, and the Demons edged Delta State. Jarrett Lee is expected to be back under center for the suspended Jordan Jefferson. This is the first meeting between the teams since 1942.