STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Six weeks into the schedule, LSU's offense appears here to stay.
Zach Mettenberger continued his brilliant season on Saturday night as No. 10 LSU walloped Mississippi State 59-26 in Starkville, completing 25 of 29 for 340 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
He had plenty of help. Odell Beckham Jr. caught nine passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns, while Jeremy Hill rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns. The Tigers piled up 563 total yards in another dominant offensive performance.
For an LSU team that has traditionally leaned on a bruising defense and deliberate offense, it's a bit of a change. But it's one that veteran coach Les Miles is growing to appreciate.
Now if the Tigers can just stop someone, a Southeastern Conference title could be in reach.
"Offensively, we continue to throw the football efficiently and for big plays," Miles said. "It becomes very difficult for defenses to have extra guys hanging around the line of scrimmage. They back them up and we can run the football."
LSU's defense was again shaky, especially in the first half. The Tigers led just 28-26 midway through the third quarter, but scored 31 straight points down the stretch to turn a tight game into a blowout.
LSU gave up 468 total yards, but tightened considerably in the second half.
"Honestly, we got going a little slow," LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson said. "But we went in there at halftime and said, 'You know what, it stops here.' We came out and played our tails off and had a great game."
It was a good sign for the Tigers, who face challenging games ahead. The Tigers (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) host No. 17 Florida (4-1, 3-0) on Saturday before a road game against Mississippi the following week.
"We will certainly build on this," Miles said. "I think the defense will improve. I know we only allowed three points in the back half of the game and outscored them 31-3. Defensively, I thought we were much improved."
But there's little doubt the identity of this LSU team has shifted to the offense. Mettenberger continues to dissect opposing defenses with a strong arm. He found Beckham and Jarvis Landry over and over again on Saturday night, making Mississippi State pay when it loaded the line of scrimmage to try and stop the run.
LSU is averaging 45.5 points, which ranks third in the league. The 6-foot-5 Mettenberger is completing more than 68 percent of his passes for 1,738 yards, 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Arguably the most impressive part of Mettenberger's game is his accuracy. Unlike some offenses that complete a lot of passes thanks to short, timing routes, LSU's passing game picks up big chunks of yards on nearly every throw.
He's averaging more than 16 yards per completion and his efficiency rating (190.1) is the best in the SEC — even better than Texas A&M's Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Miles said Mettenberger's growth has been impressive.
"We really felt like he could throw it," Miles said. "I have to be honest with you, he's tougher. He's a better leader and more bought in than some of the quarterbacks we had that had success."
By the end of Saturday night, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said LSU was simply too good.
"I get frustrated when we are missing coverages, but give LSU's kids some credit," Mullen said. "We had guys in position to make plays and their kids made some spectacular plays throughout the whole day. That's what you need to do to win football games at this level."
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