BATON ROUGE, La. With a couple of inexperienced quarterbacks, all LSU had to do was hand off. And Appalachian State never had a chance at another upset.
Charles Scott rushed for a career-high 160 yards on 16 carries, including touchdowns of 8 and 29 yards, and No. 7 LSU rolled to 41-13 victory over Appalachian State on Saturday.
"It really doesn't matter to us" who plays quarterback, Scott said. "The (offensive) line is doing great right now and they're only going to get better. Our rushing game is going to be the strength of this team and we're going to get those guys in the pocket comfortable."
Andrew Hatch, who transferred from Harvard in 2007, took the field on the Tigers' opening three series, which produced 17 points. Miles also gave redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee a chance. Both threw their first touchdown passes as Tigers, but the real damage was done on the ground.
LSU, which averaged about 214 yards rushing per game last season, finished with 266 against the Mountaineers.
Hatch was 7-of-14 passing for 77 yards, including a 17-yard TD to Demetrius Byrd. He also ran for 43 yards. Lee was 6-of-10 for 116 yards with scoring passes of 31 and 39 yards to Brandon LaFell. Lee also threw an interception that set up a Mountaineers' field goal.
"We ran the football like we needed to," LSU coach Les Miles said. "We probably tried to force the pass as best we could just to get some of these young guys some experience."
With Hurricane Gustav threatening the Gulf Coast, kickoff was moved up from 4 p.m. to 10 a.m. so the game would end well before authorities planned to initiate one-way traffic along major evacuation routes away from Louisiana's coast. With LSU leading big and the midday sun baking the stands, Tiger Stadium looked deserted by the end of the third quarter.
Still, Miles thanked fans for showing up for the earliest kickoff in LSU history and staying as long as they did.
"I know this storm is bearing down on us," Miles said. "I can only tell you that we're with you."
This matchup between the national champions of college football's top two tiers only served to highlight the gaps in size, speed and talent between the Bowl Subdivision and the Championship Subdivision, much unlike the Mountaineers' captivating 34-32 triumph at Michigan a year ago.
LSU quickly squashed any notion Appalachian State had of using Death Valley to stage an encore to their upset at the Big House a year ago. The Tigers raced to a 31-0 lead in the opening half and maintained a comfortable lead as reserves filtered in the rest of the way.
"They're so athletic. It just wore on us," Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore said. "They didn't play like Michigan. They played like LSU."
LSU's offensive linemen outweighed Appalachian State's front four by an average of nearly 60 pounds. They opened up a huge hole on the Tigers' first play from scrimmage, through which Scott ran for a 56-yard gain to the Mountaineers' 8, setting up his first TD on the next play.
"It was 7-0 and I looked at the scoreboard to see if there was room for three digits," Moore said.
Hatch said LSU might have been able to win without passing at all.
"We're balanced in both throwing and running it, but we're definitely running the ball really well," Hatch said. "It starts with the O-line, the veteran group. They did a great job run blocking, making some nice holes for Charles. And when I had a few carries I got some great blocks."
Appalachian State's vaunted spread offense, which averaged nearly 43 points per game last season, looked spread thin against an LSU defense that augmented its ferocious front four with relentless blitzing.
Mountaineers star quarterback Armanti Edwards played into the fourth quarter, finishing 13-of-31 for 155 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked only twice, but repeatedly clobbered on designed runs or as he released hurried throws.
On Appalachian State's second drive, Edwards was forced to duck for cover when swarmed over in the backfield by lineman Marlon Favorite and blitzing linebacker Darry Beckwith. Edwards' helmet was jarred loose twice in the first half. He was lucky his head didn't go with it on a designed run that was stopped in its tracks by safeties Harry Coleman and Danny McCray. Edwards' helmet landed nearly five yards downfield after the hit.
The Mountaineers didn't score until 6:06 remained in the third quarter, when Edwards found Robert Welton deep down the middle for a 44-yard score.
"Speed was the difference," Edwards said. "They're so much faster than Michigan was. ... We knew they'd have tight coverage, but we couldn't execute one-on-one like we wanted."