BATON ROUGE, La. -- Les Miles was all smiles.
The LSU coach demanded that his team take Northwestern State seriously and hoped they'd win impressively enough that he could rest starters who will be playing a tougher opponent in less than a week.
The second-ranked Tigers didn't disappoint him, rolling to a 49-3 victory on Saturday night that included two touchdowns apiece by Michael Ford and Spencer Ware.
"I like how our team approached this game," Miles said. "It's nice. It means that your starters were not taxed. It means you should be fresh, and as we go into a short week, that's key."
LSU (2-0) led 28-3 by halftime, allowing Miles to give a number of starters some rest in advance of the Tigers' Southeastern Conference opener at Mississippi State on Thursday night.
|More on LSU|
Junior college transfer quarterback Zach Mettenberger made his debut in relief of LSU starter Jarrett Lee to open the second half.
After Lee completed 9 of 10 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown, Mettenberger went 8 of 11 for 92 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown pass.
"He did good," Miles said of Mettenberger. "He came in, got comfortable, made some nice throws. I felt like he handled the offense well."
John Shaughnessy kicked a 44-yard field goal for Northwestern State (1-1), the only points the Demons have scored against LSU in 11 meetings.
LSU fans have been eager to see the 6-foot-5, 222-pound Mettenberger play since his arrival last January from Butler Community College in Kansas, where he passed for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns last season.
"It was a great experience and I'm looking forward to a lot more here," Mettenberger said.
The sophomore completed his first four passes for 44 yards, leading a 59-yard touchdown drive that ended with Ford's 7-yard run. Later in the third quarter he led a 10-play, 57-yard scoring drive capped by Alfred Blue's 4-yard scoring run that made it 42-3.
"He knew what his job was and in the huddle took control and went out and got the job done," said LSU leading receiver Rueben Randle, who caught five passes for 121 yards. "He earned a lot of trust from us tonight and I know that will only build throughout the season."
Mettenberger's first touchdown pass in a Tigers uniform went to Kadron Boone in the fourth quarter for the final margin.
LSU outgained Northwestern State 400 yards to 95, including 175 yards to minus-4 on the ground.
Ford finished with a team-high 72 yards rushing and now has four TDs through two games, one more than he had all of last season.
"The were impressive on television and they're even more impressive in person," said Northwestern State coach Bradley Dale Peveto, a former LSU assistant under Miles. "The speed is what you cannot really tell on video and on television. That is a fast, fast, football team. ... They are very talented, very fast, very physical."
Brad Henderson completed 16 of 26 passes for 74 yards for the Demons, who did not have one rusher gain more than 8 yards. Demons tight end Justin Aldredge caught seven passes for 58 yards, including a 25-yard reception from backup quarterback Don Canyon on a fake punt.
Although the Tigers' matchup with Football Championship Subdivision squad Northwestern State had all the makings of a blowout, Miles had said he would approach the game like any other and refused to foreshadow playing time for reserves who hadn't seen action in LSU's season-opening 40-27 win over Oregon at Cowboys Stadium a week earlier.
He was true to his word for the most part in the first half. One exception was the benching of starting linebacker Ryan Baker, but that was one-game punishment because of a violation of team rules, Miles said.
Also, D.J. Howard handled punts because Brad Wing had what Miles described as a minor leg injury.
Otherwise, most key players were on the field for the first half.
"The biggest thing is we wanted to come out and set a tone," Ford said. "We are the SEC, you can't play with us. Get out of here. We are the big dogs and you are our little brother."
DeAngelo Peterson's 9-yard catch from Lee gave LSU a 7-0 lead on its first possession. Ware later added scoring runs of 1 and 6 yards, the latter set up by defensive tackle Michael Brockers' interception of the tipped pass on the Demons 15-yard line.
Northwestern nearly was shut out by LSU again. Shaughnessy's field goal glanced through off the left upright, the kick briefly pulling the Demons to 7-3.