BATON ROUGE — On a rain-soaked Saturday evening in Tiger Stadium, LSU quarterback Brandon Harris threw for career-bests 286 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers topped Western Kentucky, 48-20.
Les Miles, in his 50th game as an AP Top-5 ranked LSU coach, improved to 7-0 for the third time in his 11 seasons. This is the Tigers’ eighth perfect start through seven games in program history.
In the process, the Tigers beat a non-conference opponent in the regular season for a NCAA FBS-record 52nd-straight time. LSU moved up to No. 4 in both the AP Top 25 and the coaches’ poll released Sunday.
Western Kentucky (6-2), which was led by sixth-year quarterback Brandon Doughty, kept the game close throughout the first half before LSU scored 20 points in the third quarter to gain a 21-point advantage.
But it was Harris’s big plays that stole the show and kept the Hilltoppers looking up at LSU on the scoreboard. The sophomore completed 11-of-20 passes for 286 yards including touchdown passes of 55, 61 and 17 yards.
“One thing about him (Brandon Harris), if he goes to scrambling, you better cover your guy. He maybe open and it doesn’t make any difference where in the stadium he is,” LSU coach Les Miles said of the former Parkway standout. “He just has a strong arm. He can find an open receiver a long way away.”
Despite the sloppy field, Leonard Fournette put together his school record-tying ninth-straight game with at least 100 rushing yards. The sophomore running back carried 26 times for 150 yards with one touchdown.
Fournette moved into seventh place in LSU’s career rushing list with 2,386 yards in 20 games.
Wide receiver Travin Dural had a team-high 132 yards on five catches with a 17-yard touchdown catch. Malachi Dupre added 86 yards on three grabs with a 55-yard score. Freshman Tyron Johnson’s only catch was a 61-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.
Doughty, 37-of-61 passing for 325 yards with three touchdowns, entered the contest ranked No. 2 in the nation in passing yard and passing efficiency. The highly regarded NFL prospect had TD passes of 7, 39 and 9 yards that accounted for all of the Hilltoppers’ points. Taywan Taylor had 10 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown, while Jared Dangerfield had eight receptions for 75 yards.
LSU outgained WKU, 497-428, and scored on all four of its redzone chances.
The Tigers have an open date on Oct. 31 before traveling to face Alabama on Nov. 7. Game time for the contest is expected to be announced Monday.
LSU opened the scoring on a Brandon Harris to Malachi Dupre 55-yard TD connection with 12:13 left in the first quarter. The strike, Harris’ seventh touchdown pass of the season, capped a 70-yard drive on five plays.
Western Kentucky tied the contest with 10:55 left in the second period when running back Anthony Wales took a shovel pass from quarterback Brandon Doughty and dashed seven yards to the end zone. The drive, which featured a 35-yard sprint by running back D’Andre Ferby to the LSU three-yard line, covered 62 yards in nine plays.
LSU reclaimed the lead at the 1:25 mark of the second quarter on a two-yard burst by running back Darrel Williams. The six-play, 96-yard march was highlighted by a 67-yard completion from Harris to wide receiver Travin Dural to the Western Kentucky 26.
LSU extended its lead to 17-7 early in the third period on a 34-yard field goal by Trent Domingue. Dural had two catches for 40 yards during the series, which covered 44 yards in 10 plays.
Western Kentucky responded with a 39-yard TD pass from Doughty to wide receiver Antwane Grant, capping a 66-yard, five-play drive. Placekicker Garrett Schwettman hooked the PAT attempt, leaving LSU with a 17-13 advantage.
Domingue connected on another field goal, this one a 43-yarder, at the 6:42 mark of the third quarter to give the Tigers a 20-13 lead. LSU drove 38 yards on six plays for the three-pointer by Domingue, who is a perfect nine-for-nine in field goal attempts this season.
LSU’s Nick Brossette recovered a fumble by WKU returner Kylen Towner on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Tigers possession at the Hilltopper 24. LSU covered the 24 yards in three plays, with the drive ending on a one-yard TD run by Leonard Fournette.
The Tigers collected another turnover on the Hilltoppers’ next drive when safety Jamal Adams intercepted a Doughty pass and returned it to the LSU 45. Harris fired a 61-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Tyron Johnson – the first TD catch of the freshman’s career – to cap a 55-yard, three-play series and increase the margin to 34-13.
WKU narrowed the gap to 34-20 with 13:04 left in the game when Doughty threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Taywan Taylor, capping a 10-play, 65-yard drive.
Harris’ 17-yard scoring strike to Dural with 8:46 remaining gave the Tigers’ a three-touchdown advantage for the second time in the contest. LSU marched 50 yards on six plays for the touchdown.
Note: Feature photo courtesy of LSU Sports Information (Chris Parent photo)
— Todd Politz, LSU Director of Digital Media and Bill Franques