BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Max Johnson passed for 372 yards and a career-best five touchdowns in less than three quarters, LSU defensive end Andre Anthony returned a fumble for a 33-yard score, and the Tigers topped Central Michigan 49-21 on Saturday night.
Johnson completed 26 of 35 passes but was pulled after his final throw and his only big mistake of the night, an interception returned 20 yards for a touchdown by Central Michigan safety Devonni Reed with 5:41 left in the third quarter.
Deion Smith, a freshman who had one catch through LSU’s first two games, had touchdown catches of 28 and 40 yards in the first quarter as the Tigers (2-1) raced to a 21-0 lead.
Freshman tight end Jack Bech caught five passes for 81 yards, highlighted by his one-handed, back-shoulder, 20-yard touchdown catch along the left sideline.
Kayshon Boutte scored his sixth touchdown of the season on what went in the books as a 2-yard pass, but was essentially an end-around in which he took a short forward pitch while crossing in front of Johnson behind the line of scrimmage.
LSU’s defensive score came on CMU’s first possession, when cornerback Derek Stingley dislodged the ball from running back Darius Bracy and Anthony scooped the loose ball as he ran into open field along the sideline.
Johnson’s final TD pass went for 21 yards to Devonta Lee, putting the Tigers up 42-7, before the Chippewas (1-2) responded with their defensive touchdown and a scoring drive in the fourth quarter, when LSU was playing mostly reserve defenders.
Backup Daniel Richardson’s 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Joel Wilson briefly pulled CMU’s to 42-21 before LSU freshman running back Corey Kiner ran for a 5-yard TD to cap a drive in which he carried five times for 47 yards.
Central Michigan: Facing an LSU team that was highly motivated to clean up some early season stumbles in advance of SEC play only made matters more difficult for the Chippewas, who looked overmatched on both sides of the ball for the most of the game. Top running back Lew Nicholls III, who was named to the preseason Doak Walker watch list and rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown at Missouri in CMU’s season opener, managed just 18 yards on 12 carries at LSU.
LSU: The Tigers proved their passing game could function without an overreliance on top target Boutte. A handful of other receivers emerged against CMU, including three freshmen in Smith (five catches for 135 yards), Bech and Brian Thomas (two catches for 50 yards). In all, eight LSU receivers caught passes. However, the running game has continued to look anemic. LSU gained just 23 net yards on the ground through the first three quarters before finishing with 84 yards.
Anthony limped slowly to the locker room with a trainer by his side shortly before halftime. At the time he went out, he had eight total tackles, 3 1/2 sacks and a fumble recovery on the young season. In the fourth quarter, right tackle Austin Deculus left the game with an apparent lower leg injury.
Central Michigan: Hosts FIU next Saturday.
LSU: Visits Mississippi State next Saturday in the SEC opener for both teams.