Ridley, Tigers Defense Roll Past Vanderbilt, 27-3
NASHVILLE — Junior running back Stevan Ridley had a career-best 159 rushing yards and the Tigers defense smothered Vanderbilt (0-2), as No. 19 LSU built momentum in a 27-3 road victory in the Southeastern Conference.
Offensively, LSU (2-0, 1-0 SEC) ran 71 plays and gained 392 total yards including 280 on 50 rushing attempts.
On the defensive side, the Tigers gave Vanderbilt little room to operate. Aside from a 51-yard option run by Warren Norman early in the third quarter, the Commodores had 14 yards rushing on 31 attempts. Warren’s run led the Vanderbilt’s only points. Vanderbilt gained only 135 yards on 48 plays.
The Tigers registered six sacks for 47 yards, its largest output since Nov. 28, 2008 (six against Arkansas). LSU hasn’t had more than six sacks in a game since Oct. 5, 2002 (seven versus ULM).
Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard had a game-high nine tackles with a sack assist. Ryan Baker returned to action after breaking his jaw in camp to record six tackles including a sack. Redshirt freshman defensive end Barkevious Mingo added five tackles with a sack and a forced fumble, while defensive tackle Drake Nevis was all over the Commodores backfield with five tackles including 2.5 sacks and a quarterback hurry.
After a slow start by the LSU offense in the first half, 144 of Ridley’s rushing yards came in the final 30 minutes including a 65-yard touchdown run. Russell Shepard also had a long touchdown run, as the speedy receiver took a handoff on an end around, used a block by running back Richard Murphy and scored from 30 yards.
Freshman running back Alfred Blue added a 6-yard touchdown run for the Tigers, and totaled 23 yards in his debut carrying the football.
LSU starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson struggled to find his rhythm, completing 8-of-20 passes for 96 yards. He was sacked once and threw an interception in the Vanderbilt endzone. Backup Jarrett Lee played the final two series, completing his only pass for 16 yards to Rueben Randle.
Vanderbilt starting quarterback Larry Smith was 8-of-15 for 70 yards before being relieved late in the game by Jared Funk.
Warren led all Commodores with 68 yards rushing on eight attempts. Tight end Brandon Barden caught five passes for 38 yards.
The first quarter included six punts and only four first downs.
In the final minutes of the first quarter, Jefferson connected with Terrence Toliver for 17 yards to the LSU 36-yard line. Toliver earned another first down with a 10-yard catch to the 46 before LSU entered Vanderbilt territory for the first time on a 5-yard run by Jefferson.
On the fourth play of the quarter, Shepard came in motion from his slot receiver position and took the handoff from Jefferson. The speedy sophomore turned the corner and got a pancake block from Murphy before scampering untouched for 30 yards into the endzone.
LSU led 7-0 after the Josh Jasper point after with 14:20 to play in the first half.
An 11-yard sack by Mingo forced Vanderbilt to punt from its 2-yard line. The Tigers took over at the Vanderbilt 33 after the punt was shanked out of bounds. Running back Blue picked up a first down with a short run on third-and-1 at the 24. However, Two incomplete passes and a short run by Jefferson led to a 36-yard field goal by Jasper. The field goal was Jasper’s 20th in his LSU career and tied Doug Moreau for 10th in school history.
LSU led 10-0 and took the advantage into halftime.
On the second play of the third quarter, Vanderbilt sophomore running back Warren Norman took the option pitch from Smith and ran up the middle for 51 yards to the LSU 14. A facemask penalty on the tackle gave the Commodores first-and-goal at the LSU 7. The Tigers, who led the nation in redzone scoring defense in 2009, stiffened inside the 20 again. Vanderbilt settled for a 23-yard field goal by Ryan Fowler.
With 12:56 to play in the third quarter, LSU led 10-3.
On the ensuing drive, Jefferson helped the Tigers pick up three first downs including a 24-yard pass to freshman Spencer Ware on a wheel route to the Vanderbilt 13. However, on third-and-10, Jefferson and Toliver weren’t on the same page and a pass to the short corner of the endzone was intercepted by Casey Howard.
The turnover didn’t cost the Tigers, as its defense again came up big and Vanderbilt punted from its 35.
The Tigers began their longest drive in terms of plays and time to gain a two-score advantage, moving 75 yards in 13 plays before adding another 23-yard field goal by Jasper.
Ridley carried the load on the drive, rushing five times for 45 yards, while Shepard caught two third-down passes for first downs.
LSU led 13-3 with 12:32 left in the game.
The Tigers put the nail in the Vanderbilt coffin on the ensuing kickoff when Mingo stripped of the ball from Warren and LSU’s Ryan St. Julien recovered at the Vanderbilt 26. Ridley rolled off two runs to the 6-yard line before Blue scored on second-and-goal.
The Tigers led 20-3 with 10:28 left.
With Lee in the game for the final two series, Ridley broke loose for a career-long 65-yard touchdown.
Attendance for the game was 36,940.
LSU returns to action on Sept. 18 when the Tigers open the home schedule against Mississippi State (1-1) at 6 p.m. Fans are encouraged to don their favorite gold for the annual “Gold Game.”