Rapid Reaction: Max Johnson passes LSU to easy win over Central Michigan
LSU started fast on offense and defense and rolled to a 49-21 victory over Central Michigan on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
Max Johnson threw 4 of his 5 touchdown pass in the first half and the Tigers took the ball away on 2 of the Chippewas’ first 3 possessions, including a fumble return for a touchdown by Andre Anthony, as they romped to a 35-7 halftime lead.
LSU (2-1) won its second straight home game after a season-opening loss at UCLA. LSU’s SEC opener is at Mississippi State next Saturday.
It was the Tigers’ most complete performance of the young season as they welcomed back several players that were held out of a 34-7 victory against McNeese State a week earlier to recover from minor injuries.
Johnson threw two touchdown passes to freshman Deion Smith and one each to Kayshon Boutte (his 6th of the season), freshman Jack Bech and Devonta Lee. CMU had an interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter when Koy Moore stopped on a route and Johnson threw the ball as though he expected Moore to keep running.
The Tigers defense dominated with the exception of a blown coverage on a 78-yard touchdown pass by CMU late in the first quarter and a Chippewas touchdown in the fourth quarter with the result well in hand.
LSU continued to struggle with its running game, but Johnson’s accuracy and productivity made up for it.
Head coach Ed Orgeron emphasized a faster tempo on offense during practice leading up to the game. The Tigers were far from perfect in that regard, but showed improvement after 2 sluggish outings. And the Tigers defense had 5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss.
Johnson directed a 9-play, 93-yard drive on LSU’s first possession of the third quarter, connecting with Lee on a 21-yard touchdown for a 42-7 lead.
Devonni Reed intercepted a Johnson pass on the Tigers’ next possession and returned 20 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 42-14. It was Johnson’s last play; freshman Garrett Nussmeier replaced him for the second consecutive week.
LSU started rolling right from the first possession of the game.
After throwing an incompletion on his first pass, Johnson completed 5 straight, the last of which was a 28-yard touchdown to Smith to cap the game’s first possession.
On the ensuing possession, Derek Stingley Jr. knocked the ball loose from Chippewas running back Darius Bracy. Anthony picked the ball up and sprinted to his touchdown for a 14-0 lead.
Major Burns intercepted Jacob Sirmon in CMU territory on the next possession, but an illegal block on the return, two other penalties and an 11-yard loss on a fumble led to a punt.
Johnson came back on the Tigers’ next possession with a 40-yard touchdown to Smith for a 21-0 lead.
Sirmon bounced back with a 78-yard touchdown pass to JaCorey Sullivan, cutting LSU’s lead to 21-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Johnson added a 2-yard flip to Boutte and a 20-yarder that Bech caught with one hand to cap a 4-play, 92-yard drive to complete the first-half scoring.
The scoring pass to Boutte gave Johnson at least 3 TD passes in each of his 5 career starts. He finished the half 20 of 25 for 280 yards.
Smith, Bech and fellow freshman Brian Thomas Jr. combined for 10 catches for 213 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first half.
Corey Kiner’s 5-yard touchdown run for LSU made it 49-21 with 7:19 left, capping the scoring.