BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU defenders had their hands in the air even before they started celebrating interception returns for touchdowns.
Tigers safety Ronald Martin and defensive end Lavar Edwards each snagged deflected passes and returned them for scores, helping No. 3 LSU pull away for a 63-14 victory over winless Idaho on Saturday night.
The victory gave LSU (3-0) an NCAA FBS record 40th-straight non-conference regular season victory, surpassing Kansas State’s 39 from 1993-2003. LSU also set a Tiger Stadium mark with 20 straight home wins, while extending its nation-long regular-season winning streak to 16 games.
“Everybody can see that we can be a dominant football team,” LSU coach Les Miles said.
While LSU extended winning streaks, No. 2 Southern Cal lost to Stanford 21-14, a result that could move the Tigers up a spot in the poll behind No. 1 Alabama, a 52-0 winner at Arkansas.
LSU intercepted Idaho’s Dominique Blackman four times. Martin, a sophomore making his first start with Craig Loston getting the night off, had two, both off deflections by cornerback Jalen Collins. Both also resulted in touchdowns.
“The play by Collins really was the play,” Miles said of Martin’s interceptions. “That is pure textbook. … It’s that safety playing the eyes of the quarterback that can be late to the scene and make that interception. Those were big-time plays.”
Martin’s first interception was a diving catch at the Idaho 30, setting up a six-play drive of all runs and ended with Alfred Blue’s 3-yard score.
Martin made his second interception while balancing along the sideline, then ran it back 45 yards for the score.
Martin said he intended to deliver a hit as he converged on the ball when he saw it pop up off Collins’ hand.
“Once he tipped it and I saw daylight, after that, I was gone,” Martin said. “It was the tip-drill just like you learn in practice.”
Edwards’ interception came when he tipped the ball to himself at the line of scrimmage, then lumbered to the outside, spinning away from one would-be tackler to the delight of the Tiger Stadium crowd before carrying another tackler across the goal line on a 23-yard return.
“Whenever I get the ball in my hands, especially being a defensive lineman, we don’t get those opportunities too much,” Edwards said. “So whenever I get it, you know I try my hardest to make sure I get” to the end zone.
The two defensive scores matched Idaho’s point total for the night.
“You have to be right all the time when you play somebody like those guys,” Idaho coach Robb Akey said of LSU. “When they made those plays against us we couldn’t overcome those things in the ballgame and that’s the bottom line.”
LSU’s offense showed plenty of punch despite several sloppy first-half drives that had the crowd groaning a bit.
Zach Mettenberger completed 17 of 22 passes for 222 yards with TD passes of 17 yards to Kadron Boone and 7 yards to Jarvis Landry. Kenny Hilliard rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns — one of 71 yards — giving him six TDs this season.
Freshman running back Jeremy Hill made his LSU debut in the fourth quarter and scored two short touchdowns.
Blackman was 23 of 36 for 174 yards and two TDs passes.
“I need to step up my game,” Blackman said. “We have a lot to prove. We came out here and competed with a great team. You have to give it up to that defense. They hit me hard tonight and it was fun.”
Gary Walker had a 94-yard interception return for Idaho (0-3), setting up the Vandals’ first touchdown.
Earlier in the week, Miles alluded to opening up the passing attack in the Tigers’ final game before beginning their Southeastern Conference schedule at Auburn next Saturday.
On LSU’s first offensive play, Mettenberger hit Russell Shepard down the left sideline for 33 yards and soon after found Boone for the receiver’s third TD of the season.
Shepard finished with three catches for 68 yards, while Odell Beckham Jr. had four catches for 73 yards.
LSU was looking to take a three-TD lead when Mettenberger threw an interception near an opponent’s goal line for the second time this season. Walker caught it at the 1, but was caught by Beckham at the LSU 5.
That set up Blackman’s 4-yard TD toss to Michael LaGrone.
Martin’s score made it 21-7, but Idaho drove 81 yards on seven plays to pull to 21-14 on Blackman’s 22-yard scoring pass to Jahrie Level.
Idaho then sacked Mettenberger twice to stall LSU’s next drive, getting the ball back for a potential game-tying drive on its own 12.
That’s when the Vandals got the Death Valley jitters, committing three straight false starts before punting from their end zone.
Mettenberger closed the half with his scoring strike to Landry to make it 28-14.
“That slow start in the first half I put on myself,” Mettenberger said. “We knew that my mistake really cost us in the first half and we knew we just had to go out and play LSU football in the second half and turn things around.”